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neo-con...dem nation!
caught between barack and a hard place
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)

November 6, 2008

I can honestly say I have never been as proud to be a citizen of the United States of America as I am this week.

I did not expect the outcome of this election to effect me so viscerally, but I freely admit that I have found myself choked up more often in the last two days than pretty much the entire rest of my life. It's been like watching the end of "Field of Dreams" over and over and over again. When he calls the young John Kinsella "Dad" and asks if he wants to have a catch ... but I digress.

Among the things that have brought literal tears to my eyes:

McCain's incredibly well-written and gracious concession speech. I felt for the first time in two years that I was actually hearing the man speak for himself. He truly does love this country and even in his defeat, I think he may have recognized a different kind of victory for America.

Obama's acceptance speech. Well, duh. I expected to be choked up over this one. But what very specifically hit me was when he talked about Ann Nixon Cooper and the changes she's seen in her 106 years here. That got me.

The outpouring of hope and congratulations from the rest of the world. I did not realize until yesterday how strongly I felt about the U.S.'s standing on the international scene. I know I was annoyed when Bush seemed to decide that our country existed in a vacuum. But I spent a few hours online yesterday looking at readers' posts below a New York Times story on world reaction, and more than a few times had to wipe my eyes. People from Australia, Uganda, Kenya, France, Venezuela, Chile, Great Britain, Canada, China, Korea, Germany, Israel, Trinidad, the Philippines, etc. all wrote to express their congratulations and their hope once again for America to be the beacon of Democracy that we're supposed to be. I remember specifically one letter from an African man who was amazed at McCain's speech; the man said that in his country, the loser in the elections often refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the winner, let alone offer his respect. It was very powerful for me to see everyone - and I mean everyone - basically say, "Welcome back. We missed you."

The sheer fact that the American voting populace lined up on Tuesday and elected a black man to the highest office in the country. I'll be honest, Barack Obama's race never meant much to me (his father is African and his mother is white, for those of you who left your cave to read my column). I spoke of it in hypotheticals during the primaries: "Between a white woman and a black man, which would be more likely to win the election?" I worried about the so-called Bradley Effect (look it up; I'm not Wikipedia). I cringed when John McCain mentioned the civil rights movement during a debate, but beyond that, I voted for Barack Obama because I really did think he was the better candidate and the one more likely to move this country in the right direction.

However, putting all that aside, to know that in my lifetime (obviously I'm not that old), in my parents' lifetime, in my grandmothers' lifetime, our nation - which only half a century ago ended legal segregation - elected an African-American to be the President of the United States, I just feel my heart burst with pride. We did it. We overcame hundreds of years of racial divide (overcame, not eradicated). We proved that Robert Kennedy's declaration in 1962 - "[T]he Irish were not wanted here. Now an Irish Catholic is President of the United States. There is no question about it, in the next forty years a Negro can achieve the same position." - was not a naive statement (so we were about four years late; that's not bad). We quelled peoples' fears, whatever they might have been. We. Did. It.

And every American, no matter his or her political affiliation, should be damned proud of that fact. I say again, we did it.

But that's not what I want to write about today.

I want to write about the Republican party. Or, more to the point, I want to write to the Republican party.

I want to write not to gloat, nor to accuse, nor even to chastise. I want to write to try to help.

From all indications, the GOP is in turmoil right now. Not only did they lose the White House, but they lost more seats in both houses of Congress. They have no distinctive leadership and of the winners on Tuesday, at least one of them is going to prison. (What the hell is wrong with Alaska? Anyone?) It's not what I would call "a mandate," per se, but it does look like the country's pretty fed up with them.

And I can't blame the country. Although clearly the country's also pretty fed up with the partisan Democrats, too. And Fox canceling good TV shows. We're fed up with that.

