Hug a Republican Today

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I feel like hugging a Republican. Maybe we all should.

They seem like they could really use one. Booted into the political hinterlands in November, now they're crying out for relevance. They may have found it in playing the part of heroic resisters to the Obama stimulus package. This bill is laden with not-very-stimulating pork, they claim, and they'll hold out until they get what they want-whatever that is. Or, more likely, they will wait six months for the package, passed by almost all Democrats, to fail. Then the cries of "I told ya so" can begin.

You may have guessed, I'm not a Republican. But even I can't believe that a whole bunch of our nation's legislators are rooting for our economy to keep failing so they can take credit for resisting the president.

So I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they need a hug. Come here Rush, and let me try to get my arms around you, ya big sweaty bear.

Then, as I watched John McCain, John Boehner and a bunch of other old guys in suits carp about how bad Obama's game plan was for the economy, I realized that we might actually need their critique, whether it was based in reality or not.

Earlier this century, Democrats liked to caution everybody about groupthink. As people who study or work at a university, we are especially sensitive to one person or group dictating consensus. We'd rather bring out the controversy and expose its grisly details than repress it.

So, no matter how much it might gall us to listen to the Republicans ask for more tax cuts for businesses after the Bush-era cuts completely flopped, we have to listen anyway.

No matter how much valuable tooth-enamel we might lose from grinding our teeth when we hear that excising money for contraceptives is more important than taking quick action when thousands are losing their jobs, we have to listen.

You might believe that Obama is the second coming of FDR and will somehow recover America's pride, fiscal power and worldwide reputation in the next four years. But if we fall into lockstep with him and refuse to even consider the other side, aren't we guilty of the same Bush-era groupthink that we despise?

On the other hand, the American political system always favors the minority. We do this for obvious reasons (read your Federalist Papers, please), but we pay the price because we rarely make radical or quick change. That's usually a good thing, unless you have to, say, extend voting rights to African Americans or act speedily to pull the economy out of the toilet.

But after the 2008 Democratic sweep, Obama knows that he only needs two Republicans (and if Al Franken takes the Minnesota seat-he won't before the vote on the stimulus plan-Obama would only need one lonely, needing-a-hug Republican) to get this thing to the 60-vote level and passed. So there's this irresistible urge to tell these lonely Republicans: You had your chance, you lost badly, and now it's our turn. We'll pick off a couple of your moderates and shove this down your throat, no hug for you!

Let's face it, the bipartisanship Obama ran on was never going to be a reality. Everybody from the politically ignorant to smug Berkeley political scientists knew that was too good to be true. It would have been nice if the Obama glow could have lasted past the first week, but nobody's really surprised about that.

But the measure of a president is whether he wields power with humility and grace, not how hard he hammers the other side or how little information they feed the press and the public. Bush never got that, Obama does.

Which brings us back to hugs. Obama himself is pretty handsy. Have you noticed he touches everybody, sometimes a pat, sometimes a grip, sometimes a full-blown hug? So we're just following leadership by extending our hugs as long as Republicans unclench their butt cheeks.

But I genuinely want to hear what they have to say, and I genuinely feel their pain (not in a creepy Bill Clinton way, either) now that their party has lost its way. They're sure to find a new voice, maybe one that emanates from young Republicans on this and other campuses.

Next time you see a few Republicans at a Sproul table, follow my lead, give them a hug.

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Don't get too handsy with Josh at [email protected]



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