Four years ago I wrote a somewhat inflammatory blog post titled Finally. Im proud to be an American because I did have hope in change.
Frankly I was flabbergasted that we actually had the cojones to elect a black man with the middle name Hussein as president after 8 years of dubious war based on lies in the middle east. I was embarrassed of squandering our role as leaders of the free world and international voice of reason, for what I saw as a dangerously yosemite sam-ish foreign policy and a series of irresponsible domestic decisions that caused the great recession. (Yeah that was on dub-yahs watch, Obama has been the Janitor on that one - whatever youve been told for the last 18 months)
Now here we are after an election that really sucked the life out of all of us, trying to wash our hands of the whole affair and find some summation that makes it okay to go back to believing in a better tomorrow - or at least get some sleep tonight.
In terms of background, Im not a rank and file liberal by any stretch of the imagination. I was raised in Ohio. My Dad leaned Republican, my mom leans Democrat. I was born middle class and I had the benefit of a great education, but Ive had to fight to build my business with no help from investors, the government, or frankly anyone but some clients with faith who got great deliverables for a good bargain. Ive never collected unemployment, Ive never had a small business loan. I own guns, I believe in a big military. I absolutely hate it when the fire marshall comes through our building, and I think Hipaa requirements and ADA accessibility guidelines are generally annoying at best. I provide 100% of health insurance coverage for all my employees and their families because I think its the right thing to do. These people are willing to give me their all to help our customers, they deserve my all to help them if they get sick.
I believe in creative problem solving and leaving things better than you found them. Period.
Id like to believe THATs what our country is about. Its not about a specific faith, policy, or type of solution. Its about finding the right path to helping us ALL be better together.
Today Ive heard a lot of gurgling from conservative pundits about what went wrong:
- Ive heard that the Republicans lost sight of the Latino vote, and with Whites no longer being the majority by 2050 thats a real issue.
- Ive heard that Romneys Mormonism wasnt talked about a lot but was deeply unsettling to Secular and Christian folk alike. That may very well be true.
- Ive heard that he was so overwhelmingly self-contradictory and waffly about any position that he was difficult to see as a leader who would bring meaningful direction. Thats certainly true - but thats not a dealbreaker for a politician.
- Most recently Ive read this Atlantic article pointing to the conservative medias echo chamber effect. Lots of folks I know seem to see wisdom here, and I agree insofar as it goes, but I think it points to a deeper issue that important enough to use my business as a pulpit in the spirit of wrapping things up in a way we might all benefit.
At some point in the last decade or so there was a shift by the Republican party to embrace fear and hatred as easy methods to capture the Christian middle America vote. They describe it as leaving center and going after the evangelical right, and that's not untrue - but to me thats a dangerously superficial description of the Republican strategy for some time. To put it in absolute frank terms: I see some smart selfish rich white guys who can talk fast realizing they can grab power by convincing some continuously screwed over poor white good-ol-boys that they've got their back, when in fact - nothing could be further from the truth. They may share a glib nod to Christianity in common, but the idea that a Mr. President Romney would actually help Nascar-Joe is laughable. Here's a guy whose financial plan amounted to "less income = less debt." That's not conservative, that's stupid and half a plan at best. As President Obama correctly pointed out in a debate - You wouldn't invest in that business plan yourself Mr. Romney.
Anyone who has ever been in a position of power knows you can choose to lead with fear or inspiration, and fear is the much easier path. I've heard today about all the negative ads the Obama campaign put out in swing states. I don't doubt that's true, but I do see a huge difference between "hey this dude got rich off of sending jobs to China and downsizing your uncle out of work" and "Obama is a Muslim from Kenya that wants the Taliban to take over the US" That's just insane slander and I have to hope that at some degree the result of last night shows as a country we can still see that.
What I find missing in this much re-tweeted Atlantic article is an awareness of this strategy. Ker-duh they lied as much as they could. That wasn't an accident, that was the PLAN. Scare the plebs into doing your bidding. Then take what you want when in power while telling them it's the other guys fault. It's a very late Roman strategy and it's disappointing for a democracy with all the communication tools we have today.
Yes, I voted for Obama - but ya know what? Lower taxes sound great to me too! I completely agree that the government is in many situations the worst organization to solve problems (not always, but often, yes!) However, when all I hear are out and out lies ("Obama-care is going to have death-squads that decide if grandma will die") I think you are a lying sociopath that will say whatever you can to get an inch higher. Am I excited about incurring more debt as a country? Of course not. I just didnt hear ANYTHING from the Republicans to think they wouldnt do the same thing. My experience in life has been if someone tells you dont ask me how it works until after you buy it... run.
Personally I think we've got a leader who isn't afraid to tell us that it's going to be hard and the best result may not be as much as we want. That sucks, but that sounds real. Its not what I want, but I can believe it. One would hear the word "conservative" and expect that type of thinking... no? If conservatives are going to take a lesson from last night, it shouldn't be that Fox News is crazy (this pre-election post proves that they have moments) it shouldn't be "how can we get some-o-that hispanic vote?" (though yes, waaay too many fat white guys gang) it should be:
How can we actually facilitate some honest debate on the real issues here, even if it doesn't sell ads on cable news networks or scare Budweiser-Bob into running for the voting booth.
Sure, maybe it's easy to pander to reactionary fear, but real leaders say actually thats wrong - the problem is more complicated than that and heres what it really looks like to me. Because ya know what - maybe the country isn't quuuuiiiite as stupid as these Romans were banking on.
Weather you got what you hoped for or not last night, let's all take this as a lesson to call bullshit for what it is, no matter who is spouting it - for whichever 'side'. The truth is we are all in this together. We all want the same things: safety, prosperity, a bright future. There's no magic path to that end, you've got to make subjective hard decisions as you go.
Were at a pivotal moment in history here.The world is getting smaller through communication technology in ways only a few of us could have predicted even a decade ago. Let's choose to be responsible with new media and engage in thoughtful debate instead of fear-mongering and hate.
The point I was trying to make was we need to take the risk to discuss the details of these important issues with one another, instead of just choosing to disagree or taunting one another like kids on a middle school playground. Since we're in the business of making new media communciation tools here, it seemed relevant to me.
I absolutely did not mean to insult Conservatives, Christians, or frankly anyone but the senior political strategists and media figures who are taking advantage of the power of new media.
If this post rubs you the wrong way, there's been an awful lot of clarification in this discussion thread over here: