Being “For” America

“Republicans made me a Democrat” – my mother said the other nite.  She was alluding to the blatant and unprecedented obstruction tactics the GOP is using, at great expense to our country, to stop anything Obama is in favor of.  Routine government actions (raising the debt ceiling), proposals that have always enjoyed bipartisan support (works bills) and common sense ideas are all being stopped, with the express, stated purpose of not supporting anything Obama wants to get done.  Even proposals originally created by GOP rank-and-file are now rejected by their very own. 

The goal isn’t to actually stop progress – that is the consequence.  The goal is to delegitimize Obama’s presidency.  That is exactly why Obama made a strategic mistake last week.  During an interview, he was paraphrasing his Republican friends who privately tell him, in effect, “yes, we agree with you, but we’re afraid of what the Tea Party or Rush Limbaugh will say.” 

In that statement, he gave the far right exactly what they want…knowing that they are bugging Obama.  That they are in his head.  Sure, he was stating a fact.  And he was paraphrasing people in the GOP, but in making that statement, he elevated their legitimacy from inert, though foul, hot air to actually being part of the political discourse. 

What Obama should have said instead is “I know there are level-headed leaders in the GOP who agree with me.  A voice on the radio can say whatever irresponsible, inaccurate thing they want.  But, elected officials have a sworn responsibility to govern…and serve their constituents.”  In one swoop, he could have challenged the remaining sane voices in the GOP and dismissed the bile that comes from the far right’s profiteers.

It is important in order to appropriately cast extremist, for-profit voices as the shameless hucksters they are.  More important now than ever before.  Because these hucksters have always been out there.  What is new is that these extreme voices now speak for actual voters…enough of them, in enough districts, that they have a voice in our government.

What is really happening is far more serious than overcoming the megaphone of extremist rhetoric.  It is a battle for the soul of America itself.  Rational adults may not want to admit it, but the extremist voices are now elected officials, ‘representing’ the views of their constituents…howsoever misguided they may be.

You and I, and most people I know, live in a forward-looking America full of promise and potential, faced with new challenges, to be solved with new innovations.  But millions of Americans live life looking in the rear view mirror to a time of blissful ignorance, devoid of the responsibility that comes with opportunity.  Getting to these voters, changing their heart and minds, I fear, is impossible.  As I…and so many others…have written about, most of the misguided live in self-insulating echo chambers that only harden when you approach them with logic, because logic itself has been demonized by their ‘sages’ – the very people Obama mentioned in his interview.

The only way to beat back the corrosive forces of retreat and division is, as Obama in another speech said, “by being FOR something.”   By being FOR America.

The most ardent climate change denier will jump at a well paying job in a solar factory.  The most fervent denier of Obamacare will jump at its benefits when they have a pre-existing condition, and they need insurance.  The forces of retreat are mired in self-contradiction, the best weapon against which isn’t persuasion, its self-interest.  

Does this mean we let those fighting against progress reap in its rewards…yes.  That is being “For” America!  So, let’s keep doing what we’re doing.  Inventing and creating and voting.  Let’s not argue with the inconvincible, let’s just offer them a better gig…they’ll come over soon enough. 


The Age of Ignorance

It’s hard to imagine how a sentence that starts “I am not going to let some scientist…” ends in any manner that isn’t celebrating ignorance.  Yet, those exact words were uttered last week by the ultra-right-wing radio gasbag that is a beacon of “reality” to millions of Americans.   Whether on his show, #1 cable news network or in everyday life, there is a frightening growth in a kind of celebrated ignorance that isn’t just unaware of facts, but rejects them outright.  More frightening still is the methods and tactics being used to promulgate such a dangerous way of thinking.

From the Trayvon Martin trial to immigration to climate change to even what it means to be a “real man;” profiteers have seized the bullhorn to drive millions to an alternate universe that is corrosive to the promise that is America.  Now, instead of debating real solutions to complex problems, we find ourselves defending facts themselves.  You can’t solve problems unless you admit they exist.  

