Updated: Dec 18, 2019
“One of the interesting features of this election cycle has been the gulf, often vast, between the hysteria of liberals who write about politics for a living and the relative calm of Democrats who practice it.” — Ross Douthat
The rest of Douthat’s essay is worth a read, but that lead sentence points to an essential difference between the two parties. Republican politicians and legislators are (on the whole) doing their best to stay ahead of the emotionalists in their base when they are not actively pandering to or even recklessly inciting the most loathsome forms of divisive triumphalisms.
Democratic legislators and politicians, being politicians after all, are not above pandering with occasional bursts of incitements. But on the whole they lag far behind the emotionalists in their base. (I use the word “emotionalists” to avoid the word “extremists” because so much of the lather on both sides is less related to actual policy than it is to sentiments and affinities.)
What’s behind this disparity is less of a moral distinction than a practical one (although this disparity has grave moral consequences). Democratic leaders and politicians are, on the whole, much more interested in actual governing. And they are much more interested in governing through the forging of majorities and compromises between various factions - whether those factions are part of a working majority or not. Republicans are currently feverishly striving to preserve and institutionalize minority rule.
In the long run, if the Democrats can sustain it, theirs is the only workable attitude that provides hope for a peaceful and (at least somewhat) democratic future. . . . meaning a future for a republican form of government. In the long run, the Republicans will either have to revert to a more inclusive, serious and sober approach to governing or risk destroying themselves as a party - or devastating the democratic republic as a workable set of institutions in the US of A.
But the short term is very frightening even if there is some semblance of a Blue Wave tomorrow.
Right now the Democratic leadership are hoping voters will put practical considerations like decent, affordable healthcare ahead of tribalist emotionalism. But tribalist emotionalism recoils from the healthcare debate because a serious look at the world today reminds us that only government can ensure a fair and sustainable healthcare system - whether that is through the direct provision of services or through the planned structuring of "the market".
And the song of the Rhinoceros grows stronger and sweeter.