Now, I know plenty of liberal Democrats who hate, hate, hate the Republican party. They hate the red states, hate President Bush, hate the whole darn lot of them. I wouldn't wholly put myself in that camp - I'm not that left-leaning and I'm not that reactionary. Sure, the party's made some mistakes. A lot of mistakes. But it doesn't have to continue. It doesn't have to be that way. This is not only a new start for the country and the Democratic party; it can, and I hope it's not just a pipe dream, be a new start for the Republican party, as well. I just have a few suggestions.

First of all, listen to the new, young constituency. Voters under 30 cast their ballots in record numbers for Barack Obama - nearly 70%. However, plenty of those young people are also basically conservative and religious and would, if given a reason, vote for a more centrist Republican candidate. One of the truly wonderful things about this election is that all of those young voters are now tied to the future of politics in this country - they are stakeholders.

Secondly, stop worrying about simply winning elections and, instead, worry about doing right by this country. The Republican election machine, even in off years, is very powerful. It's the machine of Karl Rove. It's the machine of smear campaigns. It's the machine that somehow managed to get Ted Stevens re-elected. That's not right.

Somehow the Republican party has been hijacked by selfish, self-interested, bitter men and women who feel as though they have a mandate from God and that by telling the rest of us what to do they'll earn their place in Heaven. And they've somehow managed to blind themselves to the fact that this is the same mentality (if not the same belief system) that also allows a small group of men to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center.

There are, I know, plenty of honorable, honest (for politicians), principled men and women who are members of the Republican party because they believe in the truth of small federal government, and not only when it serves their purposes. They believe in each state's rights to determine its own course, in situations where the federal government is not needed. They believe that they are working for the betterment of this country and not simply working to get elected again. My father calls them the "real" Republicans. Unfortunately, in the atmosphere of the last decade, they have been entirely marginalized by their own party. The Republican party must truly and honestly reinvent itself as the fiscally conservative and socially responsible party that attracted men like Tom Ridge and Colin Powell to it in the first place.

So, thirdly, I also suggest that the Republicans should get away from "family values" and start to concentrate on their core values. I'm not saying I agreed with John McCain on all of his stances two years ago (not many of them, really), but I respected him for saying what he believed. And in the last two years, I feel he instead said what he believed other people wanted to hear. He allowed a running mate to be picked based on her appeal to social conservatives and not on her qualifications; it showed contempt for the electorate and a severe underestimation of women voters in particular.

I've said before on this site that I am not a raging liberal. I believe in the death penalty. I believe in gun control, but also in the Second Amendment. I do not think all people are inherently good, and I believe that many will take advantage of the system if they can. I think people should work hard and earn their way in this country. I'm not a cynic, but I am most definitely a skeptic. I could theoretically see a day where I vote for a Republican in a federal election, and I see the possibility of a Republican politician (albiet a centrist) whose values echo mine. There are some out there, I think, and they need to take their party back.

Because the Republican party will continue to see its support shrink if they don't wake up to the pulse of the nation. Overall, yes, we're slightly to the right on the so-called moral and religious issues (though a bit hypocritically); and I think we're slightly to the left on social issues. The anti-gay marriage referendums passed, not because people think homosexuals don't deserve to have the defined rights that married couples have, but because people tend to revere the term "marriage." I think the majority of the country (more than 50%) would have no problems with extending the rights of marriage to civil unions as long as they were not called "marriages." I also think that the left trying to legally define "marriage" as being between any two people is ultimately the same as the right trying to legally define it as being between a man and a woman. It's still placing a legal definition on it, no matter which side of the coin you're on.

So I say to the Republican party: this election was not necessarily a repudiation of conservative ideology. It was not a repudiation of conservative values. It was a repudiation of neo-conservatism and the fascist state created by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their administration. The reason the good Republicans have been marginalized is because they're good Republicans.

I would imagine the vast majority of voters in the red states, especially in the South, don't realize that the first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln. Most people would probably also be surprised to find out that Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican. I'm not saying that there are politicians in the GOP right now who could rise to such levels, but there are many who should aspire to it. And the people would be there to support them.

