Last summer, the Tea Party grabbed headlines around the country as being the baddest new political force on the block. Its members appeared at town hall meetings and railed against President Obama's healthcare reform proposal. The narrative this summer remains relatively unchanged from the theme of anger that dominated commentary and analysis one year ago: Voters in summer 2010 are said to be furious with Washington's dysfunction; waves of anti-incumbent rage are beginning to crest. Our country is consumed by anger towards Washington, Wall St., the lifeless economy, and the flagging war in Afghanistan.
Such prevailing wisdom--though it contains a lot of truth--is also one-sided and uncomplicated. Consider, for example, some countervailing moments in the past 48 hours that defy the traps of our summertime conventional thinking. There are, indeed, instances of ideological line-crossing and cooperation among otherwise ardent political foes.
Ted Olson, a conservative Republican, and David Boies, a Democratic lawyer, achieved a significant victory for gay rights in California yesterday. Their arguments transcended some of society's worst prejudices and helped overturn Proposition 8, which had banned gay marriage.
The legislative process in Congress is also more complicated than the story of Democrats forever battling recalcitrant Republicans on every issue under the sun. Sen. Richard Lugar's New York Times oped yesterday urged the Senate to pass child nutrition and school lunch legislation. Here's a leading Republican arguing that the federal government--the same government that Tea Party members love to loathe--actually provides a crucial service and does it well, in the form of federal lunches and school nutrition assistance. Both parties, Lugar sensibly says, could claim a victory by passing this legislation.
Even the coming vote to confirm Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court is likely to draw a handful of brave Republicans who support her on her merits in defiance of the wishes of their leadership. Peace and political harmony this isn't. But nor are we living through some new-fangled and irrevocably divided era ushered in by a listless liberal president, as some of the commentary this summer might lead you to believe.