Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Nature of Debate

I am conflicted.  Last night I became aware of something that I hadn’t really thought of before.  There are people who don’t participate in my political posts but still read them.  That may seem obvious, but as I write something, post it, and a debate, which sometimes becomes heated, ensues, I am only thinking about the people who are participating.

A friend, who is a Republican, and never participates, wrote to me directly and was very blunt. “I’m tired of being made to look stupid simply because I’m a Republican.”

I was embarrassed.  I wrote back, “I don’t think Republicans are stupid and I certainly respect you!”

But I looked back on some threads and it wasn’t hard to find many comments that were9780974537603_p0_v1_s260x420 offensive from all sides of the debate.  Some liberal participants had, in fact, stated that “Republicans don’t care about others, only themselves” or said that they are “racist, blind and ignorant.”

I can assure everyone that I know as many Republicans who care as much as anyone about others, about this country, and who are generous and informed.

I can report to everyone that as I do fundraisers for various charities that there are as many, if not more, Republicans in the house reaching into their wallets.  And as the majority of business owners I know are Republican, I can tell you that I see them sponsoring community events, softball leagues and charities all over town.

But this is where I am conflicted….

It is not possible to have these ideological differences and not put on gloves to some extent.  It is also very clear how hostilities begin.  The way we think is part of who we are and when that is challenged it is not difficult to feel insulted.

My intention when I started blogging a few years ago was to have reasonable and informed debates and to keep the bitterness at a low flame.  I wanted solutions to Michele-Bachmann-corn-dogproblems, not body slam victories.

I have betrayed my own premise several times when I’ve posted embarrassing pictures of Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin….or George Bush…Limbaugh…Cruz… and while I am not retracting my distaste for their positions and how they manifest them, nothing is gained by insulting them.

But, I have questions to be addressed before my conflicted state can be resolved. Debate them.  Offer counter evidence.  Dismiss them, if you wish, but I’d like to understand some of the differences that have been separating liberals from conservatives.

– I don’t understand why conservatives will call me “brainwashed” because I have this idea that caring aggressively about both our essential and aesthetic environment is a very important matter.

-Or “socialist” because I want to see every American and every child better cared for with better access to health care.

– I do not understand why many conservatives cannot separate their Christian faith from constitutional justice and why they do not recognize that ALL Americans share the same civil rights.

-I do not understand why Republicans disallow any connection between our current foreign policy quagmire in the Middle East with policies initiated 11 years ago.

– I do not understand the logic from Republicans who believe that the solution to ourGreat-Depression-Chart current economic challenge is to use the same economic principles that created our economic crisis.

Why is it a silly leftwing position to imagine that history (the Great Depression and Keynsian Theory) has lessons regarding spending, taxation, entitlements, and free market regulation?

What is even more puzzling to me is that many of those concepts were once embraced by the Right.  Nixon brought us the EPA.  Republicans during his term introduced healthcare reform very similar ObamaCare.  Eisenhower supported collective bargaining and progressive taxation.  It was actually a Democrat (Kennedy) who brought the high end of the tax rate down, but created less tax burden at the bottom.

Our differences are not a question of stupidity or lack of caring for others, they are defined by matters of truth, and I want to understand this disconnect without being called “pathetic” or a “weak minded liberal.”

The nature of our debates can improve.

50% of Americans think 50% of Americans are wrong

I had no intention of embarrassing or insulting anyone, but I wanted to make a point.  I asked people who the 15th president was.  The few who answered said, 5356774587_lincwant_xlarge“Lincoln.”

“No biggie” I replied, “but he was the 16th President.  James Buchanan was the 15th.”

I asked them about the ramifications of the Dred Scot decision.  Only 2 of 5 had heard of it.

I asked a different group about the Treaty of Versailles.  No one was sure of it and one person offered that it was a cocktail.

Again, no biggie.  I’m not trying to embarrass anyone and I completely understand that most people are more interested in how their kids are doing at school, where their stock portfolios stand, and how grandma is feeling.  The history and minutia of politics is not as pressing and that’s as it should be; the business of living and raising a family is our priority.

…yet for some reason we think that, collectively, we are foreign policy experts, constitutional scholars and economic theorists.  Why else would we see all of these polls that tell us how many Americans agree with the President’s policy in the Ukraine or how many Americans are in a fit over the federal budget or what their feelings are about the national debt?

