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    « Man On A Wire: John Boehner’s Delicate Balancing Act | Main | I'm Worth More than You Are (According to SuperPACs) »

    Three Reasons Why this Republican is Cautiously Optimistic (and One Reason Why He’s Not)


    It’s time to take that deep breath.

    Now look around.

    If you swivel your head hard to the left you’ll notice excited liberals batting about party balloons and wearing paper hats, glasses of champagne held high.  Swivel an equal number of degrees rightward and you’ll find the conspiracists batting about crazy narratives and wearing tinfoil hats, angry signs held high.  Already I’ve heard stories about Democratic-led voter fraud in Ohio (where else?), and FOX is talking about the ways the mainstream media stole this election for Obama. (Spoiler alert: one of them has to do with all that pesky fact-checking.)

    I voted for Romney (and most know why) and I agree (mostly) with an opinion I read in the UK’s Guardian:  “The Tea Party zealots, homophobes and misogynists hijacked Romney's campaign,” the article says, adding that “Romney proved a better man than his party deserved. He went up in most people's estimation during the campaign. He was gracious in defeat.”

    Though the night didn’t turn out quite the way I’d hoped, I’m not at all bitter. Quite the contrary: as a moderate Republican, I’m cautiously optimistic.  Part of the reason is that I never bought into the narrative that Barack Hussein Obama was some out-there socialist heretic.  He’s no Hugo Chavez. He’s not even a Howard Dean or a Bernie Sanders, and it’s nice to see that most of the country gets that.  Truth is, in the grand scheme of things, he’s pretty much a centrist.

    In looking forward (and because I truly want the country—our country—to succeed and grow), I offer these three reasons for why moderate Republicans should be cautiously optimistic about last night’s results:

    1. The Tea Party got spanked pretty good last night. While they weren’t thoroughly thrashed (as I had hoped), the pretenders to the GOP’s crown jewels were certainly given fair warning. Eleven members of the 2010 Tea Party caucus are out, including the most hair-raising examples, Todd Aiken (who left to lose a Senate race), and Florida’s once-anointed Allen West.  Joining these two on the outside looking in are such names as Sandy Adams (also from Florida) and Denny Rehberg from Montana.  Even Michele Bachmann, the self-proclaimed caucus leader, had quite the scare, nearly losing her own race after a year earlier trying to convince us she was presidential material.  The weaker the tea, the stronger I feel, and every loss in that caucus is a chance for Republican moderates to exercise a little bit more sanity in their approach.
    2. We now have a president who’s going to care more about his legacy than re-election.  Second-term legacies are funny things; they can so easily swivel in either direction. (Even the mythologized Reagan had Iran-Contra to deal with.) Still, not having to worry (too much) about what the electorate thinks always frees up a leader to take some risks.  I’m hoping this leads to Obama’s willingness to take on both parties when compromise is required and—perhaps even more importantly—help the moderates in the GOP isolate the crazies.  I’m fine, for example, with Obama continuing to meet with Boehner and McConnell, but he shouldn’t bother wasting time pretending to be conciliatory with a Bachmann or a Cantor.  We’ve already seen that movie and we know how it ends.
    3. He doesn’t have to live up to those outrageous expectations any more. We know who and what he is this time, so we can let him be human instead of some version of the Second Coming. We can ignore all the birth certificate and transcript crap and just get on with things.  At the same time, he’s already had his Big Idea (health care reform) survive the waiting onslaught, and so in his second term he can turn his attention to cleaning up the mess that still litters the floor without having to worry about redecorating.  Afghanistan, the debt, the anemic recovery, tax and campaign finance reform, and a more moderate SCOTUS are all things that deserve his attention even though they’re not sexy.  They are, however, quite important.

    Note that I said “cautiously,” however.  There’s no guarantee that things will work out the way I hope they will.  It’s entirely possible that we could be looking at another four years of the same noise, gridlock, and frustration.  (The noise, I’m betting, we can pretty well count on.  It’s not like FOX and the Rushlings are going anywhere anytime soon…). That brings me to the one reason not to be cautiously optimistic: The Baby-and-the-Bathwater problem.

