A Letter to Conservatives

Dear Friends,

This is a hard time, I know. We've all been there—it hurts when your candidate loses, and you realize that all the people and policies you hate will be in place for the next four years. But let me suggest that while you're perfectly justified in crying, wailing, beating your breasts and rending your garments, you should try to keep your sanity. Not only will it be good for the country, it'll be good for you too.

There are some in your party who will be driven insane by Barack Obama's re-election, and will try to pull you down with them into a pit of fear and hate where there is only suffering and political defeat to be found. They will be spinning out conspiracy theories and talking of impeachment. Don't listen to them. Barack Obama has done many things you don't like, and will continue to do so over the next four years. But being (something of) a liberal is not the same as being corrupt, and policies you disagree with are not the same as tyranny. If you can't tell the difference, the public won't trust you with the reins of power.

You'll be taking a look at your party and its ideology, and many of your allies will say that the only problem with Mitt Romney was that he wasn't a "real" conservative. As difficult as it is, try to look at this question objectively. The truth is that Romney did everything that conservatives asked and more. Yes, near the end of the campaign Democrats attacked him for being a flip-flopper. But that was only after he unveiled a newly moderate persona in the first debate, and the public seemed to respond positively. Don't forget that Democrats never stopped attacking him for wanting to curtail women's rights, not caring about the middle class, and in many other ways being too conservative. Be honest: Do you actually think that if you had nominated Rick Santorum or Rick Perry you would have done better?

You also need to understand that attacking the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency will do you no good. Just as birthers make Republicans look bad, if you argue that Obama stole this election it will only make you look like sore losers. Some are already saying it—"This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!" tweeted Donald Trump—but you need to resist it, even if it comes from people with influential radio shows.

Our politics has been filled with poison in recent years, and even if you want to believe it's all really Barack Obama's fault, you'd do well to acknowledge your own complicity. The relentless race-baiting from people like Rush Limbaugh, the fevered conspiracy theories, the general venom that so many of your allies spit at the president every day—by now, surely you understand that none of it wins converts to your side. And more important, it makes our democracy meaner, pettier, and uglier. Surely you're capable of making an assertive case for your philosophy and preferred policies without saying that those who disagree are evil. And if your first response is "But that's how they talk about us!" then ask yourself: Does responding in kind work? Because no one could argue that Republicans haven't been sufficiently critical of Barack Obama over the last two years, and it didn't stop you from getting your butts whipped.

As a progressive, I'm tempted to tell you to go ahead and keep doing what you're doing. Keep on questioning whether Barack Obama is an American. Make sure to slut-shame any woman who stands up for reproductive rights. Pour derision on the "takers" and keep extolling the heroic "job creators" while you fight to protect their favorable tax rates. Make sure that in four years your presidential candidates have another contest to see who can be the most anti-immigrant. Hunker down in the white South. Talk more about privatizing Medicare. Chant "Drill, baby, drill!" whenever the subject of energy comes up. Stay in that comforting bubble created by Fox News and talk radio, where you can be sure you're right about everything and Americans will always agree with you.

Many Republicans, maybe even most, would say that sounds like a winning plan. You now have some time to decide whether you need a new one.

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