Thursday, November 13, 2008

Election Coda: Pragmatism and Civility

For those Republicans who, in the waning days of the campaign, urged voters not to give the Democrats "one party" rule in Washington - something they didn't complain much about when the one party was theirs - and who, with the aid of conservative media pundits, now keep insisting that this is still a center right country, there's more bad news. This time it's in the form of a CNN exit poll.

According to the results of the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released on Tuesday, 62 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Democratic Party and only 31 percent have an unfavorable view. On the other hand, 54 percent view the Republican Party unfavorably and only 38 percent have a favorable view of them. As if that isn't bad enough:
"The public has a positive view of the Democratic Party, while the GOP 'brand' is hurting. Overall views of the Democratic Party have gone from 53 percent favorable in October to 62 percent favorable now; the GOP overall has seen a 5-point drop in its favorable rating," Holland said.

The 62 percent figure is the "the highest opinion of the Democrats in at least 16 years, since before Bill Clinton got elected," said Bill Schneider, a CNN senior political analyst.
It then goes on to add
"Democratic congressional leaders, much maligned this fall, have also seen a boost in their approval rating. Nearly half of those polled now approve of how congressional Democrats are handling their job, up from just a third who felt that way a month ago," Holland said.

"Same thing happens when you ask them about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Good-bad, 50-50, among voters who even know who they are," Schneider said.

It's a different story for the GOP, with just 24 percent approving of how Republican leaders are handling their jobs with nearly three in four disapproving.
The one ray of hope for the Republicans is that the public does not want to see them completely shut out of the process. Instead, they want to see the Democrats include the Republicans in passing legislation.

This signals that while the country has taken a definite turn to the left, the emphasis still is on the center; and even more, it's on expecting our leaders in both parties to ramp down the ideological fights and come up with pragmatic solutions to our problems.

The public wants the government to fix the economy. They want health care reform, sensible oversight and regulation, renewable green energy sources, livable cities, economic fairness, and strong national security. They approve of the Democrats and want to try Democratic solutions - the specific ones that were promised in this election. These are the policies as well as the people that voters chose. They voted for change.

But they didn't vote for partisan fights and obstructionism. That's a warning to both Democrats and Republicans. If Democrats try to shut Republican moderates out of the process, they will be punished next time.

But if hard line conservatives continue to practice the politics of obstruction, which John Boehner and others perfected in the 2006-2008 term, they will feel the wrath of voters and their numbers will shrink even further in the next elections. Right now, the public is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. They have a chance to exert some influence and rebuild their ranks. But it's they, not the Democrats, who need to come back to the center - center right to be sure, but to repeat, the emphasis needs to be on the center. And both sides would do well to practice civility even when they have honest disagreements.

The truth is we need a two party system. Democrats need a loyal opposition to keep us honest and on our toes. But nobody needs vitriol and obstruction. The voters have spoken. What they want most of all is pragmatism and cooperation. They want both sides to treat each other decently and fairly. They also want what they've always wanted, a more civil society. We all ignore them at our peril.

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