restoring american civility 19

President-elect Barack Obama ran on a detailed set of policy solutions for many of our most pressing challenges.  Neoconservative pundits and an anemic news media aside, he won the support of many political moderates for the depth and breadth of his platform coupled with the brilliance of his campaign.  Barack’s best-selling book The Audacity of Hope lends a philosophical depth to these goals and describes nothing less than an American Renaissance.

It was also the main reason I joined the republican party in August of 2008.

I think we are on the precipice of something truly transformational.  Barack has basically shown us an entirely new brand of politics and our challenge is to continue that transformation.  He ran and won on speaking truth with candor and plain language.  He won by treating his opponents with respect even while countering their more extreme tactics.  He was as gracious in victory as he was in defeat.

Our challenge is to follow his example.

It was a challenge I accepted when I realized that the combination of absurdly low turnout for primary elections and an identity crisis could push republicans in a totally new direction.  So I joined the party on its way down in flames, rather than hang with the winners on their way up.  I could have just as easily joined the democratic party when I decided being an independent in a two-party system was a waste of time.

I have been called worse things in my life than a republican and have hung with a sketchier crowd than Lincoln and Roosevelt..  I also figured the democrats didn’t need moderate voices while the republicans certainly did.  We have important goals to be met almost immediately and can’t be met by half the country alone.  Given the number of moderate republican votes and endorsements for the democratic candidate this year, I am convinced an opportunity exists to transform the republicans into a 21st century party, much as Barack Obama and Howard Dean transformed the democratic party.

Barack said it best in his acceptance speech.  This is just the beginning.  We have more mountain above our heads than below our feet, but climb we must.  There’s is no turning back unless it is falling to our deaths on the rocky shoals below.

We succeed or fail as a nation.

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19 thoughts on “restoring american civility

  • theone718

    I am going to be a Republican just so I can vote for Sarah Palin in 2012. She will help us reach 400 EV’s. Good times…….good times.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      That’s one way to go, but I suspect no matter who the republicans put up in 2012, Barack will achieve a 50 state victory for the first time in American history.

      One way or another the GOP will find a new direction and a new voice. Every party does following the collapse of its identity. Don’t forget, the democratic party only just recovered its identity this year.

      • tiggers thotful spot

        First of all, even if Barack Obama walks on water he probably would still not win Utah or Oklahoma (home of the worst pair of Senators in American history, except for maybe Alaska). So he’s only going to win 48 at most.

        The stark reality is the Democratic Party has very few real positive accomplishments at the national level since the early 1970s Congress brought us EPA and ESA and Nixon obligingly signed on to both. Carter’s time accomplished almost nothing that lasted (CAFE standards were about the biggest achievement I can think of). From the Clinton years we’ve still got NAFTA, welfare “reform”, Telecom “reform” (a boon to media consolidation), and the end of many banking and financial regulations. All of which were bad Republican ideas.

        The Republican Party has been the party of ideas for many years, because far too many leading Democrats (such as Clinton) followed the path (and the bad advice) of co-opting those ideas in the name of some fantasy “centrism” that does not exist. Republicans have brought (and made stick — often with Democratic help) such ideas as tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of everything they can get their hands on, outsourcing critical government functions to unaccountable contractors, politicization of the executive branch and regulatory agencies, spying on Americans, runaway Presidential power, military Keynesianism, financialization, socialism for bankers, unilateralism, opposition to international human rights and environmental treaties, and on and on. Until Obama has an opportunity to demonstrate otherwise, at the national level the GOP is still the party of ideas. Bad ideas!

        Obama has to roll out some good ideas that help America and will stick, in order to have a second term. It’s an exciting time because there are many great progressive ideas to choose from that have been sitting on the shelf unloved for many years. He’ll be “under fire” the whole time, from people genuinely hoping for failure even if it harms the country. I don’t think it will be an easy fight, even if he does make some major positive changes. But we do live in interesting times. Finally.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          I disagree that Obama can’t win a 50 state victory should he accomplish much of his first-term agenda.