Yet denying existence of real problems by demonizing everything from science to common sense is a surprisingly effective tactic of those peddling to the easily influenced.  You take a case that is clearly based on a massive racial divide that still exists in America and instead of dealing with the issue; you attack those who point out that the Martin case is about the race and say “why do you make everything about race?”  You take the real science and impending calamity of global climate change and vilify the science…and the scientists…by accusing them of a “war on business.”  You obstruct necessary action on immigration by acting like 11 million people will up and leave…if just we’d make them.  Heck, you take an erudite American male who treats women as equals, doesn’t stereotype and actually takes an active interest in his children and say manhood itself is under attack.

Harkening back to a “better” time is a bedrock of the conservative movement, as long as there has been one.  Take a bunch of people approaching retirement and point to the black guy in the white house, or the women, or the gays, or the scientists…or even your own…and say “its their fault your own life hasn’t turned out quite as you hoped.”  Go a step further to insulate your dark perversion by saying “it isn’t just their fault, they are coming to get you…and your stuff.”  So that anyone who tries to shine the light of reality is actually just out to get you.

This self-insulating echo chamber makes it is impossible to treat this cancer with logic and reason.  So much so that the latest tactic of the fright wing is calling anyone who disagrees with them a “low information voter.”  So that the ignorant aren’t just living in bliss, but also in the tragically misguided comfort that in fact they are the only ones in the know. 

In comedy approaching the absurd, the fright-wing has churned through so many of their own heroes, they barely have time to attack the other side.  From Christie to Rubio to Roberts, former “visionaries” are now “sell outs.”   So strict is the litmus test that George W. Bush himself is a RINO these days. 

It has always been relatively easy to unify the uninformed by giving them someone to hate.  But the outright rejection of science, logic, common sense and even human decency are more recent phenomenon in America whose origin isn’t some grassroots movement, but corporate greed, pure and simple. 

The gun and oil lobbies smartly recognized that America was changing and the impacts to their bottom lines could be devastating.  Rather than evolving into new industries or even defending their own practices, they exploited economic uncertainty to tap into a misplaced nostalgia for a “kindler, gentler” America when anyone could cruise around in their gas-guzzling SUVs, loaded shotgun and all, in some pathetic replay of the wild west.  The election of the “outsider” to the White House was just the catalyst they needed to cement uneasiness into action that feels grass roots, though it is so well orchestrated. 

Because now it wasn’t just economic unrest, but “America itself” was slipping away.  It’s the perfect execution because fright-wing media is willing to sell t-shirts and drive ratings on the backs of the unwitting and politicians will take every vote they can.  When Sarah Palin talks about the “real America” this is exactly what she’s doing.  Localizing this focus to where it has the most impact is how you get a House GOP that is divided amongst itself.  Its how you get 23 states with legal licenses to kill known as stand your ground laws.  Its how nearly 30 innocent children lost their lives at a school and there isn’t an indomitable national outrage to get the guns…NOW!

What would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad, is that the uninformed are equally harmed by those whose pockets they are filling.  And, it doesn’t end there.   Profiteering prevents real progress and real growth.  Trillion dollar industries, real safety and a narrowing deficit are all within our grasp; all if we just embrace reality.  Instead, renegade action at the state level and a reactionary scorched earth element in our federal government ensures inaction.  And inaction is the harbinger of mediocrity.

Always the optimist, I find great comfort in knowing that there isn’t real momentum here.  Rather, this is the last gasp of those clinging to a lifeboat in a churning sea.  It may be the age of ignorance now, but the rise of consciousness…and a better America…is coming soon…I surely hope. 


In the Shadows…Thoughts in Illegal Immigration

I am an immigrant.  Like my parents and my wife’s parents, and millions of others, I was born someplace else, and had the privilege to come here and become a naturalized, legal citizen of the greatest country on earth.  So, my first reaction to illegal immigrants is – how dare they?  How can you be a part of this country, when your first act is breaking the law to get here?

But I am also blessed to have spent a vast majority of my life in the sun-drenched, idyllic, booming paradise known as California.  I have seen first hand the immense impact that immigrants – legal and otherwise, have on our society, our economy and our way of lives.  That is what makes the entire debate on illegal immigration so complicated. 

You might hate that they are here illegally, but you can’t deny that your life is better because they are.  If you eat at a restaurant, or eat at all, if you have a yard or have kids, you have benefited from the low cost, usually high quality labor that millions of illegals provide to this economy.  Your fruits and vegetables cost less, your restaurant service is faster, and your lawn is neatly mowed…probably because of illegals. 