I posted a link four years ago (and again last month) to an article written by a liberal Democrat who had just had too much. The author was angry, vitriolic, and funny. But most of all, he or she pulled no punches. And I hope that whoever wrote it is still glowing from what we managed to do on Tuesday night. The people the piece was about, however, are still there. Many of them were able to again win their seats in Congress, and a number were not up for re-election this time around. It is important that the Republicans, the "real" Republicans in the House and the Senate see these people for what they really are. And I quote that anonymous writer: "Liberals, members of the reality-based community, cannot understand why right-wingers cannot see the self-serving nature of those in charge and make much of the blind religious faith of evangelical fundamentalists who support Bush. Again: Bushco doesn't want policies. They want power. The power to empty the Treasury, to enrich their golfing buddies, the power to enforce social, intellectual and cultural conformity at the expense of independent thinking. How else will they get enough of the populace to vote against their own best interests?"

I think it's time for the "real" Republicans to stand up and take back their party - the Grand Old Party - from those same men and women. As an added bonus, it would likely go a long way toward bridging the partisan gap of the last decade. With this President-elect and a Congress willing to debate rather than attack, Washington could actually get things done.



A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

more about adam kraemer


in response to jeff wilder
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topic: news
published: 8.8.01

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topic: news
published: 8.27.12


sandra thompson
11.10.08 @ 7:28a

I have only one bone to pick with you, Adam. Marriage is a civil right, and if some of us have that right, then all of us should have that right. If some of you don't want to go so far as to call it a "right," then it's a privilege, and, again, if some of us have the privilege, then all of us should have it. Defining it as between a man and a woman is a religious interpretation of a secular contract. To put a religious connotation on a civil right (or privilege) or a secular contract is a violation of the separation of church and state. The equal protection clause kicks in here somewhere. Either gay people are equal to the rest of us or they are not, and if they are not, then we need to stop talking about equality altogether. I am utterly outraged that black voters in California put that horrible amendment over the top. I haven't seen the demographics for what happened in Florida, but I am not proud of my state right this minute.

I, too, have shed more tears of joy this week than in the rest of my life put together, and I'm 74 years old. For the second time in my adult life I am really proud of my country, if not my state.

dr. jay gross
11.10.08 @ 8:23a

Someone once said, "Politics attracts strange bed fellows." This election was one of the worst and one of the best in our short history as a Democracy. Does politics need, by deffinition, be nasty and a race toward power and wealth? I don't think that was the Constitutional purpose of choosing our leaders. Both Parties need to learn and remember that THEY work for us. They represent us and our wants, needs, and desire for a secure future.

I'm with you on political orientation. I feel that everyone, if they deeply think about their political/life postion would find they are a blend of Republican and Democratic principles. That is hard to understand, but necessary. Maybe that type of realization will come as we mature over the next 100 years or so.

I, too, choked up and reflected on the emotionally wrenching speeches and happenings of the past. I was there when the Vietnam conflict was trying to kill off all of our young men and when John Kennedy was elected and then killed. I attended Martin Luther King's speeches and rallies. I've seen tranquil times as well as crisis situations. You'd think my 'heart' would have been hardened by all of this....it's not. I know, most certainly, you have the very same sensitivity.

Thank you for an excellent and necessary article.

david damsker
11.10.08 @ 8:48a

Adam, I agree wholeheartedly. I am a conservative, but not along the lines of the current republicans. Good article.

