Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On Election 2008

Everywhere in America, liberals are awakening to sunrise after eight cold years of darkest night. They celebrate. They dream. But they should also reflect.

Euphoria on the left is understandable given the failures of the Bush regime and the rancor of the political season. It is the latter factor that fuels the left’s sense of triumph as well as its sense of grievance.

Do you remember the campaigns of President Reagan? His critique of the left was very different than that of his heirs. Reagan and his disciples believed liberals were weak, misguided and naïve, but not treasonous. Reagan desired victory but had no need to demonize his adversaries.

Twenty years later, a candidate for Vice-President accuses her opponent of “palling around with terrorists” and praises the “pro-America areas of this great nation.” When President Bush said, “You are with us or you are with the terrorists,” his statement was intended for foreign governments. Governor Palin has directed that sentiment at the American people. We will never forget that.

This is part of a pattern extending back to the election of 2000. Karl Rove taught us that victory was not enough; permanent domination and humiliation of the other side was the real goal. In the Rovian world, the victors gloat insufferably, indulging themselves in the gleeful excesses of power. The losers sulk in vengeful fury, vowing retribution. This is not the America of my childhood. And I hope it is not the America of my old age.

As for John McCain, he is a decent man who succumbed to the pressures of an intense campaign. He is not the first politician to do so and he will not be the last. But let us remember the good in this son of America who spent much of his youth in North Vietnamese jails. When I recall Senator McCain in future years, I will remember the man who refused to leave captivity until POWs held longer than him were released. I will remember the man who made common cause with Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold. I will remember the man who relentlessly pursued corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the face of great embarrassment to his own party. But most of all, I will remember the man who stood up to President Bush and told him that torture was wrong.

Look around the country! Nearly half of our fellow citizens voted for Senator McCain. Are they all deluded, racist, nativist or ignorant? Of course not. Just like us, they are anxious about the future. They do not want failure. Neither do we. Many of them recognize that George W. Bush has accomplished something unique in American history: he has bequeathed to his successor two raging wars, an apocalyptic economic crisis and diminished standing in the world. All of us, Obama voters and McCain voters, have to live with the smoldering devastation of that legacy. That alone provides cause for alliance.

So put away those champagne bottles. Put on your hardhats. Strap on your toolbelts. Report to the jobsite and take your place with moderates, independents and conservatives. It’s time to leave the strong words of Election 2008 in the past. It’s time to rebuild America.