I read that “58% of Americans polled believe that foreigners view President Obama as incompetent.”

So?

What relevance is possibly gained from a poll of the perception some Americans have of opinions overseas?

I saw another poll that said “Most Americans now disagree with Obama’s economic policies.”

So?

If I asked the 5 people around me, “What is the difference between the national debt and the deficit?” I’ll bet maybe 1 would know (I asked and 2 knew).  Yet, we think that our majority opinion is equivalent to a school of economics.

Again, this is not about insulting anyone, it is about being realistic.  I have a friend who sent me half a dozen links explaining why President Obama is the worst president in history.  I explained that each one was from a conservative source and that I could produce an equal number with a differing opinion.  In fact, I could find articles for, and against, every policy, every President has ever presided over.

I found it interesting that the same friend predicted that “Obama will go down as the worst President in history” –only 3 months after he took the oath of office.  Nothing the President could have done at that point could have indicated any future results whatsoever.  My friend is smart, but I assure you he isn’t clairvoyant; he simply found the evidence that he wanted to find from sources that he sought for that very evidence.

And we spin our own points of view into “information” that we share as if we are educating one another, and then polls reflect the percentages who have been convinced by the rhetoric.  We all do this to varying degrees, left to right, but the past 6 years have created the most contentious divides in history, and we find ourselves in a political stalemate.

Most Democrats didn’t care for (even hated) the policies of President Bush, but they still came to negotiate at the end of the day.  Some Democrats gave Bush his wars, even his poorly conceived educational plan and prescription drug programs.

Most Republicans loathed President Clinton, but both sides still came to the table because if anything was to get done, they had to.

Since the day President Obama took office, the policy of the Republican Party has been a 100%, lock step, obstructionist agenda to destroy him.  The economy, national security, genuine health care concern, veteran’s benefits, all became irrelevant to their task of convincing the American people that everything he does will be something we cannot afford, even as he reduced deficit spending.

Republicans have successfully bankrolled that message in every medium and polls show us the result.  Maybe it was because of the catastrophic economic collapse during the Bush administration and a foreign policy quagmire that the once reasonable Republican Party became frightened of obscurity.  In a country where the demographic map was not changing in their favor, maybe they saw this as the best hand they had to play in order to regroup.

And when a man became President who unequivocally challenged the status quo their ideology is engineered to protect, maybe that was too much to bear.

The forum for our debates since 2008 became the explosion of the Internet where we no longer use objective journalism to investigate the truth (does objective journalism even exist anymore?), instead we find editorialists and polls to support what we’re looking for based on what we already thought.

But, I’m not sure…let’s see what the polls say.

Was the church on the corner too far?

the-preamble-to-the-united-states-constitution,75366Politics are where we can make a difference in our lives; it’s where we effect change to improve our schools, our roads, our safety and our economy.

Everyone has a position on taxes, commerce, defense, and on a local level, the school board, zoning ordinances and whether the streetlights are working.  We want the potholes to be filled and we are concerned about how many police officers are on patrol and how well equipped the local fire department should be-  Yet, in this midterm-primary election 90% of the registered voters didn’t vote.

Last night in Black Hawk County only 8700 people ventured to their polling place, probably a church no more than a few blocks away, to join the collective determination over who should be each party’s candidates to represent them.

The topic that has dominated the national debate over the past 6 years has been about the size of government; its effectiveness (or ineffectiveness), and the reach of vote-yur-futuregovernment into our daily lives.  But when it comes down to determining the representatives who will govern in order to protect or enhance our quality of life, only a fraction of people are motivated enough to take 10 minutes out of their day to exercise the most important aspect of a Constitutional Republic; the voices of citizens.

My dismay does not concern whether people agree with me on which candidates they should choose, but the fact they so many complain about government and so few are interested in the process that can do something about it.  If I ever run for office, I would rather see people come out in record numbers to vote against me than to win because only a fraction of the population even cared (don’t hold me to that, but you get my point…right?).

We’ll see what happens in November when the vote count will be higher, but historically with 213 million Americans qualified to vote only half of them actually do. That’s a lot better than the local percentage but it still leaves me to wonder…who is in charge of a Republic of, for, and by the people, if the people themselves choose not to be?

And then…how is that they complain when things don’t go the way they think they should?angry