Not suggesting that illegals are only good for gardening, farming and labor jobs, but that many of them, without legal status, work in hard jobs for substandard wages.  Before we accuse them of stealing our jobs or taking our entitlements, let’s just remember that we all benefit from the unintended consequence of having millions of people here that are eager to work, but not entitled to our cherished workplace protections and wages. 

These, however, are not the reasons to provide a humane path to legalization for those living in the shadows.  What makes us great isn’t that we recognize cheap labor when we see it, its that we recognize that everyone that is here and working hard for a better life…is an American by their virtues, if not their paperwork. 

(As a quick aside, I find the whole “in the shadows” hilarious.  Come to any western state.  The illegals are, quite literally, on the street corners looking for work in broad daylight.  The only shadow is the one they are looking for to escape the hot summer sun.)

Failing to secure our borders and creating this untenable scenario where 11 million people exist in some second class purgatory is our failing, not theirs.  You can’t ask people seeking a better life to care about what Congress may or may not do.  Heck, with our current Congress, even legal Americans can’t wait for Congress to do much of anything.  If we secure our borders, and the flow of illegals stops, great.  Until then, everyone who gets here does so because we have, in effect, chosen to let them.

That is perhaps the most absurd part of the argument against immigration reform spouted by the far right.  That somehow if we don’t pass reform, then the problem will go away.  NO, it will keep getting worse. 

Do illegals abuse entitlements, especially in states like California?  Yes, of course.  As I write this, my physician wife is spending her Sunday seeing patients, many of whom are illegals on state-provided healthcare.  But you know what?  Legal immigrants and born citizens abuse our entitlements too.  Abuse of free services is an unavoidable consequence of having free services.  Should we clamp down and stop abuse? Of course.   But we should do it to stop all abuse, regardless of immigration status. 

Fixing immigration requires us to secure our borders and to provide a pathway to legalization for the millions who are already here, building American lives, buying American products and having American kids, despite the odds.  No other solution is practical, possible or, for a country of immigrants, permissible. 

Ironically, making illegals legal isn’t really a great benefit for the illegals themselves.  They are already getting free services…now they just get taxed for them.  And, it doesn’t really benefit us either…we just get to pay more for produce and pruning.  Isn’t it great to live in a country where we do what is right, even against our own self interest? 


The Desire to Win

In each of the last six Presidential elections, democratic candidates have won 19 states totaling 238 electoral votes.  Over the same six elections, GOP candidates have won about 150 electoral votes each time.  You need 270 to win the white house.  Simple math says that of the remaining 150 or so electoral votes, democrats need to win just 1 in 5 to win the White House.  GOP candidates need to win 4 in 5 – 80% of the remaining electoral votes – to win the Presidency. 

Two days ago, President Obama won 7 out of the 8 most populated US states and 10 of the top 13.   Two days ago, Romney lost women, voters under 45, gays, Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and tech voters…all by a meaningful margin. 

Four years ago, my MD wife – Mrs. No Funk is actually Dr. No Funk – and my tech CEO self voted GOP.  Two days ago, we voted for President Obama. Romney got 2 million FEWER votes than McCain did four years ago.   Eight years ago, Bush got 150% MORE Latino voters than Romney did.   And, Obama won self-described moderate voters – who at 41% of the electorate make the largest bloc of voters – by 15 points.   White voters have gone from 92% to about 70% of the electorate in the last couple of decades.  

Anyway you look at it, the numbers spell doom for the GOP if their reaction to Romney losing is “we need to get even more conservative, even more focused on our base.”  To win back the White House, the GOP is going to have to redefine its core, transcend its base and expand its appeal to assemble a growing coalition rather than a shrinking minority that is literally dying off with each election cycle.  Older voters are one of the few groups Romney actually won, so that last comment wasn’t hyperbole. 

Though seemingly daunting – certainly if you listen to the fright-wing talk-radio hosts – the GOP doesn’t need some gargantuan transformation to something completely new.  Rather it actually needs to embrace it own true roots in a voice that resonates with 21st century America.  After all, the GOP is the party of Lincoln.  Of Reagan’s big tent.  It was only with Obama’s election that the GOP lurched hard right, careening off the plateau of inclusion to the abyss of rigid exclusion and strict social conformity. 

