The last two presidents have been notable for the fury they aroused in their opponents. Bill Clinton’s critics were so angry about his marital infidelities — and about his Vietnam-era draft dodging and pot smoking, among other issues — that they hounded him throughout his two terms, culminating in his impeachment. And George W. Bush’s opponents have been so fired up during his eight years that columnist Charles Krauthammer invented the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome” to describe the condition.
Barack Obama has come into office promising less enmity and a greater willingness to work across the aisle. Then again, so did George W. Bush.
Can we have politics without the rage? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, tackle the question.
There are few things that feel better or more blissful than righteous political anger. And it’s easier to summon that anger when your party is out of power and the other guys are screwing things up.
Now its Republicans’ turn to taste the rage. But that also creates a problem for liberals: For many, our anger at the Bush Administration has fueled our political efforts. Now we’re about to rediscover an eternal truth: It’s easier and more fun to sit back and criticize than to do the hard work of governing. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency means that some of us will have to re-examine political identities that were formed and fueled by opposition to the perpetually wrongheaded leadership of George W. Bush.
Luckily, there’s work to be done. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has already unveiled an initial proposal for universal health insurance. There are already rumblings from Obama’s advisers about closing Guantanamo and redirecting the nation’s war-fighting energies from Iraq to Afghanistan. And it seems certain the nation’s energy future will be decided during the next four years. It’s time for liberals and Democrats to roll up our sleeves.
That’s the good news. The bad news: All those efforts will spark intense opposition from Republicans. In a democracy, it’s inevitable that somebody will always be angry.
A little Jedi wisdom might be in order following the resounding Republican defeat on Nov. 4: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
At the moment, conservatives are trying to figure out what to do. They’re depressed, afraid and, yes, they’re angry. They’re angry that their party’s standard-bearer did not seem to care about conservatives or their ideas until he needed their votes. They’re angry the GOP over the past eight years indulged in an orgy of spending and turned a blind-eye to corruption.
Conservatives are angry, too, that so many of their fellow Americans failed to see in Barack Obama what they’ve claimed to see all along: A charismatic but inexperienced liberal who will very likely take the country further down the wrong path. But voters delivered a broad repudiation of Republican policies on Election Day. And rightly so. When Republicans abandon their principles in favor of political expediency, they deserve to lose.
Fact is, anger is not a platform. Saying “Obama isn’t my president” — as some liberals insisted that President Bush was “selected, not elected” — isn’t persuasive. It’s petulant. The job of the next four years is to check Obama’s worst instincts and hold him accountable for his policies — without anger or malice, but in the spirit of loyal opposition and cheerful patriotism.
(Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis blog daily at www.infinitemonkeysblog.com and joelmathis.blogspot.com.)