Have you ever found yourself lusting after Bernie Sanders’ vision of egalitarian utopia but then felt you were cheating on that copy of Reagan’s “City Upon a Hill” speech? That’s right, the one you keep tucked away for inspiration.
And what about Susan Collins’ tax cuts, as sharp as her form-fitting pant suits? Do they get you going as much as Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban?
If yes, shed that shame. Welcome to America’s growing band of politicos who like to go both ways!
Bleeding heart libs and right-wingers alike have bashed us for ages, but ours is still the path of common sense. With this step-by-step guide, we’ll have you out and about, strutting that intellectual heft, for either side of the aisle to admire.
1. Foreplay comes in many flavors.
“What exactly does that mean, practically speaking?”
Before jumping into any bipartisan ménage à trois, remember to get your framing right. Assume good intentions. Be critical of actions. Don’t judge the complexes underlying Paul Ryan’s fetish for Ayn Rand, or Elizabeth Warren’s propensity to spank Wall Street. Each wants to help, one through the gentle nudge of tax credits, the other with firm regulatory strokes.
Lost in rhetoric, prudish ideologues often forget the common pleasures we all seek. Stay above that fray. Be open to either side’s approach—you may learn a few new tantalizing tricks—but keep those eyes on the prize. When repeated efforts prove unsuccessful, try a new position.
2. There are more of us on both sides than either is willing to admit.
“Ummm…that’s cool…I don’t know many people like that.”
With proclivities like ours, first dates can be awkward. If you fear some prospects may not be as open-minded, try loosening them up with revealing anecdotes about their folk heroes.
Closeted by his stoic military persona, Ike was the ultimate switch-hitter. He delivered the highest economic growth in the post WWII era, but defended a hefty 90% top tax rate. The Tea Party would be over if it came to terms with the fact that the Gipper transitioned the U.S. from a creditor to a debtor nation.
A doyen of the left, Slick Willie balanced the budget and reformed welfare, but also managed to expand Medicaid. Hillary took the whip to many a Middle Eastern dictator, flirting with Dubya’s hawkish inclinations.
3. Show off that versatility.
“So how does it work for you…?”
Once you’ve got the right mindset and partisans from either (or both) side willing to engage, time to put your adaptability to work. Start small, to keep everyone comfortable. Perhaps defend one side’s proposals with the other’s benchmarks for success. Universal healthcare may be socialist but it is damn cheap. Privatizing the postal service may lead to layoffs, but could save the pensions of thousands of middle class workers about to retire.
Once you’ve got your rhythm, don’t be afraid to go deep. Push the left to explain where they draw the line on illegal immigration. Ask conservatives what role the American dream played in keeping minorities in generational poverty. Build up that tension for the most satisfying release.
4. Confront stereotypes head-on.
“But I’ve heard you guys are….”
Being open isn’t easy, especially given the unfair stereotypes out there. Don’t shy away from tackling these gross simplifications directly. If accused of lacking the ideological backbone to commit, own that flexibility as a badge of honor. If they say you are hiding your true inclinations, point to passionate policy trysts you have had on either side.
Invariably, some will paint you an opportunistic hedonist akin to the global elite-turned-man of the people in the White House. Remind them that political versatility is not the same as wholesale character transformation or outright misdirection.
5. Avoid unsavory temptations.
“So, it’s a free-for-all in your world?”
Open-mindedness can be a slippery slope. Be careful not to slip too far or you will ruin your game with attractive prospects on either side of the aisle.
As sympathetic as we tend to be, don’t feel obliged to defend those who confuse political and moral versatility. Unwelcome groping of genitals or truth, for example, is a line we do not cross. Be equally careful not to turn political flexibility into a tool of political leverage. FDR showed the wrong kind of openness when he traded prohibition of lynching for southern votes. Circumstances may necessitate horse-trading, but our virtue is in an indiscriminate appreciation of beauty, not in our ability to stomach the unsavory.
There you are, my politically adventurous comrades. You may feel alone, especially these days. But rest assured, there are many of us out here, equally nauseous with partisan hysteria, and eager to experiment.
Take pride in your versatility, explore those kinks in policy from either side of the aisle, and bring some tough love to both.