Love brings people together, but sometimes anger works better. There is nothing quite like the feeling of getting screwed by the government whether you are a liberal, a conservative, an empty-headed fence sitter, or the politician doing the screwing. Congress likes to have fun pitting liberals and conservatives against each other, which gives us common ground. Take your pick: social policy, fiscal policy, or good old American patriotism. Both sides had a bad year, neither got what it wanted, and both have ample reasons to loathe Washington.
Liberals lost their social agenda.
How is Obama’s progressive social agenda working out for liberals? Not very well, if 2013 is any measure. Immigration reform failed. Obamacare is a disaster. Welfare and social support programs were threatened, food stamps were cut, extended unemployment benefits denied, and a Democratic effort to pass gay rights in the workplace will stay right where it passed in the Senate. What’s a starry-eyed idealist to do when the best shot liberals have had in many years to force-feed us their leftist agenda led to little more than denial and disaster?
Conservatives got the fiscal shaft.
Fiscal conservatives didn’t fare so well, either. Battered by Senate Democrats and then sold out in Boehner’s House after a startling outburst leveled at conservative groups, we ended the year with an opportunity to spend more to achieve the goal of spending less (see: 2013 Meant Bad Government, Bad Deals, and Failed Bills). Obamacare progressed inexorably and there was nothing we could do to stop it except try to defund the bill and shut down the government in the process. The heaps of accusation and blame that resulted did have a silver lining, though. Despite the apocalyptic warnings from politicians about the consequences of a shutdown, turning out the lights in Washington was a worthwhile lesson in smaller government. Did anyone pay attention?
Global leadership? Patriots lose across-the-board.
As much as liberals delight in deriding conservatives for a right-wing foreign policy agenda, they must still understand that it’s not to our advantage to have America’s standing in the world swirl down the toilet. China’s recent bad behavior on the high seas is just another incident in a long list of events that prove how much we have slipped in global leadership since 2009. Barack Obama’s biggest foreign policy contribution, other than hanging Israel out to dry while extending the hand of friendship to Iran, might come courtesy of Edward Snowden and the NSA. Now the world knows for certain that he really does have something to apologize for.
Liberals and conservatives still find common ground in this one thing.
If you don’t think liberals and conservatives can find common ground, think again about patriotism and how Americans respond to tragedy. From the Hill to the Oval Office, government turns misfortune into opportunity. Our senators, representatives, and even the president manipulate tragedy. They make sure we know of their good deeds even when what we are told and the reality of their acts turn out to be two different things. How does the rest of America respond when things go bad?
Illinois rivals California as the most divided, liberal-loving and conservative-hating state in the nation, but when tornadoes struck central Illinois in November residents became Americans. We saw the same thing after Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, after the Boston bombing, and after 9/11. Despite our government’s best efforts to drive us apart because divisiveness is good politics and excuses inaction, deep down we all share common ground no matter how much we disagree.