Eight years ago, talk show host Rush Limbaugh made news by asserting that he hoped newly elected President Barack Obama would fail. It was a pre-emptive signal of permanent resistance to a President who was certain to pull the country hard to the left.
I, like many others whose politics lean conservative, had been a long time listener to Rush. This was the first time I can recall having a disagreement that was fundamental at its core principle with him. I wrote at the time:
As a young conservative, I grew up listening to Ronald Reagan talking about America being a “shining city on a hill.” About the hope and optimism of the American people overcoming fear. About hard work and ingenuity of people united for a common purpose being able to tackle any problem that was put before us. Above all, we were the party of ideas.
As such, I am embarrassed when I see someone who presents himself to be a conservative leader “hope” for failure. It is unacceptable for those of us who believe in this country to pre-emptively raise a white flag of surrender with the only apparent motive to have the hollow pleasure of an “I told you so” should failure be achieved. America deserves better from us. America demands better from us.
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Our citizens face immediate struggles that most have not experienced in their lifetime. If conservatives choose to watch from the sidelines and hope for failure, then we have become as pathetic as we are irrelevant. I, for one, am confident enough in America that I can still hope that President Obama will succeed. I hope you are too.
We all know what happened over the past eight years, though we likely disagree over who should be blamed for escalating division and gridlock. Democrats have evidence that many Republicans never wanted to give President Obama a chance. Republicans have the famous “I won” photo-op that demonstrated a Democratic Party that controlled the White House and Congress with a filibuster-proof Senate had no interest in reaching across the aisle or governing from the center.
We are now again in a period of transition, where we remove our political shoes and put them squarely upon the other foot. As such, many who have made arguments in the past based on partisan advantage will now make equal and exactly opposite arguments over “fairness,” citing what the other party did during the past eight years.
One of the many problems with this is that we waste time looking backward and expending energy settling old scores rather than looking forward to solve today’s problems and building a better future. In short, no one ever got ahead while spending their energies trying to get even.
I’ve tried to be understanding of most of my Democratic friends’ reactions to losing this election. Republicans had months to get comfortable or at least make peace with the fact that Donald Trump is now the standard bearer for the party of Lincoln and Reagan. In my case, this was not easy, quick or painless.
Most Democrats entered Election Day without any real thought that they might lose. They have many things about their own party and the direction of the country that they will need to make sense of and come to grips with.
To them, I would counsel that their hyper-overreaction to everything at the moment is hurting their cause, not helping. The knee-jerk decision to “resist everything” has put the president-elect going to dinner without his press corps on the same level as potential national security threats or creeping neo-Nazi influence in the West Wing.
Their inability to differentiate between major and minor issues when it comes to criticism of the right has put all criticism on the same, easily dismissible plane. Much of the American public has heard “Wolf !” cried too many times. Pace yourselves. There will be plenty to criticize ahead. Pick and choose your battles.
As for my Republican friends, the American people have placed great trust in a party that is searching for direction without a clear consensus on specifics of governing. There will be a great desire to spend the next two years exerting an eye for an eye. Perhaps the better scripture to lead with in order to secure a long-term tenure for the party is “Love thy neighbor.”
It is time to be dutiful to the general mandate to break up the self-serving nature of D.C. operations and enact policies that directly impact and improve the lives of middle America. There is no time to waste enacting vengeance or rooting for failure. We continue to live in perilous times. If America is to continue to serve as the shining city upon a hill, then failure is not an option.
Charlie Harper, executive director of PolicyBEST, a public policy think tank, is also the publisher of GeorgiaPol.com, a website dedicated to state & local politics of Georgia.