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Welcome to the Age of Irrational Absolutism

Stephen Tuttle - June 21st, 2010
Welcome to the Age of Irrational Absolutism
Republican voters have an agenda. They expect their candidates to be
strongly anti-abortion, strongly opposed to any kind of legal
recognition of the gay and lesbian community, strong supporters of the
Second Amendment and possessed of some kind of Christian belief system
they’re willing to inject into the political arena. Their policy
requirements are equally simple – less government and lower taxes.
They are not especially picky about specifying just how much less
government they want or how much lower taxes should be but,
apparently, they’ll know both when they see or hear them. Add to that
a growing vitriol about illegal immigration.
It’s a crisp and clean series of litmus tests from which there is no
room to wiggle. They’ve been consistent over the years. This year,
especially, GOP voters are prepared to punish those who do not adhere
to this philosophical line as if they’ve been Super Glued to it. Drift
away ever so slightly and the tea party folks and their big money
allies, the Club for Growth, will smite you down with Biblical
ferocity, as four GOP incumbents, now looking for new jobs, have
already discovered.
Democrat voters have a somewhat different agenda, a very long agenda,
an almost endless agenda.
They want the immediate closure of Guantanamo, the immediate end to
the military’s don’t ask-don’t tell policy and an immediate withdrawal
from Iraq and Afghanistan. They want an expansion of something they
call “worker’s rights”, dramatically expanded coverage for home
nursing care, expansion of pro-choice options, a comprehensive energy
bill emphasizing sustainable energy, comprehensive immigration reform,
legislation that somehow stops climate change, a re-write of the
recently passed healthcare reform legislation that includes government
funded cradle-to-grave coverage for everyone and to save the rare
Lithuanian spitting tree slug, or some such thing, and any number of
other obscure critters. They want Social Security and Medicare to be
saved if not expanded. And they’d like President Obama to stop that
damned oil leak. They’ve also started giving some lip service to
smaller government and lower taxes but I’m pretty sure they don’t mean
it.
The Democratic agenda is neither crisp nor clean, has not been
consistent over the years and is not that easy to follow. But it is
incredibly inclusive containing pretty much something for everyone.
Democrats and Republicans do have at least one thing in common – the
quite illogical notion that any candidate they support should be in
total agreement with each and every element of their respective
agendas. As a bonus, they’d like all of it right now. Democrats have
joined Republicans in the Age of Irrational Absolutism. Neither care
about how the system is supposed to work and they don’t want to hear
any nonsense about compromise – compromise is for sissies.
Since these demands cannot and will not be met, the ambient anger
within the electorate will continue to build on itself.
The most conservative Republicans blame both the Democrats in control
in Washington and an amorphous blob known as “the government.” They
believe a conspiracy exists that is depriving them of that which is
rightfully theirs. They conveniently ignore the fact that the great
conspiracy is at least partially of their own making. It was their
expansion of government and deregulation of their big business pals
that helped lay the foundation for at least some of the economic mess
we’re now facing. They have forgotten they were voted out of control
in 2008 and their unwillingness to do much of anything now but shout
“No!” may keep them in the minority despite all their anger.
The most “progressive” Democrats have decided the Republicans caused
most of the problems. But since Republicans are no longer in power it
must be President Obama who is to blame for most everything. He’s too
cerebral, too calm, too measured. Never mind that he couldn’t have
accomplished most of the items on their wish list even had he wanted
to. Never mind that he does not and can not control a Congress
hell-bent on doing nothing during an election year. And never mind
that several items on the wish list don’t even have the support of the
majority of voters in his own party. Just never mind; changes were
promised, Democrats know what they want and aren’t especially
interested in excuses or the facts.
Apparently some Democrats really did believe Obama is a political
Messiah capable of enacting change with the wave of his hand. This
abject silliness makes things difficult for more rational Democrat
voters who want to believe that Obama, less than two years into his
presidency, can still make some positive changes.
Die-hards in both parties, and they’re the folks most likely to vote
in primary elections, are pushing those parties so far apart the gulf
will be incredibly difficult to bridge. Very little will get
accomplished that meets any challenge we now face since all of them
require compromise from both sides. That’s actually the way our
system is supposed to work but too many of us have forgotten that.
After all, both sides now firmly believe the issues they support are
matters of principle and one simply does not compromise on matters of
principle. We continue to demand 100% instead of accepting 75%,
ensuring we’ll end up with 0%. The wish lists of both sides will go
unanswered and voter anger will increase regardless of the results of
the 2010 elections. And the Age of Irrational Absolutism will
continue unabated.

Stephen Tuttle is a political consultant who formerly wrote for the Arizona
Republic.

 
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