I spent part of this morning reading some of the more extreme conservative political blogs. Two things stand out. One, of course, is that the United States is doomed because President Obama is going to steal everybody’s guns and deny them the right to buy gold and he’s going to give Mexicans and black folks free houses and hi-def satellite television. But they’re also saying with some consistency that Gov. Romney lost because he wasn’t conservative enough.
On the surface, that sounds sort of logical. But it also suggests that voters went to the polls and said to themselves “That Mitt, he’s just too liberal…so I guess I’ll vote for Obama.” Or maybe it suggests conservatives just decided not to vote for anybody and sat on their patriotic asses all night. In the conservative blogs I saw lots of accusations of fraud, lots of paranoia, lots of anger, and lots of blaming.
What I didn’t see was a recognition that this is no longer the United States of Angry White Men. The harsh Ayn Rand “I’ve got mine, go fuck yourself” approach to conservatism just doesn’t resonate with the population of the U.S. as it now exists. Four years ago we elected a black man named Barack to the presidency of the United States. Last night we re-elected him. Think about that. A black man. Named Barack Hussein Obama. That right there is evidence that the American demographic has shifted toward inclusiveness and away from resentful exclusivity. But we still continue to see Republicans strive to restrict and reduce individual civil rights and liberties in everything from marriage to voting to immigration to a woman’s right to exercise her own decisions over the integrity of her body.
For more and more Americans, that shit just don’t play anymore.
Last night Maine and Maryland voted to expand marriage rights to same-sex couples, and it seems likely the State of Washington is about to do the same. Minnesota rejected a proposal to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. That’s NOT the action of an electorate longing for more conservative social principles. Last night two states expanded the use of medical marijuana, and two others voted to legalize and tax the use of marijuana. That’s NOT the action of an electorate longing for more conservative social principles. Last night two states supported ballot measures to restrict the power of corporations to donate monies to campaigns. That’s NOT the action of an electorate longing for more conservative social principles.
And yet despite all the evidence, a lot of conservatives continue to believe that the reason Mitt Romney lost was because he wasn’t conservative enough. Of course, a lot of them also believe the earth is only a few thousand years old, that climate change is a hoax, and the President of the United States is a not-so-secret Muslim Socialist who is deliberately trying to ruin the American economy in order to…in order to…shut up, that’s why. Right now the Republican party is more concerned with making the nation ungovernable than in pressing forward any agenda at all. That’s the approach of a spoiled, angry child.
Four years ago the last day of October was unseasonably warm. I was part of a large crowd that watched as then-Senator Barack Obama gave one of his last campaign speeches before the 2008 election. A couple nights ago it was much colder and I watched on television as President Obama gave an emotional speech — the last of his political career. He’s gotten older. So have we all. His appeal now is a more mature appeal. We know — and he knows — he’ll never be able to do all the things he wants to do. But we also know he’s going to try to do as many of them as he can. You can sense the president has an adult’s thin-stretched irritation with the behavior of Republicans in Congress, but you can also see an adult’s patience. It’s as if he believes and hopes that someday they’ll grow out of it.
And here’s the crazy thing: I believe they will. I really do. As more Republicans come to recognize the change in the demographics of the electorate, they’ll begin to realize they can’t just rely on angry white men anymore — not if they want to actually shape policy instead of just oppose it. At some point they begin to understand that if they want to govern and not just obstruct governance, they’ll have to appeal to a broader range of voters.
When that happens, we’ll see the resurrection of moderate Republicans. And the nation will be the better for it.