Some advice from the middle

THERE are lessons to be learned from the 2020 presidential election, whether you supported Joe Biden or Donald Trump (Shutterstock).

Well, that was an … experience.

Regardless of whether your side won last week in the presidential contest or not, you’re probably a bit weary.

If you supported Joe Biden, you might be tired of celebrating, wrung out by the long process, and puzzled by the president’s refusal to concede.

If you supported Donald Trump, you might be tired of watching Democrats celebrate, wrung out by the long process and puzzled as to how the public could turn against your guy.

If you didn’t vote, shame on you.

Maybe you won, maybe you lost (some on one side seems to feel that they haven’t, despite …) but there’s always a lesson to be learned from any great undertaking.

So here is my totally unsolicited advice to my friends – I hope we stay friends – on both the left and the right. There is no charge.

To The Left

OK, so you won the White House. That’s no small accomplishment, but it looks like the Democrats won’t get control of the Senate, and will lose some seats in the House of Representatives.

And while the margin of victory for the presidency may reach five million votes, that’s only a few percentage points. How did y’all defeat – according to virtually all polling – the least popular president in American history by such a modest margin?

In World War II, the Japanese suffered from “victory disease,” meaning their early triumphs kept them from soberly studying the areas in which they needed to improve. We know how that turned out.

While the donkeys made a one-term president of the incumbent, they’ve got a lot of holes in the coalition they sought to build.

The group the Democrats have lost the most ground with are white working class voters. That’s ironic, because since the Frank Roosevelt era, those folks were the bedrock of the party.

Now, the working man or woman, the citizen who works with his or her hands, feels left out and left behind. This person doesn’t believe that “all cops are bastards,” as some on the extreme left have suggested. Doesn’t think that transgender bathrooms are a more important issue than everyday economic struggles.  Bridles at the idea that the history of America is one long progression of racism and persecution of the various underclasses.

The “woke” crowd has pushed for socialism – without really knowing what it means – and has advocated for “defunding” police. Those are two non-starters that the Right has used to demonize the Left. Even Joe Biden, a centrist old guy if there ever was one, has been accused of being the puppet of dilettantes ranging from academic snobs to identity politicians.

If you folks on The Left want to bring the working class back into what was once the “working class party” it has to show more interest in the interests and sensitivities of the folks who build the houses, drive the trucks and wait tables.

If not, don’t be surprised if some other person from the elephant side – maybe not so strident as the current GOP standard-bearer – eats your lunch in 2024.

To The Right

First off, you’ve got to abandon this fantasy that the election was stolen from you. It’s ironic that some of the same folks who consider Democrats a bunch of bumblers nevertheless buy the idea that Those People could somehow arrange a massive secret nationwide conspiracy that has baffled the efforts of judges and elected officials – including many Republicans – to find any real evidence of widespread fraud.

You can’t alibi a loss without passing up a chance to do better next time. Accept the setback and lick ‘em next time.

Here’s how. There are many “conservative” impulses that run deep in American society. Patriotism and pride in this country’s accomplishments are not limited to one political position. Emphasis on the importance of family, of hard work and individual accomplishment stand alongside that.

There is no reason why Republicans can’t peel off many moderates and even a few liberals by combining those values with actions that demonstrate a “big tent” ideologically. You can’t call The Other Side a bunch of fiscal fools when you support huge and ballooning deficits. You can’t sell the idea of wanting to attract more women voters and oppose expanded assistance for day care, pre-natal care and enforcement of gender-related wage gaps and sexual harassment cases.

Some friends of mine have been grousing for years that they need to move out of California because the state has become too liberal. Well, why not look at the reasons it’s become “too liberal”? By deliberately taking positions that antagonize Hispanics, women and gays you created the conditions that made you a minority party in the Golden State and maybe the nation.

And finally …

This nation’s voters are generally evenly balanced at about 40 percent Democrats and 40 percent Republicans. It’s the 20 percent in the middle that decides elections. It’s the party that does a better job of reaching that 20 percent in the middle that determines who wins the next one.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts is posted on alternate Wednesdays.



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