Hall of Fall baseball player, Yogi Berra, once said, “When you get to the fork in the road…take it”. Most anyone with a brain today would concede that America has definitely arrived at the “fork in the road”. We sit dumbfounded at how that point in history has arrived, but we have liberal-progressives on the far left, neo-conservatives on the far right, and about 60% of the population in the middle…some leaning to the left-some leaning to the right. It is hard to find anyone who is exactly in the middle, for to be there, one would have to have no firm foundation on which to stand, and if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
As I get older I am in awe at the beliefs many people hold. I have been writing columns for many years, published two books, and will have a third book in books stores shortly (see: www.downonmainstreet.net). As one would imagine, when writing a column, it often stirs up praise, condemnation, and a whole lot of conversation in between. If you are true to yourself, you research a subject and write from the heart. On controversial issues (and today it is hard to find any subject that isn’t controversial), it pays to have your ducks in a row, because we have a public that is unforgiving and will give you their thoughts at the drop of a hat. So like a good Boy Scout, it is best to be prepared.
I have been a guest speaker at more than 3000 events, and understand it is not possible to hit the right note with an audience every time without pandering, and I learned early-on that pandering is not the answer to longevity when speaking to a large number of diverse audiences. Politicians somehow defy the law of averages because they pander to their audiences every day and as I said in the opening paragraph, those without strong convictions will fall for anything, which is why we have such a mess in government.
There is an old saying that “readers are leaders”, which is a fairly accurate statement, but those who read a lot seem to be far more skeptical than those would read little, which is why politicians easily pull the wool over the eyes of so many and manage to get themselves elected. Washington D.C. and our state houses are living proof. What is even worse is that we continue to re-elect the same people over and over and wonder why the country is in such a mess. It is all about entrenched power that is as addictive as any drug ever made.
Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent, we attack each other because of our beliefs never wanting to give an inch because we are too close to the forest to see the trees. We eye each other as the enemy without realizing the adversaries are most often those we have elected no matter which hat they are wearing…Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent (no party affiliation).
A case in point is former Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, now a Democrat who had his head handed to him in the U.S. Senate race by upstart Marco Rubio after first losing in the Republican primaries and then trying to run as an Independent. Here is a man without principle, so eager for power, and arrogant beyond believe, he will say anything, take any position, and wear whatever hat he has to wear just to get his name on the ballot. Fortunately all politicians are not cloned from Charlie Crist, but unfortunately, a large number are spit’n images. Crist is now back like a bad case of the flu to run again for governor of Florida only this time wearing the Democrat’s hat….and watch the people of Florida re-elect this Bozo!
You see…the problem for every citizen who is paying attention is that we haven’t the wisdom collectively to identify the real adversary in our discussions/debates…it is the POLITICAL SYSTEM (Washington D.C. and our state houses). In short, whatever hat they wear, they always seem to turn out the same once they get elected. They seem to go-with-the-flow of an entrenched bureaucracy, and after the taste of power that comes with the office, they become lost to the system. If you don’t believe that, please tell me the difference between them after a year in office. The few who actually are different and don’t go along to get along end up fighting an uphill battle to change the status quo, which is so entrenched is it an impossible task without Devine intervention.
The Tea Party and other conservative groups are crying out for TERM LIMITS, which would be useless without other changes requiring a Constitutional Amendment and a staunch group of politicians with real huevos to make it happen. Limiting a politician to two terms for Senator, four terms of Congressman, and ten years for Supreme Court Judge would be useless without prohibiting them leaving office and going to work as a lobbyist or spokesperson for a company doing business with the government. Without this prohibition, the cycle of influence will never cease.
As Thomas Riley Marshall, governor of Indiana said in 1908, “What this country needs is a really good 5¢ cigar”, which shows politicians have not change much over the last century in their indifference to the needs of the public. While term limits would be a good start to begin fixing the problems with government other concerns are all too obvious. We’ll discuss them in part 2 of this article. To set the stage however, we need to understand the terminology I will be using starting with the description of our political leanings which are so easily thrown around that they have lost their meaning. Surprisingly while they all appear to be polar opposites, often they are not that far apart. As a refresher course:
Liberal/progressive: Liberal/progressivism is a line of thought that means to influence economic and social policy using the government to generate social change while at the same time forcing government intervention into the free market economy. Dating back to the early 1900’s is the modern origin of such thought. Though almost universally adopted by the new far-left Democrat Party, the early liberal/progressives, and there were plenty of them including Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and Democrat President Woodrow Wilson, who sought to change the course of American society and the political landscape by using government action to curb the arrogance of concentrated wealth in the few and end the vast poverty of the masses amid a country of such vast potential…America.
