There is a lot of anger in the air right now. Republicans are angry with Democrats. Democrats are angry with Republicans. Both right and left are angry with the “main-stream media.” Byron York reported a shouting match outside a McCain event. Someone fired a few gunshots at the home of a manager of the Central Florida Republican Headquarters.
Of course by this point everyone knows Ashley Todd’s story of an attack by a black Obama supporter, is completely false, but the true story of self abuse and attempted character assassination (of all African American Obama supporters) is as much evidence of heightened emotions as it is evidence that Todd is suffering from her own mental illness.
Anger is driving this election. Democrats are more than hopeful that just as in 2006 anger at George Bush will deliver them a big victory. Republicans reading the depressing poll numbers have already started imitating Democrats’ circular firing squads that have followed past Democratic defeats. So, in a real sense, John McCain’s recent expression of a litany of differences with the current occupant of the chair he hopes to inhabit, captured by Joseph Curl and Stephan Dinan of the Washington Times was simply confirmation that like Democrats and Independents, Republicans are also irked at George Bush.
George W. Bush is a uniter after all.
The level of anger nearly always rises in the closing weeks of a national election. Elections are hard fought. But this year, the financial crisis is adding a whole new level. The capitalists have let the whole capital system collapse. The “masters of the universe” who have been living a lifestyle most of us see only in fiction, are asking the rest of us for a handout just after making all of us a lot less wealthy.
Both the political and financial situations present a danger of over-reaction and both place a premium on restraint. We are not arguing that some amount of this anger is unjustified. Partisans will be able to point to outrageous statements and actions by the other side, and who isn’t angry at AIG executives who continued their champagne and caviar lifestyle after receiving a government bailout, or even the politicians – Republicans, but also many Democrats – who failed to recognize the need for greater regulation.
But there is a danger of over regulation and over reaction. The current global economic challenge will place a premium on cooperation and balance. Democrats and Republicans are going to have to present a united front as the U.S. works to find the right balance of policies, not only with Europe but also with Russia, China and OPEC.
While some Americans fret, wrongly, that America is drifting toward socialism, it must be remembered that Russia and China have been increasingly embracing capitalism for at least a decade. We are headed globally toward experiments in state capitalism where several European countries will have the greatest experience.
Should Obama win a week from Tuesday, it will be a dramatic rejection of George Bush’s economic policies and the right wing ideology of deregulation and tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, a philosophy which has been dominant in the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan. But Democrats would make a serious mistake if they embrace left wing economics too tightly. Anyone who believes that either the economic philosophies of John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman hold a monopoly on correct policy was not paying close attention as each philosophy has run into difficulty when its adherents were in control of the global levers of policy.
Opinion polls are quite clear in saying that the public has no desire to replace conservative ideology with a liberal ideology. The public is tired of the bickering blaming and gridlock in Washington and they want to replace that with non-ideological political pragmatism. It is the passionate belief in ideology against all contrary evidence, as much as greed or stupidity, that has led us to where we are today, as Alan Greenspan as much as admitted when he testified before Congress last week. As Pema Chodron warns, “The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.”
In the final days of the campaign, Obama is winning on the issues, and the Republicans have everything to gain by upsetting the apple cart. This means Obama’s supporters must take the lead from their candidate and, in the words of Stephan Sondheim in West Side Story, “stay cool, real cool.” At this point, and as Obama demonstrated in the debates, Democrats have everything to gain by not taking the bait.
Too much fire can be uncentered. We need to balance it with equal parts water and earth. We are entering a period where the conditions for growth must be nurtured.
The authors are co-editors of CenteredPolitics.com