HOWEVER, Adam and Sandra: You have cried more in the past few days than in the rest of your adult life? No offense, but I think that's absolutely a bit ridiculous. It's great that Barack was the first black man elected and all, but to be shedding tears all over the place? Let's keep it together, people. He's still a politician (and a SMOKER, by the way!) who said whatever he needed to say to get elected. His campaign lied almost as much about McCain as McCain did about Obama.


adam kraemer
11.10.08 @ 10:01a

Sandra, I didn't say homosexuals didn't have the right to get married. What I said was if they hadn't used the term "marriage" and instead pushed for their civil rights for a legal union, the reaction would not have been so brutal. I'm all in favor of gay rights and gay couples legally getting married. But "marriage" already has a religious connotation. Legal civil union (which ultimately is what "marriage" is in the eyes of the state) does not. You said "Defining it as between a man and a woman is a religious interpretation of a secular contract." My argument is that defining it at all does the same thing.

And Dave - it's not solely that he was black, though my pride in the US soared non-stop for that. But also because he's smart (which we haven't had), he's young, he's charismatic, and he's not a neo-conservative. The last 8 years under Bush have done a lot of damage to our country, both at home and abroad. And I am very gratified to see the majority of the population seems to feel that way, too. The current direction of the Republican party needed to be derailed. A lot of those tears were simply tears of relief.


cheryl l
11.10.08 @ 12:11p

What is the link to the article you mentioned in the NYTimes? thanks. :)

adam kraemer
11.10.08 @ 12:33p

You can click here. What I referred to was not actually the article, but the vast majority of comments following it.

tracey kelley
11.11.08 @ 8:24a

Great article, Adam. Indeed, the Republicans seemed focused on winning an election, instead of steadying the country. Granted, Obama and Dems were certainly intent on winning an election, and the Hillary/Obama deathmatch was some of the most divisive inner-party politics I've ever seen.

Nevertheless, I voted less for party (always an independent), and more for leadership and issues embodied in one individual. I'm still surprised at how emotional I was on election night, but credit a number of different factors for the waterworks. It was less about politics and more about historical significance and world perception.


iris corbin
11.11.08 @ 10:48p

Adam, why should gays have to push for civil unions to give them the same rights as marriage? They deserve to have marriages, which would automatically give them such rights. There are too many details that marriage just gives you, and it would be almost impossible to change legislation on all of them to be included in civil unions. What's the big freakin' deal about the word "marriage" including same sex couples? They are human beings who deserve the same civil rights as the rest of us. It was only 40 years ago when people felt so fervently that blacks and whites should not be allowed to marry.

Regarding Ted "it's-a-series-of-TUBES!" Stevens: my theory is that his constituents re-elected him because they REALLY didn't want a Democrat in that seat. When Stevens goes to jail, another Republican will take his place. For those voters, an unknown Republican is better than a known Democrat.

David, I must disagree when you say that Obama lied almost as much as McCain. Obama led a much cleaner campaign. Yes, both sides had their moments of dishonesty, but McCain's were much more frequent and more extreme in their content. Not to mention the hate and fear his campaign spewed left and right. I think Obama won because he is a better person who ran a much more honest campaign. And because we are sick to death of Bush. I might have voted for McCain 8 years ago, but he is a different man, and candidate, now. And Palin, she drove away tons of moderates. I could never vote for an anti-choice candidate, no matter how honest they are. On a lighter note, remember when we carpooled to Hebrew School together? I remember your mom used to buy us apple juice and those pretzel sticks.

Great article as always, Adam.



adam kraemer
11.12.08 @ 9:58a

Iris - true, but for the the blacks and whites, it wasn't a legal question. My argument was that defining it is defining it, regardless of intent. I completely agree with you that they should be allowed to get married. Anyone should. But I'll bet you in the deep South 50 years ago that a referendum defining marriage as "between two people of the same race" might well have passed, too.

I mean, you say that marriage immediately confers those rights. And I'm saying that's not true. Any two people can have a ceremony where they pledge marriage to each other. My cousin and her girlfriend did it about ten years ago. But it doesn't mean they have inheritance rights. And I don't think that couching it in softer terms - ones that won't tip the balance away from them - is too much to ask. Married is married, whether it's recognized by the state or not; what the gay community wants is the same thing a justice of the peace can (and should be able to) grant.

