It's understandable if you feel discouraged and disillusioned.
It's no shame to wise up, cross the aisle and vow not to be fooled anymore.
The grandiose promises to write "not footnotes, but chapters in the American story" and to usher in "decades of peace" look empty in hindsight.
I was there in the convention hall to hear the stirring pledge to "end the politics of fear … the politics of the roadblock, the philosophy of the stop sign."
I later watched the victory speech on TV in which the nation was assured that, "together, guided by a spirit of common sense, common courtesy and common goals, we can unite and inspire the American citizens."
And, hey, to paraphrase Mitt Romney, I wish President George W. Bush had succeeded because I wanted America to succeed.
All that "compassionate conservative" and "I'm a uniter not a divider" jabbering? I didn't buy into it myself, mind you, but I understand how it appealed to those of you with fading Ronald Reagan posters on your walls and an affinity for certain core Republican values.
Lately, the GOP has been reaching out to disaffected former supporters of President Barack Obama. The message is one of understanding (Obama is well-meaning, and it was easy to get carried away by his optimistic rhetoric), shared sorrow (such a pity he fell short) and permission (so don't feel bad about voting against him in November).
The Democrats are missing a bet if they don't hit back with a similar message directed at recent Republican voters — those who responded positively in 2000 to Bush's uplifting message of common cause in his convention speech and then, in 2008, to Sen. John McCain's convention speech in which he swore to "use the best ideas from both sides," put a stop to "the constant partisan rancor" and "change the way we do business in Washington."
From the podium this week in Charlotte, N.C., the Dems ought to address these voters in the same moist, patronizing tone with which the GOP addressed disenchanted Democrats last week:
We get it. You were drawn to the Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller and such Illinois senators as Charles Percy and Mark Kirk.
It was the party of fiscal restraint, military strength, environmental responsibility and social moderation. The party that didn't invoke "government" as a curse word, that wasn't in the thrall of the religious right, that didn't consider the New Deal a bad deal.
The party that knew the difference between patriotism and jingoism, that recognized the perils of free-market capitalism as well as its benefits and that worked with like-minded Democrats to advance mainstream policies.
We sympathize. That Republican Party wasn't hostile to organized labor, undocumented immigrants and regulations that protect our air and water. That party wasn't obsessed with trying to ban abortion, and it had the good sense to shun its most extreme elements (the John Birch Society) rather than kowtow to them (the tea party).
It was the GOP of Mitt Romney, circa 1994, when he ran for U.S. senator in Massachusetts as a pro-choice, anti-Reagan Republican who said he'd protect gay rights better than incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy.
We get it. Who wouldn't have been dazzled at the idea that if we let rich people get even richer, their wealth will trickle down and enrich the rest of us? That starving government will lead to prosperity? That's some real hope for you.
And change? Yes, it was a deeply validating notion that if we roll our military into fractious nations and topple their dictators, these nations would transform into peaceful First World democracies.
You trusted them. They tried. They failed. We feel your pain.
You have permission now to look elsewhere — to a Democratic Party that's been gradually moving into that space moderate Republicans used to occupy (Obamacare, for example, was built with spare parts borrowed from the GOP) to the dismay of actual hard-core lefties who truly do have nowhere else to go.
Discuss this column at chicagotribune.com/zorn.
Do stop believin'
GOP is right — disappointed voters should consider a switch
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