          Many of the deepest red states aren’t that far away from flipping democratic. Should the republicans make enough of a change to become relevant again, perhaps that can be avoided, but I see the republican renewal to take at least as long the democratic one took.

          Perhaps you are right, but I see things slightly differently. If he only wins 48 states we will have come that much further.

  • Lux Umbra Dei

    Jason, If you can help, in however small a fashion, to turn the Republican Party in the progressive direction, invoking as you go the great names and words of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, then I and everyone here at TPM will be in your debt.

    More power to you in that.

    But if by joining the Republican Party, by your work and contributions, increase the strength and haughty power of that faction whilst your ideals are hopelessly lost and diluted, then we cannot owe you so much.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      My goal is to pursue a progressive agenda for this country independent of ideological bounds. I am simply joining those republicans who already voted for Obama and have decided that a new direction is needed for the country.

      I am also joining the party to help ensure that forward thinking conservatives make it into positions of power by helping to propel them through the primaries. An exercise I hope the democratic party continues to conduct in its primaries as well.

      I will never contribute dollars or energy to a conservative candidate who would take us further away from the progressive ideals this country was founded on and somehow lost along the way. If I am unable to get my candidate through the primaries and a democratic candidate is pursuing the policies I agree with, that is who will get my time and money and vote during the general election.

      I suppose my main point is to show how limiting labels of any kind are in a world where we have to redefine how we do everything in order to survive.

  • Father OKC

    Now this is a good example on a post on the main page with a strong opening paragraph that gets me to click on the ‘More>>’ thingy.

    BTW, I concur that this is a perfect time to try and reshape the GOP. I don’t know if the influence of the Religios Right can be negated. I may very well change my registration to GOP here in NM so I can have some influence over primary politics.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      That would be awesome. I am hoping to convince many moderate dems to change parties over the coming years if only for the progressive momentum it gives us in primaries which average only 11 percent turnout nationally.

      I think what we saw this year was the religious right’s inability to influence an election based on an identity crisis of their own. The “born again” crowd split into evangelicals and fundamentalists with the former going to Obama in numbers not seen since before Reagan.

      I call them the Jimmy Carter Christians and have noticed them gain a voice of their own this year.

  • HusseinTenaX

    Hey, I love the idea of a viable opposition party.

    Get the Republican party together and deal straight up with the Democratic majority like adults.

    I think the country has definitely told DC and the media – and so far it isn’t quite sinking in, but it will – that we are not a middle-right country. We’re a progressive country, the Prop 8 anomaly notwithstanding.

    If the minority will quit trying to ignite culture wars and will instead be an intelligent minority in opposition, I’ll be thrilled.

    I’m not a fan of one party running the government without any decent, viable opposition to keep everyone honest.

    But I’ll be honest here – y’all aren’t going to have the majority back for a long long long time. We held it for 40 years before y’all got it. You had it for about 12. We aren’t letting go and we have the coalition to keep winning and I don’t think you’ll successfully steal it from us, either. That said – hey, please, get rid of the wackos and start acting like grownups and we all win!

    • Jason Everett Miller

      The only way we accomplish Barack’s very ambitious agenda and fix all the myriad of things that are wrong with this country is if we can find some way to point the half of the country that is conservative in a different direction. We must redefine a number of issues if we are to succeed on all the numerous fronts we must advance on.

      Both parties have been in various states of denial when it comes to the problems we face. It hasn’t been since Carter that a democratic president has spoken honestly with the American people and pursued progressive policy proscriptions.

      I hope the republicans decide to build on the 10 to 10% who elected Barack rather than the 85% who remain to be convinced.