Think about this.  On climate change, on taxes, on regulation, on bailouts, on abortion, on healthcare and on immigration, Romney’s views were to the right of Bush Jr.  To the right of Bush.  Really. 

Worse yet, Romney himself actually voiced the bigoted notion anyone who votes Obama is a taker, not a maker, and just looking for a handout.  That absurd view is incredibly costly to the GOP.   It bothers me not in the least that windbag radio hosts think I am a taker.  But those same talk shows, and their cult-like followings, are a huge liability to the GOP.  They form an alternative bubble, disconnected from reality, based on which fatally flawed decisions are getting made.

The actual reality is that there are millions of hard-working, productive Americans of all ethnicities, religions, ages and social views that want to earn success and generally be left alone to pursue their own unique definition pursuit of happiness.  These voters prize education and view science as the enabler, not the enemy, of economic growth.  They don’t want anyone else’s social or religious views imposed upon them, and they don’t want to keep spending money on foreign wars as expensive as they are fruitless. 

Most important, their desires to level the playing field, protect the planet and make world class education accessible to all are in no way conflicted with their desire to support sound fiscal policies which balance the budget, reduce waste and let everyone keep more of their hard-earned money.  

These voters are imminently winnable.  To win them over, the GOP has to want to win more than they want to protect their bubble.  The GOP’s biggest problem may be that they don’t want to let the different looking guy into their private club – even if he has paid his dues and makes them win again.  To win America, you actually have to like Americans…all of them, not just the ones that look like you.  Amazingly, for all his issues, Bush Jr. understood that.  He won the White House…twice.  

Given the closed primaries and the constant redistricting, it is unlikely that a more widely appealing platform will emerge from the party itself.  Rather, like with Clinton – whose moderate views were unappealing to the liberal base – a transformative candidate will have to emerge.  A candidate who lucidly espouses fiscal responsibility without preachy social policy or backwards views towards science and progress can be widely appealing.  Just look at the incredible support Ron Paul had from young voters.  

Such a candidate can win the massive, moderate middle so quickly; the “base” will have no choice but to fall in line.  Democrats showed up in huge numbers to vote for Clinton in ’96 and Obama in ’12 – even as they had moved far to the center.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, everyone agrees that both men are so driven by the desire to win; they’d embrace anyone who helps them do so.   Combining all those “anyone-s” is how you get a winning coalition.    The race to 2016 is already on, so time is short.  Thankfully, transformation begins with the desire to win. 


Triumph of the American Ideal

President Obama’s narrow victory yesterday was a huge win for the American Ideal.  In winning, Obama beat back the dense fog of disinformation and hyper-partisan obstructionism and cut through the acrid stench of hate-peddling and fear-mongering.  The campaign to beat Obama, which began the day he was elected four years ago, was fueled by personal hatred, unbecoming of our democracy, focused on beating the man, not his ideas.  Despite that multi-billion dollar effort, Obama won - not because of his policies or accomplishments, but because of HIM.  In essence, the man beat the campaign to beat the man.  Haunted by the ghosts of failures past, Romney lost a winnable election because he kowtowed to the demons on the extreme right of a party tone–deaf to America in 2012.  

Having voted GOP in every previous Presidential Election since I turned 18 (including 2008), I first came to Obama not because of his ideas, but because of the alarming nature of the campaign to beat him.  Our politics are designed to be a vigorous, even contentious debate about ideas and policies – not vitriolic, unfounded and even racist personal attacks.  The GOPs unfortunate reaction to Obama winning in ‘08 wasn’t to move forward to the epicenter of the evolving electorate.  Rather they retreated to their “happy place,” the bygone days of the Reagan era as if just by waxing nostalgic, they could recreate a world long gone by.  As a result, the Romney lost women, gays, Asians, Jews, Hispanics, Blacks, voters under 45 and the tech community by wide margins.  

Since day one, the anti-Obama groundswell from the extreme right wasn’t focused on a logical repudiation of his policies.  Instead, the visceral attacks were highly personal in nature, intended to portray Obama as an alien outsider who wasn’t even legitimately American, much less fit to be President.  The insanity typically reserved for the dark corners of internet chat rooms became mainstream discussion, legitimized by the hate-peddling profiteers of right wing media.  Echo chambers became echo stadiums and the crowds grew frothier and more frenzied.

