George Will, in a column entitled Starting All Over Again, is optimistic about conservatives chances to capture America’s heart, as long as they change their minds about a few issues. He quotes Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, “A more affirmative, ‘better angels’ approach to voters is really less an aestheic than a practical one. With apologies for the banality, I submit that, as we ask Americans to join us on such a boldly different course, it would help if they like us, just a little bit.” I suggest it would also help if ordinary Americans thought Republicans were willing to share the sacrifices the course they suggest seems to entail.
But Will is refreshingly open-minded about issues that haven’t done Republicans any good. He says immigrating is really entrepeneurial, in that people do so to improve the lives of themselves and their families. He also suggests that Republicans need not endorse same-sex marriage, but they don’t need to despise those who favor them–especially young people. The drug war he characterizes as a classic example of the evils of big government.
I can’t disagree with much of the above, but I wonder how many conservatives will be able to change their minds to that extent. Such issues seem to be emotional ones for conservatives, part of who they are, at least for the older generation. Maybe younger conservatives don’t find these issues as nauseating as do their elders. `
Where I really disagree with Will is in his stereotyping of liberals as being “enthusiasts of big government”. Conservatives have been no less enthusiastic about government spending when it comes to the military, which, I read tonight, comprises some 41% of all military spending in the world. He also mentions “the regulatory state’s metabolic urge to bully”. Regulatory agencies don’t have a patent on bullying: Republicans showed us in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio they considered the destruction of unions and the cutting back of the safety nets for the most vulnerable to be in their best interests. President Obama won those three states in his reelction campaign. When big corporations send jobs overseas and have no sympathy for those whose jobs were destroyed, it’s hard to imagine ordinary people liking the Republican viewpoint. Particularly when they’re being disparaged as being irresponsible.
As long as Republicans enjoy blaming the victims of their fiscal policies, it’s hard to see a place for them in a country that’s no longer primarily white. If they want to be a majority party, they need to find ways to appeal to people who aren’t white, aren’t Protestant, aren’t necessarily Christian or heterosexual. If they can’t understand that these people can be as good Americans as they, what business do they have aspiring to govern?
One of my friends at work told me he watched the election returns come in on Fox, and it was like magic. I observed that probably a lot of the people on camera were really upset with the way it went, and he agreed, saying especially Karl Rove. Rove didn’t want to believe it when Obama won Ohio, and from my friend’s description, it didn’t sound as if he was particularly polite about it.
This makes me wonder about the conservative mindset I’ve mentioned in at least one previous post. A lot of the people who claim to speak for conservatives seem to be very angry people, despite being often wealthy and powerful. Is it just a matter of anger attracting an audience? Is anger just a face they put on when they’re on the air? It doesn’t seem that way to me, and makes me wonder if conservatives perceive liberals as also being angry. After all, liberals have things to be angry about too. A sign I saw on Facebook said, “Why do we have to protest this shit AGAIN?”
My generation, growing up in the 1960s wanted to change the world, and we have, in a number of ways (I can’t claim to have had much to do with that). But we haven’t ended injustice of all kinds, let alone poverty or greed. No doubt some of us are hypocritical (no group has a patent on that either), but so are conservatives. When they try to suppress votes on the grounds of voter fraud (which no objective observer is able to detect to more than a minimal extent) they betray their knowledge that their positions are unpalatable to a lot of people and that they wish to impose their views on those people. That’s also why they talk about environmental groups “dictating” to them. They want to be the ones dictating.
And that’s the problem with politicizing the challenges the country faces to the point that it’s hard for anyone to look at a whole range of issues with any impartiality. Energy, climate change, racism and treatment of other minorities, to say nothing of foreign policy become so charged that it often seems that no one can stop to think long enough to actually do anything about them. The problems are difficult, and there are no easy answers, political or otherwise, so most prefer to mindlessly repeat slogans and do nothing. It may be getting clearer to people that we’re living in a new world, and that a lot of old behaviors simply won’t work anymore, but it’s still not very clear to a lot of the people whose positions protect them from the worst of the daily difficulties many Americans have.
Mr. Will is obviously not a poor man, and he doesn’t seem to indulge (except perhaps by implication) in the oversimplification that anyone can become rich. I’m not certain if he equates wealth with virtue, as some do, either. He seems more sophisticated than that.
Interestingly, Mr. Will view the Citizens United decision favorably and notes that “7 of the 10 highest-spending political entities supported Democrats and outspent the three supporting Republicans, according to the Wall Street Journal.” For me it’s heartening that Republicans weren’t able to out-spend Democrats (if true), as I had feared that Republicans would be able to buy the election. I’m grateful to have been wrong this time. Mr. Will thinks that over time the most plausible side will be favored, which, he says, conservatives know is theirs. I don’t find the conservative side more plausible, and considering their behavior in attempted voter suppression, I’m not so sure they do either. It’ll be interesting to see how all this works out.