Editorial: A Case of the New Blues
Two years ago, Oberlin students had a case of the blues when they saw George W. Bush defeat John Kerry. The election’s outcome hinged on “too-close-to-call” Ohio, a state flooded with overcrowded polling precincts and potentially unreliable voting machines. As far as ballot initiatives were concerned, Ohioans voted to amend the State Constitution with a Defense of Marriage Act, an initiative that was heavily endorsed by social conservatives.
This year, “blue” has taken on a new meaning for Democrats, synonymous with exuberance and celebration: The election results are in, and Democrats have taken control of the House by 29 seats and the Senate by one. In a turnaround from the last election, Ohio elected mostly Democratic candidates for state and national offices. Voters even approved a raise in the state minimum wage, an issue endorsed by Democrats.
But when the brooms come out to sweep away the confetti, when the balloons start to lose their air and the last of the champagne gets swallowed, an important question remains: What comes next?
It may sound like blasphemy, but there is a lesson Democrats can learn from their Republican nemeses: The people’s overwhelming preference for a given political party is not a mandate. The Bush administration and many Republican leaders made the critical mistake of thinking that they were immovable from the hearts of the majority of Americans. Even while establishing highly partisan legislation such as the Military Commission Act and the restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, Republicans believed that all — or at least enough — Americans stood behind them. Tuesday’s elections suggest that this belief was incorrect.
In light of this, Democrats must work toward ensuring that they understand the beliefs, goals and hopes of their constituency. But more importantly, they must recognize that it is imperative for them to reach across the aisle to work alongside, rather than against, Republicans. Such actions would go a long way toward repairing the discord between the two parties, perhaps opening ears as well as minds.
Reaching across the aisle is not just something for Democrats in Congress to think about, though; Oberlin students could also benefit from opening ears and minds. As the Oberlin College Republicans have risen in visibility on campus by bringing prominent conservative speakers to campus and sponsoring political events, they have faced a great deal of scorn from progressives on campus. This is manifested in the vandalism of posters and in some students showing up at events ready to attack rather than listen and respond constructively.
Progressives on campus must follow the example of what they hope for their leaders in terms of respecting and reaching out to the side whose ideology often differs from their own. Whether on campus or in Congress, Democrats need not sacrifice their values for the sake of camaraderie. Rather, what is at stake is the ability to work together to make things happen. The great chasm between the Democratic and Republican parties might become smaller. And, just maybe, students might accomplish the great and lofty goal of making Oberlin an environment in which open dialogue and diversity of thought can thrive.