The Republican party is in a state of melt down. Their policy of leaning so far to the right that 47% of the population is outside of their peripheral vision, was decidedly a miserable failure in this past election.
Toward the end of the election season, as the East Coast was hammered with a massive storm, much of the Republican party, including their nominee, essentially ignored the suffering of about a third of our nation’s population. It made sense. The Republican philosophy, at least in their modern incarnation, is to stand back and get government out of the way. Thankfully, not everyone listened to that advice.
As one might expect, President Obama and the federal government leapt onto the scene with a speed and efficiency that seemed almost super-heroic, at least when compared to our last devastating hurricane and our even more devastating former President. More surprising were the actions of the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, a Tea Party Republican. Christie, when needed by his constituents, worked alongside the President to help solve problems. Democrats, and many undecided voters, saw this increasingly rare moment of bipartisanship as refreshing; as evidence that government can work, when manned by the right people.
Christie’s cooperative effort didn’t go unnoticed by either side of the aisle. On the right, he was seen as a turncoat. Days before the election was a time for Christie to be stumping for his fellow Republican, not a time for being hugsies with the Democratic President.
Perhaps even more significantly, Christie’s apparent affability has extended beyond the shores of his state’s battered coast. He offered just a lukewarm defense of Mitt Romney’s latest attack on the American people, by essentially saying, ‘he’s a good guy. His feelings are just a little hurt.’
Words aside, his latest action included actual policy compromise. The anti-union governor and the Newark teachers got together and negotiated a new contract. Then, in the eyes of partisan Republicans, he stabbed them in the eye by appearing with the enemy, the union leader, on enemy turf, MSNBC. Even worse *gasp*, Christie is talking about raising taxes to help with storm cleanup.
Those on the left became almost googly eyed toward the Republican Governor. Democrats are notoriously forgiving. We were willing to brush aside the fact that Christie is, at his core, anti-union. We were willing to forgive the fact that he vetoed marriage equality. The left-wing webisphere found itself with a new man-crush; a Republican who is willing to put aside party politics to actually do his job. It was like a cold glass of lemonade on a climate change enhanced summer day.
Like a wayward coworker without Thanksgiving plans, Democrats were quick to invite Christie to our party. It’s understandable. The Republican party has become so exclusive that coöperation and even slightly divergent views have become unforgivable sins. Their patron saint, Ronald Reagan, would be called a RINO (Republican In Name Only) in today’s GOP. However, like Christie, Reagan was no Democrat.
The modern Democratic party is the party of inclusivity. We love the fact that our party includes all genders, races and sexual orientations. We love that we don’t all speak in focus-grouped talking points. We love (sometimes) that even “our” network, MSNBC, isn’t afraid to call out Democrats, including the President, when they are wrong.
But should there be a limit? Of course, I agree that Republicans who aren’t obsessed with rape and who don’t believe half the country is mooching off the other half, should have a home in the political world, but that home isn’t here, not unless they are willing to abide by a few rules. Democrats do stand for something. We stand for equality for all, not just those who are white, straight and male. We stand for strong unions, as a counter to the strength of corporations. We stand for the right to choose. We stand against unnecessary wars. We stand for education for all. We believe the government has a role in a strong society, and that includes protecting the “General Welfare” of its citizens, whether that be through education, healthcare, feeding the hungry or in building and preserving the infrastructure. We believe that corporations are not people and that they should be forced to live by the rule of law. We stand for freedom of and from religion. We believe that the wealthiest among us, those who have benefitted the most from their citizenship, should pay a higher price for their citizenship. We believe that while religion doesn’t have a place in governing, science should. Global climate change is real and must be addressed yesterday. Evolution is real, and must be taught in the schools. Sure, there are areas of debate, like the role of capitalism in conjunction with government, but there are some principles on which we should (but don’t) stand firm.
In the Democratic party, there is no litmus test. We allow differing views. We allow anti-choice. We allow people who vote their religion instead of their intellect. The result is Blue Dog Democrats. The result is Joe Leiberman. The result is that we have members of our own party blocking legislation that foundational to our philosophy. The result is that even when Democrats leave as victors, the legislation is still far to the right of where most of us stand.
Of course, in America, anyone can stick an (R) or a (D) next to their name, as they see fit. The choice is often one of political expedience. A liberal I know has spent her career as a Republican, knowing that Democrats never win in her country club district. Republicans with Democratic platforms, do, however, as proven by her 20+ year political career.
That’s the funny thing about American voters. Most have no idea what their candidates stand for, aside from media-exploited gaffes. They vote because of the (D) or the (R). Why do you think almost half the population voted for Mitt Romney, despite the fact that he kept his governing plans, assuming he had some, as well-guarded as his tax returns, his stint as Massachusetts Governor and his record at Bain Capital?
There is political advantage in being exclusive to the point of inviting Republicans. It allows Democratic leaders to pass legislation, albeit weak legislation, simply because they have a big enough caucus. Harry Reid looks like a stronger leader with Max Baucus hovering somewhere near his corner. As long as Democrats are willing to leave the middle and lean to the Baucus right, he’ll throw us a vote now and again.
Christie arguably has some views Democrats could and should work with. He’s not entirely anti-science. He believes in the importance of green energy. He doesn’t appear to be a complete bigot, but he is still a very loud and proud Republican, although one willing to color outside the lines.
Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic National Committee do just fine when people like Chris Christie joins their ranks, but the losers are the American people. Like it or not, we have a two party system. It is up to the Chris Christies of the country to lead their party in the right (as in correct) direction. He should not be leading our party on the march into Republicanism. The country needs more Republicans like Chris Christie, not more Democrats like Chris Christie.