It’s time to paddle down the middle of the river
As I was falling asleep late Tuesday night, I had flashbacks to 2008 when Barack Obama won the presidential election and the Democrats swept both the House and the Senate. My Republican friends thought the world was going to end. They cried and cursed and blamed the media. Our country as we knew it was never going to be the same. Some said Obama would never be their president. Some stopped flying the flag. They were terrible losers who blamed everything in the world for the Democratic sweep except for the one thing that really caused it — eight years of Republican policies.
It should, because today my Democratic friends are doing exactly what my Republican friends did eight years ago. They’re crying and cursing and blaming the media. Our country as we know it will never be the same. Trump will never be their president, and many are probably not flying their flags. They blame everything and everyone for Tuesday’s shocking loss except for the one thing that really caused it — eight years of Democratic policies.
The fact that Democrats didn’t see this coming proves how out of touch they are with their Republican counterparts. The media insisted that there was no way that a racist, sexist xenophobe such as Trump could win. And so my liberal friends insisted that there was no way a racist, sexist, xenophobe such as Trump could win.
Except that this election wasn’t about racism or sexism or xenophobia or even Trump.
It was about a group of people who are tired of being told how they should live, what they should think and even what they should eat. Legislating bathrooms might have been the last straw. And that group spoke loudly on Tuesday.
And the left never saw it coming. Because the left doesn’t talk to the right and the right doesn’t talk to the left. And when you get right down to it — to the very core of what’s going on in America — this is our problem. The Republicans didn’t see it coming in 2008 and the Democrats don’t see it that way now. We talk about a shrinking middle class in financial terms, but what we really should be talking about is the shrinking middle class of politics.
On Tuesday night, the pendulum swung wide right. Which means that democracy worked the way it’s supposed to work. Even with the haze of the 24-hour news channels, a highly vitriolic campaign and countless social media channels that give everybody and anybody a voice, democracy worked. This election had record voter turnout and those voters made clear that they wanted change — just like the voters did in 2008. And that change was not about keeping women from breaking the glass ceiling, or shipping Muslims out of the country. It was about less government regulation, and the rebuke of one group of people who think they know better than another group of people.
A few years ago, I took a raft trip with some friends. While three of our rafts paddled straight down the river, taking advantage of the currents and making slight adjustments as needed, one raft zigzagged back and forth, first hitting one bank and then hitting the other. The people in that raft argued constantly about who should steer and who should paddle. They must have traveled two or three times the distance of the rest of the rafts.
That is exactly what our country has been doing for the past 16 years. If we could just keep the rafts pointed straight downriver, going with the current and making needed adjustments here and there to keep it straight, we’d probably get a lot more done and we’d all probably be a lot happier. But it will never happen unless we start working together to build that political middle class.
It’s why we live here.