  • WCG

    Well, good luck,… but note that the GOP has had moderates in the past. Now, however, moderates are not at all welcome. The far-right still has the Republican Party firmly in its grasp, and they are not tolerant of dissent. (Look at how they’ve treated conservative Obama supporters, not to mention someone like Sen. Hagel, a conservative who supported Bush on ALMOST every issue.)

    Do you think it was just coincidence that John McCain abandoned his previous positions, moving firmly to the right – and nominated Sarah Palin to boot? Not at all. The religious right remains firmly in control of the GOP, and no 46%-52% loss is going to change that. No, it’s going to take a monumental whipping to have any effect. We haven’t seen that yet, not at all.

    Right now, I’m afraid that the only effect you’ll have is to give the gloss of ‘diversity’ to any Republican PR effort. The GOP might – MIGHT – start to talk more about the ‘big tent,’ but they won’t mean it. The religious right is fundamentally (pun intended) intolerant, because you can’t compromise when doing ‘God’s work.’ And although they’ve lost an election, they have not yet been completely discredited (unfortunately).

    • Aunt Sam

      It seems to me that the Repubs have taken a ‘whipping’ in the past two elections.

      And as for doing ‘God’s work’ – I believe it’s their distorted definition that serves their personal agendas, not His.

      If only more Repubs were like Jason, well…..
      a better democracy would be enjoyed by all.

      • Jason Everett Miller

        I think what we have seen this year (and what I hoped to prove by joining them) is that moderate republicans outnumber the loons. A good chunk voted for Barack this time, but many more are happy he won and have said so.

        That leaves a dwindling 23 percent crowd that will find it increasingly difficult to sell the rest of their party on crazy ideas that have nothing to do with governing or the success of our country. Especially when there is a 23 percent group on the other side of the GOP talking about the exact opposite.

        That may leave 50 percent unconvinced enough to vote for Barack this year, but they are wavering. The only thing that can slow that down is overreach on the part of the new majority. I suspect that Obama will keep a handle on that at the top, providing an example to the party’s grassroots.

        We just might pull this thing out yet, but it will take at least half of McCain’s 46% to get it done. I’ll try to keep doing my part to bring them home to reason!

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Not sure how an upper middle-class white guy gives them a gloss of diversity, but I suppose anything is possible.

      As for the “religious right” that myth has been burst this year. The religious right has split into two factions – the Ted Haggart Fundamentalists and the Jimmy Carter Evengelicals. The Rapture Right’s days of “ruling” the GOP are numbered and have been slipping for the last few elections as many real Christians are trending democratic.

      I see the transition the republican party is going through to be much the same as the one that has driven the democrats these last 30 years. It may even take as long, but I hope not because our problems are too pressing and challenging to be handled by 52% of the country alone.

      Especially when Barack’s margin of victory was from republican voters who could certainly be driven away from the fold if the intolerance for republicans on the left reaches the same fevered pitch as the right has shown for so long.

  • destor23

    Jason, you know I love ya but you say in the comments here that your goal is to pursue a progressive agenda without being limited by ideology. But isn’t progressivism an ideology?

    Maybe you can work from within the Republican party to create a more progressive right (their belief in individual liberty can perhaps be turned into a belief in social freedom) but it seems to me that you believe that ideology is fine and good but that partisanship is bad. To me partisanship is just like-minded people joining forces and I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I think partisanship with regards to methods is healthy while the same applied to our common goals as a nation is detrimental.

      By “progressive” I mean common sense policies with a sustainable society as our shared mission. Ideology that doesn’t contribute to our ultimate goals is bad. Ideology that enables us to achieve the extremely challenging changes we need to make is good.

      I don’t expect Americans to become any less ideological. I just hope that we can make sure the logical is given at least as much weight as the idea and that the tactics we use to promote our own individual solutions are never used as a wedge to continue driving us apart.

      It is a two-fold task that requires democrats to simply move forward with implementing Barack’s broader agenda. I suspect he will do so in a way that republican moderates can take some ownership and increase their margins in the GOP.