Liberal: The term liberal is used to describe, in the purest sense, someone who favors proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded, and free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant. Liberals like to think of themselves as characterized by their generosity (usually with other people’s money) and willingness to give in large amounts, government funds and support freely or abundantly, almost to the point of being overly generous.
Neo-Conservative: The neo-conservatives of today actually had their beginning in some sense with Woodrow Wilson which as I stated above was actually classified as a liberal/progressive in his days. The early neo-conservatives were concerned about global governance such as the League of Nations. In the modern era this political group supports a militant anti-communism, minimal social welfare (traditional morality and pro-business policies), self-responsibility, lower taxes, minimal government intrusion, regulation, and sympathy with a traditionalist agenda, more in line with the thoughts of the Founding Fathers as specified in the Federalist Papers. This includes strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Neo-conservatives are hawkish on defense issues and believe the best protection of our country is a strong military, much in line with the policies of Teddy Roosevelt (“Walk softly but carry a big stick”).
Conservative: As pertaining to politics, conservative thought throughout the ages has been perceived to be diametrically opposed to liberal thought A person who follows the philosophies of conservatism is referred to as a traditionalist or conservative. Conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability, continuity, and self-reliance, while others, called reactionaries, oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were". As liberals are termed to be on the “left wing” of politics, conservatives would be on the “right wing”. According to Quintin Hogg, the chairman of the British Conservative Party in 1959, "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself”.
Democrat: Since the 1960’s the Democratic Party changed from the traditional liberal values that were portrayed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the very conservative values of President John F. Kennedy. The conservative strain was the home of so-called “Blue-Dog” democrats that often found themselves in the camp of conservative Republicans on many issues, particularly when it came to budgetary considerations. The liberal strain was less concerned about budgetary issues and often opted to spend freely, endorsing higher taxes (not spending cuts or eliminating wasteful projects) to pay for their programs. President Kennedy, against many in the Democratic Party, opted to lower the marginal income tax rates to free-up more personal spending which in turn boosted economic activity. Originally the Democrats viewed the central government as the enemy of individual liberty which was inspired by Thomas Jefferson and reinforced by Andrew Jackson who sought to restore the independence of the individual by ending federal support of banks and corporations, restricting the use of paper currency, more freedom of choice for the individual, and personal responsibility. The original Democratic Party would be closely aligned to the Republican Party Platform of today. Over the years the Democratic Party has changed 180 degrees from the Jeffersonian-Andrew Jackson-John F. Kennedy Democratic Party. The Democrats of today tend to feel they are the party of compassion; the party to represent those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, minorities, and impoverished. Democrats favor big government programs to solve social and economic problems, and believe the role of government should include income redistribution via a progressive tax scheme taxing those who have higher incomes to pay the majority of the federal tax expenditures.
Republican: The Republican Party first came to power with the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Republicans were cemented as the party of business, in that it was felt people with their own money were far better at spending it wisely than when spent on government programs. Though each party, Democrats and Republicans have had its share of unscrupulous Presidents and other elected leaders who mimicked the traits of the opposing party, it was Ronald Reagan who defined the modern Republican Party as the party of limited government, self responsibility, lower taxes, limited government intervention in the free-market, a strong defense, and recognizing the need for the United States to play a unique role in global peace-keeping and maintaining a check on tyranny, while providing humanitarian aid to counties in need.
Libertarian: Libertarian is the most difficult to define as libertarians often where many hats. The word libertarian means "believer in liberty". Libertarians believe in individual conscience and individual choice, self-responsibility, and reject the use of force, rules, regulations, laws or coercion by government that would pose restrictions on liberty except to maintain law and order and social decorum. Libertarians, like those who align themselves with all the other aforementioned groups want individuals take more control over their own lives, but unlike the others, to do so without government mandates. They believe government programs soak up taxpayer money, are ineffective, and though well intended, are usually designed to protect us from ourselves. Libertarians believe in free-enterprise capitalism and a strong defense, but do not believe in meddling in global affairs preferring isolationist tendencies.
In part 2, we’ll look at why I contend we are looking at problems that need to be addressed in government from different sides of the equation, BUT overlooking the fact that in most all scenarios the problem is with an elusive and arrogant government that has ceased to listen to we the people. In nearly all cases it is “US AGAINST THEM”, the people against the government bureaucracy, and the frustration we all feel individually. I believe this is why we can no longer have meaningful dialog and/or debate.