And my theory regarding Stevens is that a lot of people voted for Palin and just ran with the Republican ticket. If he'd been running in a state whose governor wasn't a VP candidate, he most likely wouldn't have been successful. Hell, John Ascroft lost in Missouri against a dead guy.

I'm glad you liked the piece, though.


iris corbin
11.12.08 @ 2:14p

Marriage absolutely confers those rights. A legally recognized marriage, that is. The problem isn't that your cousin got married, it's that she got "married." Her marriage wasn't permitted to be equal to mine, and it should've been.

"Married is married, whether it's recognized by the state or not..."

Huh? Gay people want marriage that IS recognized by the state, and not just a commitment ceremony. They want this so they have rights equal to yours and mine. I know you're not saying 'separate but equal' because that's just icky.


adam kraemer
11.12.08 @ 3:10p

No, I'm saying that if they wanted "marriage," they could always get "married." If they wanted the legal rights that go along with marriage, that's something else. That's a civil union. And if they'd asked for that, without throwing in the "M" word, people probably wouldn't have made California look like it was the most bigoted state in the union.

Look, gay people deserve to be able to get married, regardless of anything. I firmly believe that. But I also believe that using the term "marriage" is what tipped the referendum against them. Unless that was goal, so they could challenge it in court, which isn't a bad idea.


iris corbin
11.12.08 @ 3:47p

But they weren't asking for anything other than the rights they already had. It was the Yes on 8 people who threw in the M word, and used it to scare people into thinking their ministers would be thrown in jail and their kids would be turned gay.

Don't forget that the prop was brought about by the bigots, not the oppressed minority.
Maybe the answer is to do what some European countries do: give civil unions to everyone (straight or gay), and then the religious ceremony is just for those who want it. But that would mean that Americans actually believe in separation of church and state, rather than just talk about it.

It's obvious we agree on the fundamentals, we just disagree on how to get there. I think that in 30-40 years (hopefully less) we will all look back on this as a sad time for civil/equal rights.

adam kraemer
11.12.08 @ 3:52p

Well, I agree with that. And it likely won't matter, by then. I mean, headway is being made, obviously, with some steps back. But with a Democrat in the White House, likely to appoint one, if not two, liberal-leaning Supreme Court justices, it may reach them and then become the law of the land. Maybe.

Honestly, my only point in the column was that the majority of voters in California probably don't hate gay people, but the question of gay marriage couched in those terms passed Prop 8. If it had been couched in different terms, it might have been voted down. That's all.


dan gonzalez
11.18.08 @ 1:23a

So I say to the Republican party: this election was not necessarily a repudiation of conservative ideology. It was not a repudiation of conservative values. It was a repudiation of neo-conservatism and the fascist state created by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their administration.

This is where you jumped the shark, man. You had a decent spiel goin', which we all love around here, but you fucking blew it. Earlier on, you said you weren't gloating, but then you went right ahead and gloated by narcissistically implying that you weren't, in fact, repudiating Republicans, just the Republicans you don't like for whatever marginal reasons.

When are you going to get it? There is NO true conservative 'ideology', only liberals believe in 'ideologies', they were invented by liberals to sort the rest of us out in ways that are convenient for liberals themselves, but very painful for the rest of us.

True conservatives and patriots are FISCAL conservatives while also being social liberals. We are, in fact, the original 'live and let live' liberals that beat the piss out of the Confederacy and delivered liberty to the slaves (none of which, by the way, was an ancestor of our next president, although he reaped all the benefits he could pinch from affirmative action. What a fucking fraud he is!).

We dipshit conservatives, we must seem stupid to you, on account of our lack of ideology, and the fact that we don't GIVE A FUCK about ideas unless you can put them to practice and positively affect a productive outcome.

We don't give a Pope's blind shit what you do in your spare time as long as you are self-sufficient. That's all our social contract calls for. Our credo can best be summed up as "Good luck with that, man, hope it works out, but don't fuck with me if it doesn't."

