Finally, election season is over! Since arriving in August, we’ve been bombarded with political ads, articles and rants. I know the US is pretty vocal about politics, but it gets especially bad in the lead up to an election – particularly a presidential election.
My selected candidate won (GObama!), which I was obviously excited about, but I found the rants (from both sides) so off-putting before, during and after the election, I can’t help still feeling some frustration. I’m typically moderate, erring on the side of liberal (though my social views are staunchly liberal), but some of my closest friends (and clearly a further circle of ‘friends’ on Facebook and Twitter) are decidedly conservative. Personally, I really like having this sort of social makeup, because it’s a good reminder that not all wonderful, intelligent people share your views. If you surround yourself with too many like-minded individuals, it’s far too easy to think everyone else is an idiot and refuse to listen to their logic at all. Compassion and compromise, people!
Some of my favorite political discussions in the past have been with one of my closest friends and her husband, who are both born and bred Oklahoman Republicans. Their political beliefs are markedly different to mine – socially and fiscally – but we are all open-minded, intelligent adults and had some wonderful discussions. During the last election, national healthcare was obviously a hot topic. With my friend’s husband working in the medical field and Mark and I living in the UK, where the NHS has existed for decades, we had some great, informed discussions about the pros and cons of national healthcare (which was since implemented and branded “Obamacare”).
I’m perfectly happy to respect those who are openminded and have clearly thought about their position, rather than parroting off what they heard elsewhere – be it from their political party’s loudest spokesperson, tv or even their family. Unfortunately this isn’t unilaterally the case. Far too often, people define their beliefs because “they’re Republican” or “they’re a Democrat” and worse yet oppose someone else’s ideas because they are from a particular party. It’s great when a friend posts why they like a particular candidate, but I’ve also been bombarded with a load of ‘negative campaigning’. While I am equally as irritated when either side slings around generalizations or any other BS political rhetoric, I must admit it’s particularly frustrating (and sometimes offensive) when their rants are targeted at my ‘team’.
Sadly, this has been the state in D.C. for some time now. Too many people have focused on defending their own political party’s control rather than finding a way to collaborate and compromise. Surely the premise of a democratic system is that people vote for what they want? It’s not about the government deciding what’s good for the people based on their own ideals, it’s about serving the ideals of the people (which is an ever changing populous) in a way that is fair and just. If that’s the case, our elections have clearly illustrated that there are mixed feelings, and we need to listen to both sides and make compromises. Otherwise, we are failing to serve either party. This bi-partisan style was adopted by Clinton during his second term; I am hoping the polarization that ensued during Bush’s years and further plagued Obama’s first term don’t continue, and that the legislation blocking stops.
One way I’ve often considered to get the other team on board is to assign their chosen candidate to some other role (not dissimilar to Hillary become Secretary of State after Obama defeated her in the primaries). Unfortunately, I would hand-on-heart have a hard time putting post-election, flip-flop Mitt in charge of anything. Pre-election Mitt wasn’t a bad guy, in my opinion. In fact, I really respected that despite his own personal (religious) views on abortion, he initially stated that abortion should be safe and legal and that he didn’t want to change the legal status of abortion. Unfortunately, this was one example of Mitt’s perpetually changing ideals (not in the “I’ve learned, so I’ve changed my ways” kind of way, but in an “I’m talking to you, so I’ve changed for this conversation” kind of way), and he later stated he would try to help overturn Roe v Wade. (I should also note I find it hypocritical that the same group of people who want to shrink the government and de-regulate think they have any business governing what anyone does with their personal life/body – be it a woman seeking an abortion or a same-sex couple wanting to declare their lifelong commitment to one another. If you don’t want to govern or regulate things that affect everyone, why should you govern or regulate something that affects just me?). After a fairly successful political career in (liberal) Massachusetts, I suspect his less tolerant views contributed to his losing the election. Further, his flip-flopping and inconsistencies came across as unstable and desperate, making post-election Mitt not suitable to be the one bridging the Dem-Rep gap, in my opinion.
Only time will tell how things will shake out. I’m really, really hoping Washington will get the message that we are a divided people, and that it’s time to compromise with and support each other. Sadly, I suspect I am far too optimistic that we’ll remain stuck at least a little longer (no matter how progressive some states have become in legalizing gay marriage and now even legalizing recreational marijuana!). I can but hope.