A strange thing happened after the last election in which the Republicans got stuffed, trussed and roasted two weeks before Thanksgiving. Instead of exulting in victory, Democrats were overwhelmed by a wave of compassion for their rivals. You’d have thought that victory would drive them to paroxysms of elation. Instead, Democrats brought out their hankies and pleaded with the loser to get up off the mat. It was as if the neighborhood bully had flattened the neighborhood wimp and was suddenly horrified by what he’d done: “I didn’t mean to kill him, I just wanted to show him who’s boss.”
True, there were a few expressions of schadenfreude and some therapeutic venting. Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., in a fine display of thoughtful moderation, characterized the GOP as the party of “fear mongering, xenophobia, demagoguery and inchoate anger so extreme as to make Ronald Reagan seem almost a hippie by comparison.” But he went on to commiserate with the sick party and offered prescriptions for its convalescence. Desist from your politics of “pitchforks and bomb throwing,” he wrote. Save yourselves from policies of “electoral suicide and a future of ballot box irrelevance.” Broaden your base beyond “older, white, evangelical, and male” voters and reach out to blacks, women, gays, Muslims, Hispanics. In other words, admit you’re wrong — and also bonkers. Learn the art of pandering. Become liberals.
What was going on here? Why would the winners want to share the secrets of their success? Maybe it’s because the Democratic Party is the champion of the underdog, the defender of the Little Guy. Compassion for the weak and defenseless is part of its DNA. The spectacle of a moribund Republican Party moved Democrats to tears. They couldn’t resist coming to the rescue and administering ideological CPR. Moreover, they may have realized that the two parties need one another to maintain the illusion that they’re engaged in a great struggle between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and evil.
I have never been able to understand how anyone could believe in either party, how anyone can say, “I’m a Republican” or “I’m a Democrat,” as if it were some kind of religious or racial distinction you were born with. I can’t identify with either party. Neither represents me. Both are spendthrifts. Both bow to money and power. Both promote Big Government. Debates between Democrats and Republicans are Punch and Judy shows, cynically orchestrated to manipulate our passions, while they neglect their duties and cut crooked deals behind closed doors. Do you really believe that they believe the slogans and epithets they bellow — “Equality!” “Freedom!” “Individualism!” “Community!” “Dependency!” “Personal Responsibility?” Do you really believe that wealthy coupon-clippers are “job creators” and for that reason must be lightly taxed, or that money obtained by taxing them will wind up in the hands of the poor? Do you really believe that the rich will pay more if their tax rates are increased or that government spending will “stimulate” economic growth?
Hear ye: The “fiscal cliff” was a phony crisis designed to distract us from the failure of both parties to address the black hole of entitlements. The Republican “pledge” not to raise taxes was a smokescreen enabling them to continue spending borrowed money. How can you believe in people who can’t pass a budget, who must rely on automatic cuts to keep them from spending? Name a person from either party who doesn’t retire from Congress with his pockets stuffed. Do you really believe any of them really care about the poor or future generations?
O, ye holy-rolling conservatives, ye snake-handing progressives: Skepticism — not blind faith — is called for when you’re being cozened by witch doctors, snake oil salesmen, charlatans, pickpockets and confidence men. Democrats and Republicans … Smoke and mirrors … Legerdemain and obfuscation. Now you see it, now you don’t. A pox on both of them. Remember: There’s no lesson in the second kick of a mule. Puzzle that out, ye fundamentalist woolgatherers, if you can.