I had planned to spend my evening drinking a beer or two and nervously watching the election returns. But I live in California, so in fact, the Presidential election was called before I even put my kids to bed. Therefore, I've decided to spend my evening drinking a beer or two and writing a rare political post- and nervously watching the election returns for my local and state elections and waiting to hear Obama's acceptance speech.
I won't lie- I'm happy with the result. As I explained to Pumpkin as we watched the election returns after dinner, Barack Obama was the candidate I voted for.
But I also explained to her that Mitt Romney is a good man, a lot of good people voted for him, and they, for the most part, had respectable reasons for doing so. (I exclude the Truthers and other closet- or not so closet- racists from that.)
And as I tweeted not long after the election was called for Obama, I'm actually disappointed that the Republican party is going the way it is. I am moderate on most fiscal issues, leaning a little left or a little right issue by issue. Overall, I probably lean a little left. I am, however, quite liberal on the "social" issues- gay rights, women's rights, etc. And I am firmly in the "I believe in science" camp, wanting us to address climate change instead of arguing over whether it is happening, and just wanting us in general to use the available evidence to make policy decisions and not try to make up alternate realities when we don't like the one we've got.
On the fiscal issue and other core government policy issues, like immigration and health care (and yes, I think that is a core government policy), I'd like a credible opposition. I want people who come at these issues from different baseline beliefs about the role of government to bring their best ideas forward, and I want us to debate those ideas and find the best combination to solve the problems we face.
But none of that can happen if one party is more concerned with who I sleep with and what happens after that. It can't happen if one party is more concerned about how to keep certain groups of people from voting than with how to craft policies that will appeal to those groups. And frankly, it can't happen if we are stuck in this place where the partisan game and obstructing the opposition is more important than solving our country's problems. (Yes, I believe both parties have been guilty of that last one, and actually think we are in a negative feedback loop on that, similar to how people react to one car gridlocking with more gridlocking. But Republicans, you're the ones in opposition now, so it falls to you to stop this madness.)
So, while I'm happy that "my side" won this time, I hope that the other side takes a step back, regroups, and finds a way forward that doesn't require all of its nominees to pander to the furthest right wing. I hope it finds a way to be a credible option for me in the future, and doesn't instead double down on its current course.
I hope that because I think we have some big issues to solve in the near future, and I think that some of them are not ones that have an obvious partisan home. I'll make no secret of the fact that I'm thrilled that this election victory means that we keep our place on the path to reforming health care, not just because I think expanding health care coverage is the moral thing to do, but because I think that untethering health care from employment is the smart thing to do. I have written before about how I toy with the idea of going out on my own as a consultant and/or trying to start my own company. One of the things holding me back is the risk that presents, not to my income (which I could manage), but to my family's health care coverage. I do not think I am alone in making that calculation. Why is this not a job creation issue? If we reframe it in that way, could we get sharp minds on both sides of the political divide working on how to make it financially feasible to extend coverage to everyone, regardless of their employment status? Because that is what we need.
The other issue I'd like to see bipartisan brainstorming on is immigration. Again, this is both a moral and pragmatic, economic issue to me. On the moral side, I think that the situation we've created with undocumented immigrants on the low end of the wage scale is reprehensible. On the economic side, I think that the mess we have at the higher end of the wage scale is a competitive disadvantage for our country. We are turning away people who could be job creators, and there are other countries with great quality of life that are happy to welcome them. I do not pretend that finding a fair and lasting solution to these problems will be easy. That is why I want all sorts of people thinking about how to solve them.
And I think this bipartisan brainstorming should be applied to all issues. For instance, I understand and respect the deep and unwavering opposition to abortion that many "values voters" have. I, clearly, view that issue quite differently than they do. But we have common ground. I, too, would like to see the number of abortions in this country plummet. I don't know anyone who doesn't. Let's accept the reality that abortion will remain legal for the time being, and instead of trying to chip away at that work to make it irrelevant. There's research on what reduces abortions. We could work together to figure out how to use that to bring our abortion rate down.
In short, I want us recognize that we disagree on many things, but look for what we can agree on, and use that to find our way to solutions to the issues that matter to all of us. I want an opposition that is more about presenting opposing ideas than about just opposing the other side. I know that this is a pipe dream in our current environment. But it doesn't have to be. I really, truly, hope that the Republicans decide to be that opposition. Who knows- if they do that, in four years, I might find myself in the opposition. Or I might even find myself voting for a Republican. And that would be just fine with me.