Some thoughts on how we can end the gridlock and vitriol.
Ironically John McCain’s finest moment during the last election was during his concession speech when a lady stood up and accused Obama of being a Moslem and a socialist. McCain said he wasn’t, that that wasn’t true and that Obama was a good man. Since then he’s backtracked a bit because of a hard challenge from a Rush Limbaugh clone in the primaries, but we got a glimpse of what we should see from our leaders. We need to see some of that out of the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner. If politicians will tamp down the vitriol, the crazies just might crawl back under their rocks, crazies like this guy: An Arkansas school board member recently stood up and said he wished that all gays would commit suicide. He then went on to cite the Bible. Even worse, he had a full contingent of supporters insisting on his right to free speech. Prior to this incident, Juan Williams was fired for saying he felt fearful when he saw a traditionally dressed Moslem person on board a flight. Conservative commentators insisted on his right to free speech. But Juan Williams was trying to have his cake and eat it, too, working for liberal-minded NPR and also appearing on “the fair and balanced” network. Some say Americans haven’t been this polarized since the Civil War. If so, what the heck can we do about it? Here are several possibilities.
1. Hunters. My father hunted deer and ducks. He owned a double-barreled twelve gauge shotgun and a thirty-thirty deer rifle. There were six boys in the family and none of us ever touched those guns. We just knew we weren’t supposed to. He didn’t even hide the shells. We weren’t exactly afraid of him either. I just don’t think hunters care that much about gun shows and the second amendment or whether assault weapons should be legalized. Maybe the democrats might think about running a moderate for president of the NRA or forming a more liberal version. Lots of democratic congressmen (recently defeated James Oberstar for one) claim to be pro second amendment rights. We need gun locks and some kind of insurance program. Are cars more dangerous than guns? I don’t think so. Yet you’re required to carry liability insurance for your car. The mayor of Minneapolis recently ran a “buy back” program while the governor of Minnesota had recently pushed and passed “conceal and carry” legislation. Let’s get on the same page.
2. The Fairness Doctrine. I sure would like to know how many conservatives watch Fox News. If a high percentage are, they’re only getting one side of the issues. I vote democratic but I watch Brian Williams, and he leaned over backwards defending the tea partiers. It should also be more interesting to have, say Rachel Maddow, responding to Rush Limbaugh’s rants. CNN used to do that and I didn’t have a problem with those conservatives. Glenn Beck is an entirely different kettle of fish, and we know how that stinks when it’s been around too long. Rush Limbaugh also shouldn’t be able to intimidate a United State Congressmen as he’s done more than once. Some of us are old enough to remember when Shana Alexander and James J. Kilpatrick duked it out on “60 Minutes”. One was conservative, the other liberal and I didn’t totally dismiss Kilpatrick ideas as I might these days.
3. The Catholic church. Believe it or not, they used to be somewhat liberal. In the sixties John XXIII sponsored the Ecumenical Council which reached out to all faiths and reformed the church. These days the Pope opposes the use of condoms in AIDS-ravaged Africa and Minnesota bishops are sending out DVDs arguing against gay marriage when these American citizens (emphasis on citizens) already are married, if in name only, in some places. After the sex scandals, the church needs its image revitalized anyway. Why not insist on moderation and reach out to a harassed minority? If some of them are speaking up for moderation, they need to speak up and keep on speaking up. The church might also consider cutting its ties with fundamentalism. The Catholic church views (at least it did when I was growing up) the Bible as being symbolic. Fundamentalism interprets it, including the Book of Revelation, as being literal. This presents all kinds of problems, two being the Chosen People nonsense and the End Times stupidity that’s been cropping up for two thousand years. When Jerry “Teletubby” Falwell and Pat “Haiti is being punished for its voodoo beliefs” Robertson are your leaders, you need a recall.
4. A number of CEO businessmen, including the leader of Intel, criticized Obama for not having a business plan for America. US corporations pay 35% in taxes, but some of those businesses don’t pay much of that because they’re international companies and hide their money overseas. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett need to step up and do more than just give half their fortunes away. Speak out and speak out a lot. One of the things the conservatives do (sickeningly) well is get their message out.
5. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s demonstration in Washington certainly didn’t have much of an effect on the election, mainly because it wasn’t publicized as much as Glenn Beck’s. Stewart struck a moderate tone, but he needs a bigger bully pulpit than Comedy Central.
6. Stop aiding and abetting stupidity. Sarah Palin was on Entertainment Tonight getting the sycophancy treatment from Mary Hart last night (election night). This woman quit her job in the middle of her term as governor of Alaska, mainly to rake in a five million dollar advance on a book she didn’t write. She’s coming out soon with another one she didn’t author, and she’s got a cable television program. Shouldn’t you have some recognizable talent in order to run for office? 6th District voters in Minnesota also just reelected Michelle Bachmann to Congress, despite her inability to cite one single accomplishment during her four years in office.
Also, over fifty percent of her campaign donations came from out of state. Do the sixth district voters really want a woman representing them whose allegiance is to Texas millionaires and the Bible Belt? Bachmann sends out fliers beseeching Minnesotans to read the Bible.
7. The Chamber of Commerce. Since when are they a conservative front group? The national organization gave millions in campaign donations to Republican candidates. I’m sure not all chamber of commerce business owners are Republicans. I know their customers aren’t. Stay the hell out of politics.
8. False political ads. We need state and national arbiters to administer swift penalties (in the billions if necessary) for the kind of thing Karl Rove pulled with the Swiftboaters (some of the veterans in the ads have since admitted they knew they were lying). Michelle Bachmann recently claimed Obama was spending 200 million a day on his Far East trip. Even Boehner doesn’t believe that one. The arbiter would do the job judges are supposed to be doing these days. An unassailable apolitical (hard to find I know) person is needed, maybe a college president.
If we continue down the path we’re on, somebody will eventually file a Supreme Court case involving teaching Intelligent Design in the science classroom, and with Scalia and The Four Stooges in the majority, they’ll win. We’re already behind other industrialized countries in math and science. Do you really want that? We’ll also continue on the road to destruction in respect to the environment. Conservatives want to cut government drastically. Guess what will happen to OSHA and EPA? They also insist that the Department of Defense is on the table when it comes to cuts. If you believe that, I’ve got some swamp land to sell you. Then there are those derivatives Wall Street was selling that got us into so much trouble. They’re still selling them. Conservatives hate regulation, and if you think they’ll keep Obama’s financial reform, I’ve got a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge you might be interested in. I’m afraid we’re in for two more years of gridlock. Mitch McConnell made it known yesterday that his first priority was to make Obama a one-term president. Gee, I thought it was jobs.
Dave Schwinghammer's published novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Amazon.com.