When several Republican leaders accused President Obama of aiming to destroy the Republican Party, a bright light went on. The reactionary right may have tossed itself into the dustbin of history already. Let’s indulge in the hope that this is true. Progressives were dragged kicking and screaming in the wake of the Reagan revolution. Realists cringed as ideology ruled. Bad economics created ruinous policies that half-sunk the middle class.
What if all of that is over? It’s not foolish to greet the day at the first moment of dawn – quite the opposite. Anyone who catches the early signs of historical change is in a position to lead that change. I believe that President Obama did just that. His vote against the Iraq war was prescient. It was a bellwether for all the positions outlined in his splendid “liberal agenda” inauguration.
But holding on to liberal values isn’t what made Obama president – he caught a trend. Instead of fighting against the dominant reactionary winds, he sensed a new wind. It was embodied in two words – hope and change – which aren’t exactly novel words in politics. Only this time, they were attached to a massive turn-around in society.
It’s time to accept that the turn-around is real and here to stay. What should we do next?
I’d like to suggest that we should do the opposite of what the reactionary right did. Instead of becoming victorious ideologues who want to crush their opponents, we should show the right that they are welcome to join the trend of history. The reason that John Boehner and others talk about Obama trying to crush them is that it’s exactly what they would do if the tables were reversed – indeed, they tried it for the first four years.
The reason that we have to do the opposite is that it will take an unprecedented coalition to save the planet, cure worldwide epidemics, block terrorism, feed an exploding population, and repair the damage created by calamitous weather patterns. We are all being forced to change our values. The things that made life worth living won’t be the same fifty years from now.
As the right wakes up from its rigid, stupid, selfish, xenophobic ideology, we must take those adjectives and throw them away. They are going to suffer with us in the future or rise with us. Partisanship is ridiculously narrow-minded in the face of unprecedented global change. Abortion, gay rights, marijuana, the flag, and even equal rights will look like the fight over tariffs in the nineteenth century – quaint and beside the point – if there are no polar ice caps anymore and air so toxic that taking a breath is the same as getting sick.
So what is life worth living for? To gerrymander a district, buy another gun, and believe in a six-day creation of the universe? In 1860 what made life worth living was ending slavery. All the nice things didn’t matter when such an overwhelming injustice as slavery still prospered. At this moment we are awash in consumerism, and nice things flow in all directions. None of that matters if we get Hurricane Sandy every year, or many times a year. None of that matters if more tsunamis regularly kill a quarter of a million people, or if hundreds of millions have no potable drinking water.
Everyone knows that the human race has the ability to face these challenges, even if we cannot predict the outcome. But it’s time to actually listen to Obama’s repeated theme that we are all in this together. The right has been asleep on these issues for a long time. They don’t think they need the progressives; we know that everyone is needed. This should guide our vision, starting now. We all have to ask what makes life worth living, and then move forward to make our highest values come true for everyone.