One of the few perks of being a liberal in a right-wing era is that bitter experience has made us veritable experts in handling rejection in a psychologically healthy (if politically disastrous) way. This is a highly adaptive trait on a personal level; when dumped, one doesn’t blame the dumper, and both inwardly and outwardly seeks the sort of self-improvement that might avert a recurrence. When the shoe is on the other foot, we don’t blame the scorned for their shortcomings, but resort to such charitable lies as the shopworn but still usually convincing, “It’s not you; it’s me.”
Republicans have another approach, which is one reason I would never vote for, much less date, one of them. When one looks at the way Newt and Rudy dumped their many previous wives, Ronald Reagan dumped (some of) his children and, say, Illinois teabagger Joe Walsh cheated his family out of years of child support, is it any surprise that Sarah Palin tossed her Alaskan supporters under her elaborate but fake bus, or that Mitt Romney treats Massachusetts voters who foolishly elected him with the same nostalgic respect Sen. (!) David Vitter holds for his onetime Pampers-toting hookers?
An ungrateful bunch they are, indeed, which brings me to the Democrats. Rather than just be relatively predictable, albeit in a bad way, they do have charming qualities that don’t require beer goggles to appreciate. They seem so much more sincere when they promise everything, and when they fail to deliver, they expend considerable effort in convincing their jilted admirers that they tried to, say, prosecute those criminals, raise those taxes, or keep their sweaty paws off the interns, but unfortunate circumstances intervened. Next time they’ll do better, and you kind of want to believe them, if only because they weren’t completely insufferable asses about it.
This undoubtedly humane approach, unfortunately, turns out to be their worst weakness, always confusing the personal with the political. Bill Clinton was saved from a messy divorce in part because he didn’t dump Hillary and introduce Monica as the new First Lady in a press conference, a startling display of arrogant indifference ol’ Rudy will never live down, 9/11 notwithstanding. But welfare mothers, pensioners, and the untold millions of ordinary Americans clobbered by Clinton’s equally hurtful repudiation had no voice in the matter. Likewise, President Obama’s airy dismissals, always one step removed, of his core supporters as an intransigent hippie-tainted “Professional Left” has so far failed to appreciably dent his personal approval ratings, but has still certainly jeopardized his reelection in the real world.
In one of his wiser if typically morally repugnant statements, Dick Cheney put it best when he said that any President who left office with a higher approval rating than 50% had foolishly left “cards on the table.” He harbored no illusions about the fabled relationship between luck in love and luck in cards; like most Republicans, he would have gladly tossed aside the former in favor of the latter. Democrats, sensitively introspective as they are, could learn a thing or two from Dick and all the rest of them: we’re electing a President, not choosing a boyfriend. Sensitivity’s great, but you, and we, can get that at home.