The election of Barack Obama to the presidency, in 2008, was the result of a broad coalition of voters, from not only the Democratic base and liberal independents, but also centrist independents and moderate Republicans. Some conservatives joined the coalition, because they believed Obama was more forthright and trustworthy. In 2012, we now see again the strength of the independent voters’ collective demand for more creative, collaborative government, oriented toward pragmatic problem solving, honoring our democratic values, and restoring dignity to our politics and our communities.
That is why GOP operatives are now locked in a vicious struggle with Tea Party radicals, for control of the party. It is why both moderates and conservatives are right to characterize Karl Rove’s SuperPAC shenanigans as “incompetent” and “counterproductive”. It is clear that the libel-focused billionaire-backed campaign only served to inspire and harden support for Pres. Obama.
To the astonishment of many, hardline anti-immigrant Republicans are suddenly calling for the party to embrace constructive immigration reform, of the kind espoused by Obama, which would put undocumented immigrants on a “path to citizenship”. The true power of Obama’s reelection lies in the vindication of a reason-based progressive problem-solving politics, the kind that has always been responsible for building communities, even conservative ones, in this country: people coming together to discuss new and better ideas, then formulating solutions that build value, liberty and opportunity, at the human scale.
The signal lesson of this year’s election is that we all need to be more honest about the nature of our politics. No, billionaire-backed SuperPACs do not inevitably override the will of citizens and families. Yes, radicalism does hurt our country, and yes, real people really do know this. No, conservatism and progressivism are not mutually exclusive; examples of this include figures from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama continues to succeed because he understands this.
People are people first, and sometimes, perhaps it is fair to say: often, their values are buoyed and expressed through complex preference patterns informed by both conservative and progressive tendencies. It is time for conservatives to lose their fear of pragmatic progressivism and understand the opportunity Obama’s second term presents.
At last, it is possible, suddenly awakened moderates might argue, to take rational and humane positions on matters of public policy, positions that show a commitment to real democracy and the building of real and diverse community resilience. The opportunity to rescue the Republican party from electoral marginalization comes in this form: the opportunity to work with moderates to formulate responsible progressive solutions that harmonize with conservative values that prioritize citizens, families, local economies and democracy as such.
Items of ideological preference can be dealt with separately from those projects requiring creative collaborative problem-solving. That might seem like pie in the sky to seasoned political operatives and analysts, but it is, in fact, the eminently possible and pragmatically viable landscape of better political relations which most Americans never stop demanding of our democracy.