      Despite our great win last Tuesday, our work will stretch across multiple election cycles and two Obama terms. By then demographic changes and a successful track record for progressive programs should leave both parties committed to a sustainable future that only differs in tactics and not strategy.

      That’s change I can believe in.

  • h0db

    Jason, this is likely to be a life-long commitment, and one that will try your patience. Seems like the initial reaction of the right is denial, and rejection of the idea that the election was a referendum on conservative ideals. Hence the “Princess Palin will lead us to victory in 2012!” war cry by a majority of republicans polled. I suspect a majority will loudly proclaim that neither Bush nor McCain were authentic conservatives, and they will go through at least one more presidential election cycle trying to prove it by nominating candidates preaching a distilled form of conservatism.

    Not everything wrong with the Republican Party is due to “neoconservatism,” which is a very specific ideological niche mostly centered around foreign policy (in practice, Utopian imperialism).

    The real cancer in the Republican Party is that their Southern Strategy built around wedge, racial politics over the past four decades finally ate the Party. Today, we are looking at the early 21st Century version of the Dixiecrats. I’m not saying that they are only motivated by racism, but they have become the party of anti-ideas, anti-intellectualism, anti-global thinking.

    I suspect they need to take a severe beating in 2012 and probably 2016 before they start to listen to progressives in their midst. I hope that I’m wrong because a broken Republican party in a structurally bipartisan political system is likely to lead to excesses and corruption in the Democratic Party.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Forgive the length of the reply, but I think this is a caricature of what one finds in the republican party rather than an honest assessment. A good chunk of “conservatives” elected Barack this year. Without those votes, he doesn’t win, despite the overwhelming logic of his candidacy.

      That tells me there is still a lot of work to do.

      Not to convince the zealots, who compose perhaps a quarter of McCain’s voters, and will never be convinced. We’ll have to breed them or register them out of existence in the GOP. It is the task of all moderates, democrat and republican alike, to convince the remaining republican voters that progressive changes are the only common sense way to build a sustainable future for our children and encourage them to vote accordingly for moderate republicans.

      These people aren’t fools and they aren’t just going to become democrats because the republican party is broken.

      They certainly aren’t anti-intellectual or racists or anti-global thinking. Hell, many of them have worked very heard to expand our markets globally. That they pursued an ideological agenda they were convinced was right doesn’t make them any less competent or evil. We need these people to change this country, so we must convince them to dedicate themselves to worthwhile strategic goals with a better return on investment.

      Treating them all like Cousin Cletus from Appalachia is just as bad as republicans painting all democrats as wine-sipping Harvard elites. We can’t handle these extremes anymore. Our individual identities are more complex than that despite who we may choose to associate with on a political level. Right now, the left needs to give the republican moderates room to work and they only way they can do that is by treating a six-point national vote victory as a squeaker vice a mandate.

      That’s not to say Barack doesn’t pursue is very ambitious and (for America) very progressive agenda. I think his goals strike the perfect liberal/conservative balance to continue transforming this country from the center first and then toward the edges.

      52% isn’t enough to get it done, so the tone and tenor of Barack’s administration needs to be spot on, which I think it already is and will continue to be. I am trying to do my part by coming here to show my liberal brothers and sisters where their tone might not be helping in those already-challenging efforts at convincing enough the 46% who didn’t vote for Barack to make sure they support his efforts to revitalize this nation.

      You’re absolutely correct. The neoconservative and racist ideology of the modern republican leadership is done. It is bankrupt. What rises in its place is almost surely dependent upon the tone and tenor republicans find in the new majority. Are they invited along for the ride and appreciated for their more conservative views of our common progressive goals? Despite current definitions, those are not autonomous terms.

      That sort of tone by the democratic faithful will go a long way toward helping republican moderates reshape their party. Given the place we find ourselves, the only ones who can get in the way of achieving all of Barack’s very ambitious goals are his fellow democrats.