    While it’s great that about 15% of the Tea Partiers lost their bids or rebids last night, so did a number of moderate Republicans.  Charlie Bass (R-NH), for example, is a solidly moderate GOP’er who fell by the wayside, losing to a very liberal and very inexperienced Democrat.  Scott Brown also lost his re-election bid to the very qualified Elizabeth Warren.  Still, her victory can’t change the fact that the GOP lost another moderate. 

    In the desire to send a message to the Republican Party that it had gone too far, the electorate threw out some of the good ones.  The result is that the 113th Congress is likely to be at least as polarized as the 112th, if not more so.  Though picking up some seats (just how many is yet to be finalized), the Democrats will still be in the minority in the House while retaining their non-filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  So it’s basically 112th redux, only with fewer moderates.  This situation will prove, perhaps, Obama’s greatest challenge.

    So there you have it.  With luck the country will figure out how to meet in the middle (the real middle, not the GOP’s current definition)—but it’s far from a sure thing….


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    Reader Comments (6)

    Although I am pretty happy with the outcome, I have to agree with most of your comments, I have no disagreements worth detailing. We can only hope that both sides "get it" and work together. As Obama said, our arguments are not to be feared, they are part of the process. We just need to not let them gum-up the process.

    November 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersean samis

    The fact that you consider yourself equidistant from "party hats" and "tin-foil hats" tells us a lot about you - you're so far to the right of the average American that it's hard for us to even hear you from here, but because there's people in straight jackets even further out, you think you're a moderate.
    Romney conceded gracefully, and it was impressive because it's the first decent and graceful thing he's done in his lifetime. I give him recognition for personal growth, but let's not pretend he could ever have done well by the American people.
    We didn't elect FDR 4 times because we hate Social Security and Medicare, and hopefully your party's attempts to destroy those basic pillars of modern society will continue to swamp you with disdain. I wish you well personally, but I hope that boat sinks all the way to the bottom of the sea.

    November 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchanga

    The first thing Republicans should come to terms with is that they have to stop believing their own rhetoric. I really believe that much of the defeat Romney suffered was because he believed the polls that were being skewed rightward by partisans pandering to Faux News. A "from behind" campaign is much different from one advanced by a leader.

    We have seen the conservative culture morph to the right by seismic measures because of this purveyor of propaganda, and I'm convinced that even the majority of Republicans think that the reporting there is based in reality. Karl Rove, and his ilk at Faux, couldn't care less about Romney. It wasn't intended that he win, and his attempt was only hampered by his transparent departure from the truth that he assumed he could carry off as well as Faux does daily. With close to half the electorate convinced that fact checking is a liberal plot, he had some reason for his assumption. I find great solace in his loss as affirmation that the majority of Americans have retained their faculties enabling critical thinking.

    November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOldngrumpy

    I think your analysis is well reasoned and relatively accurate. Hopefully, working together for solutions becomes a rallying cry rather than the previous "all or nothing" alternative provided by the extreme right in the previous congress.
    One can only hope.
    I was very impressed by the willngness to work together and more impressive the acknowledgement of that Chris Christie had shown despite the barrage of hate the extreme of his party heaped on him.
    That said, as an Independent his concern for his people and common sense toward working with others that may not totally fit his beliefs for the betterment of all might even have me willing to vote for him IF he is a candidate in 2016.

    November 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertatting

    The tea party extermists have cost us all something. As a knee-jerk liberal, I believe it's essential for public disscussion to include at least two different reasonable views. I've really missed the opposition since Karl Rove's ascendance. Hang in there.

    November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue

    Here is my take on it: Romney jumped ahead in the polls after the first presidential debate because he said, several times, "The American people are hurting..." This touched the hearts of millions. People tuned in. They wanted to know how Romney would help them. Unfortunately, Romney's plan was sketchy and didn't address the health insurance issue. So many people have been treated horrifically at a time when they were most vulnerable by the very organizations who were supposed to help them. Health insurance companies along with the banking industry destroyed many lives. People wanted to know exactly what Romney planned to do to hold these organizations accountable and force them to behave decently. I believe this is one big factor which led self-insured moderates to vote for Obama or simply not vote at all.

    November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Lockey

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