If the polls, punditocracy and Yale professor Ray Fair’s time-tested electoral model are right, today is going to be a tough one for the Democrats. A Tea Party-energized Republican party is widely predicted to take the House and possibly Senate, riding a wave of Obama-Pelosi discontent to huge electoral wins. Unfortunately, we Yalies couldn’t be worse prepared. We have spent much more time making fun of Christine O’Donnell’s witch and Yale-denials than engaging with our opponents. Much of the problem rests with the profound asymmetry of political organization and activism on campus.
While the Yale Democrats — with their membership in the hundreds and their impact widespread — remain colossal, the Yale Republicans are almost nonexistent, and conservatives in general, often closeted. Left-wing attitudes dominate our on-campus conversation. In this atmosphere, the other side is easily stereotyped and caricaturized, and their arguments, demeaned — or worse, unheard. Tomorrow, we may wake up in an America whose legislative and judicial branches hold much different beliefs than our own. This newspaper believes that we should respond with an open mind and a spirit of compromise.
We should fight the temptations of fear and partisanship, those perennial antitheses to the hope and change for which so many of us voted just two years ago. While Yale conservatives should take this opportunity to celebrate and organize, Yale liberals should welcome a chance to better know their opposition. This should not be a time for nay-saying and vindictive rejection, the same folly for which we criticized congressional Republicans when they hampered progressive healthcare reform. The barbarians aren’t at the gates; just those who disagree.
On campus and beyond, a Republican resurgence should prompt an increase in Democrat willingness to engage. We should remember that the American punditocracy has also made another prediction: that the newly-elected Republicans will not pander to the radical, Tea-Partying interests within their constituency, and will govern from the center, much like the Reagan coalition of 1980. We should also recall another Democrat President who was forced to contend and compromise with a Republican Congress: fellow Yalie Bill Clinton LAW ’73. During his eight years in office, the legislative and executive branches checked and balanced each other to a degree that would have made Madison proud. Ambition was made to counteract ambition, interest to check interest. The administration was able to pass some powerful policies after intense political discussion and compromise, while legislative overreach was left on the cutting-room floor.
A respectful back-and-forth between competing interests will lead to better legislation. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, who yesterday called for sanity as we confront divisive problems, agree. At Yale and in Congress, liberals should not march in opposition, but get down to the difficult, dirty, but ultimately rewarding business of democratic decision-making. There are serious political problems, both national and close to home, which have only worsened in the last two years. Filibusters, gridlock and marches in the street will get us nowhere. So let’s take a deep breath and face facts: If the polls are right, the Republicans are coming. Don’t block them outright. Work with them. They might not be quite the ones that we have been waiting for, but there is still more cause for hope than fear.