I find it lonely, not being able to identify with either the Republican or the Democratic party. I regret that they have left me behind. Each is hurtling forward along on an increasingly weird and alienating rhetorical arc, becoming ever more oriented toward the constituencies who still find the establishment line urgent and interesting. Both parties are curiously bereft of talent, of true leadership and direction. I see no one I want to follow. For the first time in my life, I feel that there is no one out ahead of the rest of us, articulating what we need to be doing, where we should be going now. I look at the strange pass that the two parties have come to, at their increasingly desperate struggle for supremacy, and I wonder how much more time will pass before they collapse and fail.
What do I mean by a “weird and alienating rhetorical arc”? In the case of the Republicans, I mean an opportunism and a style of revenge politics that is ignoble, unchristian, unpatriotic, and downright damaging to the nation. Trump is too small a man to leave the sound policies of his predecessor in place, while Republicans in Congress, determined to destroy the Affordable Care Act, have shown a callousness toward ordinary citizens that few initiatives in American politics can match. (Remember the heat Reagan took when he went after school lunches?) In Alabama, voters for Roy Moore showed the same willingness to throw moral scruples aside for the sake of partisan advantage.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, doubling down on the very points that doomed them in 2016, are blazing a weirdly alienating arc of their own. Democratic-leaning commentators are back to reading poll-numbers like tea-leaves. They have not gone out to get to know the “fly-over zone.” They are back in their privileged haunts, pontificating. In the face of Trump’s victory, and given the many heinous aspects of the President’s behavior, the Democrats have found an excuse to ignore the legitimate frustrations of Trump’s voter base. That Democrats need to win over some of these voters hasn’t kept them from behaving like patronizing snobs. Democrats who believe they can write off the white vote, or the rural vote, or the vote of people who are working-class and uneducated, are as callous and provincial as their Republican foes. Circumstances have thrust Democrats in a defensive posture. If they can’t break out of it and review what America needs, they’ll be in big trouble in 2018.
Personally, I expect to remain ambivalent about the parties until I hear someone articulating a politics that is plausible, efficient, and broadly humane. I want to hear from candidates whose interests are truly national: who have fresh ideas about wringing prosperity from our own resources while mitigating the degradation of the natural world. I want to hear from candidates who want to beautify and uplift local economies, who care about bridging the urban-rural divide. I want to hear from candidates about bringing immigrants out of the shadows, giving every inhabitant of our country a legal status, and controlling our borders in ways that are smart and modern. I want to hear from candidates with new ideas about public schooling and work, who believe the US can become a new kind of “maker nation,” one whose future is more creditable and peaceable than its past. Bring on a capacious and inclusive vision, and save us from the desiccated remnants ruling the republic now.
I enjoyed reading this essay very much; it is well put together and thought out. . . . Yup, I agree: no political figure from the DEM party turns me on and that is a BIG too bad. Gosh. This might be the first time that I feel this way. Someone needs to step forward with a clear, cogent policy. . . .Where is the “platform committee” of the past, with its fresh ideology?
It’s ironic, because localism used to be the essence of the Democratic party, back before the era of ‘big government’ that FDR introduced in response to the Great Depression so long ago. I wish Democrats could see the need to have a smaller (but still active) federal government, while emphasizing the common interests that green Democrats, farmers, and small town folks share. There are so many unaffiliated voters, and so many people in the middle of the ideological spectrum to recapture! Democrats seem interested mainly in defending past Democratic administrations and ideas, not hatching new ones.
Susan, once again and as usual, you so well articulate my thoughts and feelings far better than I can. I still, kinda, sorta see myself as a moderate & centrist Democrat (they’re not exactly the same thing) but I would like to see a Dem in charge that isn’t stuck in that “patronizing snob” mode you so well express. I know they are about because I do see some: our David Price (NC rep.), Seth Moulton (MA rep.) and the only major I’d likely support as Pres. – Deval Patrick. Biden…? I dunno? But with Obama as VP…maybe.
It’s so bad I could almost live with Kasich or Romney. Almost anybody but the one we have.
Allen, thank you–both the parties are out of touch with the bulk of voters who want to hear sound and modern sentiments from leaders and wannabes. Nothing radical or pie in the sky, but a chorus of soundness and moderation. It would be most welcome at this point. SB
Soundness and moderation would indeed be welcomed by most of American voters; however maybe not by Republicans if the latest poll by Quinnipiac University is anywhere near accurate: it seems that 72% of Republicans support Trump AND say he is a good role-model for children. What planet are these people on? -A.
Underneath the political divisions are some incalculably large moral and cultural failings that have brought us to this. Ultimately, though, being “anti-Trump” is not going to win enough hearts and minds to change the current disposition of power. It does seem to energize his base. People following Trump are weak and they would abandon him if someone came along offering something better. The Dems are not much interested in engaging this very alienated and angry part of the electorate. It’s a real problem.