Okay, so I’m going to get redundant before I even begin:
This past Tuesday, there was an election in Massachusetts to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy in the U.S. Senate. Kennedy’s seat, which he’d held for 46 years (more than half his life, and 1 1/2 times my life), became a hotly coveted prize, resulting in one of the most charged political races since the 2008 presidential election. The good guys lost. And by the good guys, I don’t mean Martha Coakley. With an artful smear campaign and millions of conservative zealots pushing him forward, Republican Scott Brown overcame Coakley’s weak campaign and laid claim to Kennedy’s seat, thereby upsetting the power structure in the Senate in a way that will be devastating to millions of Americans.
But of course you knew that, which is why it’s redundant of me to even bring it up. And the reason you knew it is either because you actually pay attention to the news like a responsible American (wink, wink)–or because for the past week, it’s been the primary topic of discussion on the soapbox of the internet: Facebook.
You’ve seen the purple squares all over the web: the image every right-winger changed their profile picture to in order to try to persuade others on the web to vote for Scott Brown. You’ve seen the status updates about “socialism”, “Dummycrats,” and “fascist Obama,” and the leftists begging “Please go out and vote,” then lamenting after the election’s crushing result, “Sad face… Terrified face.” I’ve certainly seen them–I’m one of them.
Facebook discussions about politics are pointless. It’s one of those things–like having that last drink, or spending a lot of money on something frivolous–that we do even though we know it’s essentially bad for us. To steal a great line from the failed TV show Secret Girlfriend, “I know it’s gonna kill me… but I can’t look away.”
I can’t look away, and that’s a problem because if I don’t I’m going to waste a lot of time arguing with people who will never acknowledge that I have a point.
The unfortunate reality of the current political climate is that there are two very vocal sides to the argument (and by the argument, I mean current politics in general but specifically the Coakley/Brown race):
On the one side you have liberal Democrats like me, who are trying desperately to hold onto some essential rights like comprehensive education, reproductive freedom, and equal rights for all minorities, including gays. We’re trying to shrink the wide chasm between the invincibly rich and the working poor by addressing problems like health care, education, unemployment, and the seemingly endless tax cuts and bonuses for the 1% of the U.S. population that owns the majority of the wealth.
On the other side, you have the Christian fundamentalist whack-jobs, and the new scourge of political America: the Tea Party Republicans. You know about the Christians–they’ve been coasting along on a rising tide of dogma and hate ever since George W. Bush let them out of the Bible belt and the trailer parks. And you probably know about the Tea Partiers too, but in case you’re not quite sure, they’re the ones hurling around terms like “Socialist”, “Brainwashing”, “Fascist”, and the original Tea Party slogan, “No Taxation Without Representation.” To quote Jeffrey Feldman from the Huffington Post, “They revolt against gun laws, against taxes, against any domestic program proposed by Democrats–all in the name of a vague idea of ‘freedom,’ but never with an eye towards what actual people are going through in this country right now.”
My problem with both factions of the vocal Republican right wing (the Tea Partiers insist that they’re non-partisan, but that’s as see-through as one of Cher’s Oscar dresses) is that they shout and shout and shout and refuse to listen. They will not participate in a legitimate political discussion about the country’s issues because they never get much past go; either they return to the same twisted “with us or against us” rhetoric, or they childishly start slinging slurs at the Democrats and consider that an argument.
There are Republicans out there who DO have a valid argument to support their positions, and who ARE willing to listen to the other side rather than regressing to playground-style name calling. There are Republicans whose political views have nothing to do with organized religion, conspiracy theories or bigotry; people whose conservatism lies in fiscal matters and issues of government size, social programs and taxes. I may not agree with them–in most cases, I don’t–but I respect them and I want to hear what they have to say.
Things are wrong with this country. Big things. Millions of hard-working Americans are out of work, desperate, poorer than they have been in my lifetime. Our military is embroiled in a war that is seemingly endless; a Sisyphusian struggle between heavily armed American teenagers and kamikaze religious fundamentalists. The dollar has fallen catastrophically, and most Americans can’t afford to go to the doctor when they need to. People have lost their jobs, or their children. They’ve lost their faith in their country, in their peers, and in the leaders who’ve failed them time and time again.
None of those things are going to get fixed if the discussion continues to be coming entirely from one extreme point of view or the other. They’re not going to get fixed by name-calling, reinterpreting historical documents, or taking away rights, and they’re damn sure not going to be fixed by either party continuing to vote for “the lesser of two evils.”
So here it is, reasonable Republicans: TAKE YOUR PARTY BACK. Find a candidate who will stand strong on the issues you care about, without dipping their hands into dirty special interest money. Speak up, and give me someone to argue with that won’t be a waste of my time. The reason liberal Democrats so violently hate the Republican party is because it’s become synonymous with the neo-fundamentalist agenda and ignorant fear-mongering. It’s that divisiveness that’s going to be the undoing of our political system, which has so long been the role model for other democracies.
If no one is willing to compromise, or to hear the other side, not a damn thing is going to change. And there’s no chance of compromise between the parties unless the reasonable Republicans, and the conservative-leaning Democrats, interrupt the ping-pong match and make themselves heard.