Back in DC, rather than rejecting the foment, GOPers were energized by the base.  They tragically misread the populace, assuming the loudest voices were the most popular too.  Denial and obstruction became the new normal.  Reject everything.  Every policy, every bill.  Scorch the earth, filibuster, deceive…it didn’t matter.  Defeating Obama was goal #1, and rejecting everything was the path to the goal.  Previously Republican ideas like the individual mandate became anathema to the party.  Works bills that always enjoyed bipartisan support were branded as socialist ideas, following a “European model,” amplifying the notion of Obama’s “otherness.”  The impact on the American people was a non-factor, because the ends justified the means.  The GOP’s obstruct-at-any-cost tactics are well document in Ornstein and Mann’s insightful book:  It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. 

If it was the personal nastiness of the anti-Obama crowd that got level-headed independents to say “woah, this isn’t what America is about” in the first place, it was the GOP’s ‘reject everything’ approach that got independents to realize that Obama’s policies were in fact quite centrist, moderate and far to the right of traditional liberal democratic views.  Ironically, had the GOP not tried so hard to label Obama a socialist over the last four years, he probably wouldn’t have won over so many independent and business-minded voters in this cycle.  In my own case, the GOP’s unwillingness to even discuss Obama’s 2011 Jobs Bill piqued my curiosity into reading Michael Grunwald’s well-researched book:  The New New Deal, which chronicles the much-maligned stimulus bill, its bipartisan nature and its transformative and lasting impact on the American economy. 

It was important for Obama to win because of the level-headed, forward-thinking nature of his ideas.  It was imperative for Obama to win because the tactics used to defeat him could not be allowed to prevail.  Not by legislation or judicial action, but by the voters.  The American people had do – and clearly did – reject the notion that you can win the Presidency by losing the American Ideal that our greatness is best found in uniting around our common goals, not dividing along our personal differences.  November 6th was a triumph of those views, and a victory for all who hold them dear.  In short, a win for America.  


Dear Friends:  

Here are a few photos from our trip to Cape Perpetua and Newport on the Oregon Coast.  Honestly the most beautiful, natural place I have ever seen.  Enjoy and share.


Now It Gets Interesting

So that is that.  It will be Romney vs. Obama this November.  After all the bile and rhetoric and crazy-ass swings in the GOP primary, the likely nominee last April is the presumptive nominee now.

What Rick Santorum will never understand is that Romney is the right candidate this election season for one very simple reason.  Close your eyes for a second.  Try to imagine a single person you know who voted for Obama in 2008 voting for Rick Santorum.  You can’t think of one, can you?  But, do the same thing with Romney and you can – at least you could – imagine people tired of their economic circumstance voting for an accomplished, well-presented business leader. 

I say “could” because the improving economy will make Romney’s case tougher.  And because Romney sold his soul to the far right to get a nomination he could have had by standing on the courage of his own – more moderate – convictions.  Authors note:  In my blog, moderate is a compliment.  

Still, voters have short memories and Romney is a compelling candidate.  It’s admittedly hard to know what he truly believes anymore, but he is the right voice, perhaps the only voice – from the GOP to combat Obama given his own economic credentials.

Obama remains vulnerable because the economy – though improving – is volatile.  The Supremes will hand down a partisan decision on Obamacare in June, and…you heard it here first…there is a 5-point swing plus/minus on that ruling.   Finally, until Obama embraces the Simpson-Bowles plan for entitlement reforms, he cannot credibly speak about deficit reduction. 

Romney’s greatest vulnerabilities are in his own words.  He has said so many reactionary things, it’s hard to imagine those not hurting him.  If you strip all that way and focus on substance, his energy policy is utterly inadequate and his foreign policy is more of the Bush doctrine…”attack baby attack…”   

I am far from offering a prediction or my own endorsement, but I hope there are many debates between Obama and Romney.  The last year has been a farcical circus.  The next 7 months, I believe, will offer much more substantive debate.  Either way, it’ll continue to be the wildest election this country has ever seen.  Let’s see what happens. 


