Election Post Mortem and Some Tough Love

Photo via John Cole at Balloon-Juice.com

By Bob Cesca: There’s been an understandable amount of discussion since Tuesday night about how the Republicans failed and what they can do to improve. I love a good concern-trolling post as much as anyone, especially in the wake of such an exhilarating victory.

Let’s face it, though. Do we sincerely want the Republicans to soften their regional white Christian epistemic self-marginalization?

Ultimately, Republican policies are misogynistic, bigoted, obsolete and ineffectual; their politics are toxic and exploitative; their media presence is a screechy echo-chamber of gibberish and conspiracy theories; and they’re rightly suffering the consequences of this deadly cocktail. If they’d prefer to self-destruct, fine. As such, they should stay away from Nate Silver’s wizardry and stick with Unskewed Polls and Rush Limbaugh’s “gut.” Republican contra-reality politics forced them to attack an empty chair fictional construct instead of the actual president, and it forced them to fabricate policies that simply didn’t exist (Jeep to China, welfare reform gutting, and so on). Great! Keep doing that. It failed. And when Republicans fail, it helps the rest of us.

But even the most sincere recommendations will fall on deaf ears anyway. The things they need to change the most are also threads that unite them. They believe women should be subjugated via anti-choice legislation and they will never abandon their abortion plank. They believe in supply-side, trickle down economics and nearly every sitting Republican politician has signed Grover Norquist’s tax pledge, so softening on tax hikes for the rich is definitely out. They can’t abandon their anti-immigration position or risk losing their angry, white, ignorant base who want nothing more than a return to a monochromatic 1950s Leave it to Beaver utopia — these same conservatives market in horror stories about savage brown people beheading decent law-abiding white people in the deserts of Arizona.

They’re trapped inside their own Mobius Loop of crapola and, honestly, I don’t know exactly how this trend will play out for them. Perhaps a coalition of moderate and liberal Republicans will splinter off, leaving the tea party wackaloons to their masochistic descent into political extinction.

I have no idea, but I certainly won’t be abandoning this topic anytime soon. Stay tuned.

Changing gears, how about some recommendations for liberal Democrats? What could we do as progressives to improve our station and to build our coalition through the second Obama term and beyond?

Two very specific prescriptions here.

1) Get a grip on political reality.

Idealism is healthy and necessary, but not at the expense of grasping political reality. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time writing and speaking about this subject so I won’t elaborate too much. Suffice to say, a shocking number of prominent liberal Democrats have a tough time marrying political reality with policy goals.

Democracy is slow, and politics is a process. While we should actively persuade the president and Congress to adopt more liberal proposals, we can’t expect our favorite senator or the president himself to simply “use the bully pulpit” or, I don’t know, conjure fully passed slate of ready-to-sign bills using nothing more than a shaka and some close-up magic.

We will absolutely achieve more liberal successes if we focus on new ways to exploit the system rather than fighting against it. We can start by building our ranks and convincing voters on the ground, and that involves the next recommendation…

2) Stop badgering people of faith.

Not that I need to justify my personal beliefs in order to discuss this, but for the sake of full disclosure, I’m an ex-Catholic, agnostic bordering on atheist, secular liberal. I’ve spent the bulk of my political career arguing in support of the Establishment Clause and a hearty wall of separation between church and state. I’ve been ensconced in the backlash against the religious right’s campaign to usurp secular laws and replace them with a Leviticus-inspired theocracy. Anyone who engages in the theocratic effort is a political enemy and we should never back down from that fight, especially when human rights for women and the LGBT community are on the line.

Okay, so, all of that aside, liberals/progressives would do well to cut the crap with the smug, self-righteous hectoring of religious people. Categorically labeling all people-of-faith as stupids or childish sky-god fetishists is seriously beginning to sound an awful lot like the sort of overzealous intolerance we’re supposed to be fighting.

How can we possibly scold Republicans about becoming more tolerant while we’re also making blanket pronouncements on Facebook and Twitter that anyone who believes in God is a naive automaton? I doubt many of us would dare to make that same case to Stephen Colbert who’s a practicing Catholic and Sunday school teacher.

So it might be a good idea to holster the anti-religion crusade (har!) and reserve it exclusively for the operatives who are bastardizing faith as a means of sociopolitical oppression. Odds are, they’re conservatives anyway, and a law that mandates, say, transvaginal ultrasounds is evil regardless of whether it’s coming from a religious politician or a secular one. If we target the issues and remain focused on that goal, we’ve fulfilled our policy agenda without taking a broad, thoughtless shotgun approach regardless of who might be caught in the crossfire.

On Tuesday, it turns out that Catholics voted for the president by a margin of 50-48, according to CNN. Among Jews, 69-30, and among “other” religious people, 74-23. Latino Catholics, of which there are many, voted for the president by a margin of 3-to-1. That’s tremendous. Tolerance aside and coming at this from a purely meat-and-potatoes political tack, the liberal/progressive wing of the Democratic Party risks chasing away valuable allies if we’re viewed as the religious-intolerance wing. We should be interested in building and reinforcing our coalition to include those voters rather than poisoning the evolution of the movement by brow-beating them with our too-sophisticated sermons about spaghetti monsters.

If the progressive left opens its doors to people of faith it might discover that there are millions who agree that the wall of separation should remain intact, and millions more who believe in social justice and a liberal, secular form of government.

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