Possible guideposts for our own emerging liberal culture: Personally, we wouldn’t be inclined to vote for Rep. Tom Cole.
Cole is a Republican congressman from Oklahoma. He’s a House deputy whip and a former chief of staff for the RNC.
As a general matter, we don’t share Cole’s policy views. But in this profile of Cole in the New York Times, we saw him expressing some values that we liberals might want to consider as we go about the task of building our new liberal culture.
In other posts this week, we will look at some of the problems with the new culture that is emerging at some liberal orgs. (Salon, come on down!) For today, we thought we’d consider some of the ways Cole “challenged unhappy constituents on tactics, tone and spirit at a town hall meeting last week,” according to John Harwood, author of the Times profile.
Harwood cited three of Cole’s “guideposts” for his own GOP. It seemed to us that these guideposts were worth considering over here within our own tribe.
At one point in the town hall meeting, Harwood says that Cole urged respect for the other party. Is Rep. Cole allowed to do that?
Harwood described it thusly:
HARWOOD (9/21/13): A recurrent theme on the Republican right is the illegitimacy of opponents. Some accuse Democrats of profiting from vote fraud. Others, like Mr. Romney in his famous “47 percent” remarks, insist that large numbers of Democrats have grown enfeebled by reliance on government programs.Obama won fair and square? That’s fairly obvious, of course. But good for Cole for saying so to people who keep getting told something different!
Mr. Cole sounded different notes. Instead of deriding political adversaries, he acknowledged their strength and grit.
Mr. Obama, as one of only a handful of American presidents who have twice topped 50 percent of the vote, “won fair and square,” Mr. Cole said. He saluted the resilience of Democratic partisans whose ability to win the presidency appeared in doubt a generation ago—as it does for Republicans now.
Harwood also applauded Cole for his sense of optimism. Here’s the way he limned it:
HARWOOD: By associating changes coursing through American society with a sense of irreversible decline, some older white conservatives impede Republicans’ ability to connect with young and minority voters.Phew! Cole has broken with the tone of his party’s base before. But his remarks about pre-civil rights society was just plain darn good stuff.
But Mr. Cole described the nation’s trajectory—and the attitude required to alter it—in a different way. “I’m not one of these people who thinks the country is going to hell in a handbasket,” he said. His own son, he added, finds the pre-civil-rights society he has read about hard to imagine.
“Americans are freer today than they were, and more of them are free,” Mr. Cole said. “The country does make a lot of progress. It does move in the right direction.
“We’ll get there. But the thing is not to quit, and not to lose faith in the country.”
In Saturday's profile, Harwood started with Cole’s sense of realism. In this passage, Cole explains the facts of life to his constituents, who often get misled:
HARWOOD: For constituents urging a government shutdown over the health care law, he warned that it would doubly backfire by hurting local residents like the workers at nearby Tinker Air Force Base, and by heaping blame on Republicans. A party controlling neither the White House nor the Senate, he said, lacks the power to reverse a White House incumbent’s foremost domestic achievement, no matter how often the House votes to do so.That highlighted statement makes good solid sense. Few pols in the GOP have been speaking so clearly to their constituents, who might prefer to hear something different.
“It’s awfully hard to repeal Obamacare when a guy named Obama is president of the United States,” he said. “We’re in a position to stop a lot of what he wants to do. We’re not in a position to undo.”
We wouldn’t vote for Cole ourselves because, as a general matter, we don’t agree with his policy views. That said, we thought this profile offered a good starting-point for a series of posts about the new politics we see developing around the liberal world.
Republican pols and radio hosts aren’t the only people who may occasionally pander to voters. In our view, blue voters are getting pandered to in a lot of ways too, and dumbed down in the process.
It’s easy for liberals to see the GroupThink and the foolishness over there in the other tribe. It’s always easy to see the shortcomings of The Other.
That said, it seems to us that a lot of foolishness is becoming institutionalized in our tribe too. Let’s cite one more thing Cole told his constituents:
HARWOOD: “It’s pretty easy to tell people what they want to hear,” Mr. Cole said in Midwest City, adding a barb for some of his colleagues: “There’s a certain amount of that going on in the Republican Party right now, at a very high level.”“It’s pretty easy to tell people what they want to hear!” We think we see some of that going on in our own infallible blue tribe!
We’ll offer examples all week from our emerging liberal culture. We wouldn’t vote for Cole ourselves, but we think he laid down some very good guidelines in that town hall meeting.
Cole has behaved this way before. Is Tom Cole allowed to do that? As liberals, are we allowed to see the foolishness in our own tribe?
Tomorrow: Is dogma (also) us?