A hopeful sign

It seems we have a very narrow window open right now to rebuild relations between red and blue America. I was very impressed to see this post on the progressive blog Crooks and Liars:


"I want to take Obama at his word, and make C&L possibly the first leftwing blog to actually try to WELCOME our conservative readers. To all our conservative readers, I’d like to know your thoughts about being a conservative, how your life has changed under Bush, what your hopes for the future are with Obama, how you think liberals could help reach out to conservatives (and vice versa) to help heal the huge gapping rift between us without either side having to sacrificing their opinions or principles. I really want to do exactly what I've been hammering on about over the past couple of years, find common ground to foster healthy debate over differing opinions.


Because something I witnessed truly moved me –I watched McCain’s concession speech, and was saddened by the booing when he congratulated Obama, called him a good man, and looked forward to supporting him as our President. He more than once raised his hands in the attempt to rebuff those who jeered, but the months of maligning his opponent as a scary, un-American, possibly even terrorist bogeyman are not something that will be so easily switched off. That Frankenstein monster McCain’s campaign created has a way to go before it dons a tuxedo and top hat and puts on the Ritz. When I then watched Obama’s victory speech, I was moved by his praise for McCain, calling for unity, to be seen as a president for all the people, both on the right and the left… and by the crowd cheering in response to those words, many in tears of joy and gratitude. There was no sense of conquest over an enemy, no feeling of imminent retribution, no hatred, no vengeance. No booing.


The campaign of fear lost to the campaign of hope. This was no small feat. We are a nation that has over the past decade or so become habituated to the tactics of fear, of division, of derision, of entrenched hostility and zealous antagonism between the left and the right. That so many chose hope over fear during a time of acute economic instability and such bitter division is an acclamation of an American spirit I honestly had worried might have been irrevocably crushed.


I couldn’t be happier to have been proved wrong. Some on the extreme right are still nervously chattering their messages of fear-mongering, warning us against the dangers of a Democratically controlled government. But less and less of their former conservatives followers are listening any longer. What those on the extreme right are really worried about is that now that liberals are in the controlling majority, we will do to conservatives what too many did to us for so long – treat them with contempt and hatred and tyranny.


If we do, then we will have proven ourselves to be unworthy of that change Obama’s message of hope has brought to America. We will be no better than those who would divide this country between ‘real America’ and ‘fake America’. Of those who would question dissent and honest debate as being unpatriotic or supporting terrorists. Of imposing our views and principles on others at the cost of our civil liberties and Constitutional rights.


And I’m not the only liberal to miss spirited debate with those conservatives still valiantly defending the reality based community, such as Gergen, Powell, Christopher Buckley and the like.


'There was a time when conservatives were, in my opinion, wrong about everything, but you could interpret facts differently from then and be right without necessarily dismissing them as insane. I really hope we can get back to that kind of honest debate. It was intoxicating.’


Right on, Blue Gal.


There are no ‘red’ Americans. There are no ‘blue’ Americans. There are only Americans. We have – as we did in the scant few months after 9/11 – a short but precious window of opportunity to rebuild both our nation and our good standing in the world. Let’s not make the same mistake twice and squander it out of fear, or greed, or revenge, or ideology, or bigotry, or any other ignoble reason. We are better than that, as we as a people have proven, by electing by an overwhelming majority a man of principle, eloquence, passion, intelligence, equanimity and – yes – progressiveness.


So I’m calling on my fellow liberals at C&L to take our President-elect at his word. I want C&L to be the first progressive blogsite to do what needs to be done – reach out to those conservatives who share more of our values than not; to welcome them to a forum of honest, and respectful debate; to share their hopes and dreams and ideas with us so we can make America a better place to live for all of us.


Starting here. Starting now."


Some of this may be the benevolence of the victors, and some of the approaches (e.g. praising the Obama crowd while dissing the McCain crowd, labeling the other side "the campaign of fear") are ill advised. But the sentiment is a new one, and it gives me some reason for hope.


We need to strengthen this movement ASAP so that it will be able to withstand the inevitable backlash come inauguration day.

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