by Michael Bryan
The Obama Administration will test Democrats' in ways that being the loyal opposition during the lost Bush years never could.
We were righteous. We were powerless. We were vindicated. We were innocent. Now, with Obama in the Oval and Democrats in utter control of Congress, we are none of those things. Suddenly, the Democratic Party and its elected officials can shape the world; the question now arises, what happens when what is created is not to our liking?
We knew what to do when the detested Bush and his party of greed and hypocrisy were in charge: march, organize, shout, condemn, etc. But what shall Democrats do when they disagree whole-heartedly with what the Democratic caucus and President Obama are up to?
The temptation is to become apologists for their actions. Research has shown clearly that partisans, confronted with facts that demonstrate hypocrisy by one of their own, will rationalize it away - smooth it over mentally to make it more comfortable. It is much harder to remain open-minded, cleave to your values, and condemn those actions.
Rationalizing away uncomfortable facts is what partisans and politicians do. Making compromises, seeing the other side, achieving what seems possible: this is the role of politicians.
Following your conscience, articulating marginalized (i.e., rationalized away) views, and demanding what you believe is right - even if what is right seems impossible: this is the role of a citizen. Many of us who believed naively that everything would be fine once Democrats were in charge are now going to have our ability to put our citizenship ahead of our partisanship severely tested.
AfPak, detainees, torture prosecutions, Abu photos, Congressional investigations, mountaintop removal, etc.: there is fault out there to find.
There are many very difficult problems that have been left for our creaky and balky political system to deal with. And like it or not, fair or not, Democrats have been left with the responsibility and duty to try to address these many complex and intractable problems. I believe that, within the constraints of their roles, our representatives in Congress and our President will attempt in good faith to resolve these many problems - and frequently they will get it dead wrong. What to do?
I believe that those of who have the interest and inclination to follow public affairs should react as citizens, not just as partisans. We should not rationalize and defend. We should oppose, and explain why.
I write this defense of citizenship because, obviously, I find myself frequently in disagreement with the decisions taken by the elected representatives of my party, including my President. That doesn't mean I don't support my party, or that I wish others to take power instead; it means that as a citizen, I feel it my duty to explain why I think they are wrong, and not to rationalize away my discomfort at finding myself at odds with my faction.
With this ideal of citizenship foremost on my mind, I once again take up my pen. Some of you might have noticed that I have written infrequently on this blog over the past several months. The reason is that I discovered, in the rudest, most abrupt fashion, that I have a heart condition. I needed all my energy to heal, return to normal life, and adjust to managing the problem. Even now, daily life frequently takes everything I have, leaving nothing for this forum. But I hope that as I recover and gain momentum, I will more frequently be a contributor to this forum, rather than mainly an enthusiastic and grateful reader.
David Safier and Arizona Blue Meanie, along with the occasional contributions of a few others, have exceeded my wildest expectations. They have more than filled in, they have transformed and enriched this blog. My most heart-felt thanks to them. Readership is higher than it has ever been while not in the thick of an election cycle. If fact, I imagine that, to many readers, they are the blog - not I. And that's wonderful.
It is perhaps the most satisfying thing about any endeavor to see it grow beyond you. This blog is no longer just about me; it is a forum that has found purpose beyond merely serving as a conduit for my own opinions. I welcome and embrace that. Of course, my opinion will still appear here, but I hope that so will those of others who are deeply concerned about public policy and have a desire to reach out to Arizona progressive community.