Seers like Dick Armey (above, left) and Karl Rove (above, right) seem to think the Republican Party will rise from the ashes of the recent election by burnishing the “conservative message,” but they don’t get the real picture. The “conservative message” is the very thing voters rejected. Most ordinary Americans don’t accept Ayn Rand’s hard-hearted view of life. Most ordinary Americans are kind-hearted, reasonable people who want to be loved by their neighbors and are ready to try and love their neighbors in return.
Every day I read about kind gestures and good deeds, especially as Christmas approaches – millionaires who devote some of their abundance to the needy, lottery winners who plan to support various charities, secret Santas who brighten the lives of deprived children, even poor people who share their meagre fare with others less fortunate than themselves. Watching CNN the other night, I had to wipe away tears as I learned of the selfless heroism the people being honored had displayed. It made me wish I were a better person.
The last thing an everyday American wants to be is a Grinch (above, middle).
Back in the early days, before government assistance, before insurance companies, before institutionalized aid, Americans set aside their plows and hung up their scythes to go and help their neighbors rebuild a burned-out barn or repair a storm damaged homestead. When we confess our sins in church on a Sunday morning, we ask forgiveness for “not loving our neighbor as ourselves.” And most of us mean it. We would like to be able to give others the love we ourselves yearn for in our hearts.
Most of us want to be decent, law-abiding citizens who treat others as we would like to be treated. We tend to be forgiving, not vengeful, generous, not mean spirited. We would like to think well of others and be thought well of by others. That, I believe, is the real “human nature.”
I don’t know why some people become like Ebenezer Scrooge. I was not there during their abused childhood. I did not share the ridicule to which they were subjected in high school … or witness whatever blighting experience they endured. But I think the external toughness is often defensive bravado. Even Scrooge’s heart could be melted.
The Republicans of today spurn compassion. They rely on divisiveness, fear-mongering, racism and resentment to build a following. The “conservative message” extolls selfishness and promotes “austerity” (not for themselves but for others less fortunate than they). According to conservative dogma, the American government can no longer afford to provide a safety net for its citizens; it must pamper the rich “job creators”and bribe corporations to keep them from moving their operations overseas.
The American people rejected that message. We know intuitively that government must be there to help when all else fails us, that in a country of more than 300 million people, individual acts of kindness cannot possibly be enough.
We know that we should try and put ourselves in our neighbors’ shoes and we hope our neighbors would do the same for us. We reject bigotry and racism. And we – most of us, anyway – said no thanks to the chance of wallowing in undreamed-of wealth while millions of children go to bed hungry, or get sick and die. We decided the price of that third Bentley of our fantasies was just too high.
We accepted the common-sense argument that when everyone shares in a nation’s abundance, the nation prospers.
And America refused to be bought.
That was the election’s Big Surprise. The Republicans were counting on the power of paid advertising to shape public opinion. They dismissed the unpaid media as biased and inconsequential, openly admitting that they “would not be dictated to by fact checkers.” And they knew their billionaire supporters would buy enough noise to drown out the unpaid commentary.
It didn’t work. We voters were smarter than that. We voters were better than that.
We followed our hearts.