My hopes were that the next four years would bring more civility to our political process. With George Bush’s acceptance speech, those hopes are all but gone.
When appointed president four years ago, Bush’s lack of mandate and hints of bipartisanship as governor of Texas — added to his own claims to be humble in foreign policy, “a uniter, not a divider” and “a compassionate conservative” — had the nation thinking the bruising politics of the Clinton years would be put behind us. Bush spat on that.
Democratic anger was already high after the irresponsible Republican cruelties of those years, from rumors about Vince Foster being murdered to a $50 million-plus real estate investigation that wound up impeaching Clinton for having an affair. Had the Bush-Gore fight been decided in a nonpartisan way, possibly producing a President Gore, that anger would have dissipated, but Republicans have long since given up being fair fighters, reasonable losers or gracious winners. They will do anything to win a race, while Democrats are steeped in plurality; it’s against their nature, in general, to launch an attack like that of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
And Republicans are the ones claiming the moral high ground, and getting away with it, because Americans are strange. A slim majority perceive themselves simultaneously as underdogs and as the paragons of humankind. They are angered by others being angered by U.S. anger. They are scared by others being scared of them. They think they’re smart for rejecting intelligence. They mistake entertainment for facts, facts for lies and lies for entertainment.
And for another four years, in the eyes of the world, Democrats are lumped in with them, for reasons venal and mystifying, distressing and appalling.
As I say, I’ve all but given up on healing. It’s unclear why a Republican sweep would create it, when the tenuousness of 2000 didn’t.
What I was going to say instead is that for the race four years from now, all I’m looking for is a fairer fight.
For instance, let’s hold real debates. The candidates should speak to each other; moderators should be allowed to correct candidates’ inaccuracies and note their lies; when citizens ask questions, they should feel empowered to remind the candidates they haven’t answered.
But after that, I come up empty. The fight isn’t going to be fair, because — again — the Republicans know what they have to do to win, and they do it without compunction. Democrats can’t do it because they’d become as bad as the Republicans. All they can do is hope that something happens in the next four years to convince people that the Republican way is wrong, but that would mean horror and misery, and what good person can hope for that? Not to mention the danger inherent in that gamble: that things don’t become so bad that we can’t find our way back. Democratic anger is impotent.
That brings me back to hoping, including for more civility in our public process. Back to the beginning.
Back to hopelessness.