Arrogant liberals always think that people they don't even know, much less have ever had an intelligent conversation with, are terminally stupid for voting for conservative candidates.

And yet all you douche-bags just swooned, rolled-over, and voted for a fucking lightweight who has spent 18 months out of the first 24 of his US senate career cam campaigning, and also managed to be the first prick that ever rejected public financing. All so he could raise $650 Million reasons to compellingly convince you that your vote wasn't for him, but was for something greater {insert key word here: change, hope, or something uplifting}. It must be ironic to you that He has already pissed on hope and change by appointing a bunch of ex-Clintonites and Fannie and Freddie villains to his transition team. That would probably bother you if you weren't so busy celebrating the fact that you were so omni-benevolent to vote for him in the first place.

Ah, sweet misery, liberal cognitive dissonance is ringing in the streets!


dan gonzalez
11.18.08 @ 1:38a

Wow. That is a load of shit I just wrote. Let me try to sum.

I've spent my entire life trying to prove that race doesn't matter. I never, ever, checked a line that boxed me in as 'white' or 'hispanic' or any of that shit that stupid people think is important. I always checked 'other'.

Race and gender don't mean nothing in the practical world. They only matter in the ideological world, where nothing real ever gets done.

Obama checked a lot of those boxes to get ahead. Therefore he is a fraud.

He's also a democrat. And I hate democrats more than anything for always trying to box me in and tell me what I am.



sandra thompson
11.18.08 @ 7:18a

Okay, Dan, I want it duly noted that you're the one who interjected all the name-calling and viciousness into this discussio. I may be one of the people your parents warned you about, but you're one of the people I warn people about.

All power to the people and death to the socialist combine is an interesting juxtoposition of new left and nazi slogans! We liberals believe in all power to the people, but we don't wish death on anybody, even YOU.

adam kraemer
11.18.08 @ 10:14a

There is NO true conservative 'ideology', only liberals believe in 'ideologies', they were invented by liberals to sort the rest of us out in ways that are convenient for liberals themselves, but very painful for the rest of us.

True conservatives and patriots are FISCAL conservatives while also being social liberals.
(Emphasis added for effect.)

Speaking of cognitive dissonance, Dan, how'd you manage to wrap your head around these two statements?

"There is no ideology! Except that we believe in this!"

Get over yourself, man. And stop being so bitter. It's bad for humanity.

Now if you can't separate what you and I both call "true conservatism" from the executive and legislative morass that's been created by the GOP getting into bed with the religious right, I'm afraid I can't help you. We're talking about a President who supported a Constitutional amendment legislating the definition of marriage. A president who withheld funds for stem cell research because religious leaders likened it to abortion, even though the embryos being used were already dead. A president who made an executive order to fund exclusively abstinence-only sex education programs, even though any idiot out there will tell you that maybe it's also important for teenagers to learn about condoms, too. A president who banned abortions on military bases.

And I'm stymied that you can't see that this flies directly in the face of your so-called "live and let live," um, ideology. I want to see the Republican party head towards Libertarianism. It should. And fiscal conservativism is a good thing, in many cases, as long as a lack of oversight doesn't lead to the sort of crisis we're having now.

And, for the record, what you claim to be "marginal reasons" for my dislike of certain Republicans, I personally consider vital civil liberties. We had a vice presidential candidate who was so anti-abortion that she didn't even believe it should be an option in cases of rape. I guess that might be a "marginal" issue to you, but, then, as long as it doesn't "fuck with" you, I can see why you wouldn't care.

And the next time some white bigot in Central Pennsylvania or Alabama, or even Northern California, decides to use some poor Hispanic or black man's face as target practice because he looks different, or someone's mother or sister gets sexually assaulted as she walks home from the bus stop, I hope someone pays for you to go to the funeral or the hospital so you can rationally explain to their loved ones how race and gender "don't mean nothing" in the practical world.


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