The Great Divider

Rick Santorum is not Ronald Reagan.  Reagan was a visionary who united us by inspiring us to become a better America, one who had the courage to change the world.  Santorum is a sanctimonious, self-serving, hypocritical, mean-spirited windbag.  Though he’s well on the way to his rightful home as a hate spewing “analyst” on Fox News, “preaching” to uninformed, his sinister intent must be shouted down, firmly and consistently.  Rather than uplift or inspire, Santorum actually seeks to divide us, flaming the fans of our basest fears, exploiting and expanding the class chasm in America to serve his own agenda. 

No place is this more evident than in his recent statement that a college education should not be the goal of every American child.  This is as dangerous and intentionally manipulative a statement as I have ever heard in my entire life.  Seriously.   I am honestly in shock that a candidate for President of the United States said this in 2012, much less 1912.

Sound hyperbolic?  Then consider this.  The unemployment rate for college graduates (4.2%) is exactly HALF what it is for high school graduates (8.4%) and that 100% difference is narrower than it has been in years. The economic cost of our higher education gap relative to other developed and emerging countries is $2.3 trillion per YEAR, and those are 2008 numbers, roughly 4 times our annual defense budget.    

Education is the closest thing we have to a guarantee of economic security and a better life.  Education is a strategic national imperative vital to our competitive place in the world.  Until just this GOP primary cycle, this was one of the few things we all - Republicans, Democrats or otherwise - actually agreed on.  Every serious, responsible candidate for office, in fact, had to have a plan for improving education and getting more kids to go to college.  

But Rick Santorum isn’t a responsible candidate; he’s a manipulative one.  He’s attempting to win a generation of voters mired on the wrong side of the economic divide – the “whites without college” bloc – by exploiting their insecurities.  He should present these voters a vision of America in which any child - especially those born into lower middle class families - can bridge the class divide through higher education.  

Instead, he calls Obama “a snob” for having the temerity to suggest that all kids should aspire to higher education.  Is Santorum some hardscrabble “up from his bootstraps” guy who works in a factory?  No.  He himself has multiple graduate degrees (a JD and an MBA), makes multiple millions and has multiple properties.  So, if Obama is a snob, Santorum must be a multiple snob, right?  

Are uneducated voters so brainwashed that a candidate can win support just by saying Obama is a snob, then doing and supporting the exact same things Obama does?  

In fact, given his own story, Santorum has an amplified duty to show working class voters a path to a brighter future for their kids.  He as a duty to enable working class parents to aspire to that bedrock of the American dream - a better life for our children than ourselves.  Instead he intentionally misguides these voters, by saying, in effect, ‘it’s okay, college is for “elites,” your kids don’t need it.’  I guess by elite, he means himself.  

Educated, affluent parents will push and prod their kids to get higher educations on their own.  The families who benefit most from a national focus on the importance and availability of higher education are the very working class voters whose children Santorum is damning to a lifetime of lesser opportunity.   The real tragedy of what he’s doing is that when the dust settles, and his 15 minutes are up, Santorum will go back to his own ‘elite’ life, making his millions, and putting his own kids in college.  But if even one family chooses to skip college because of his vitriolic, hypocritical rhetoric, the damage is done.  

Santorum is the worst kind of manipulator – one who ascended class through education, then uses his smarts to keep others down for his own benefit.  If Romney is a flip-flopper (he is), then Santorum is something worse.  A wolf in a sweater vest; a chameleon who has sold himself to working class voters as one of their own - caring nothing about their problems, just pandering for their votes. 

Of all of Santorum’s numerous transgressions: his preachy, overt religiosity; his inexplicable opposition to even the availability of safe sex; his transparent gay and Muslim bashing; and his unabated verbal assaults on President Obama; this one is the worst.  It is patronizing to hard-hit voters, tantamount to abusive of their children and unpatriotic to this country.  The moment we allow ourselves to set our sights on anything less than the absolute best for our kids, we cease to be a great country.  


Unbecoming of A Great Democracy

I don’t know what to be more stunned by – the ascending indecency of the GOP candidates’ attacks on Obama, or the hypocrisy-filled infighting amongst the GOP field itself.  In an election ostensibly dominated by economic issues, Jon Huntsman – the candidate with the best economic plan - got nowhere.  In a party that claims to value private sector experience, a career senator is beating an accomplished businessperson in the polls today.  And, in a party that attacks “the Washington way,” at a time when Congressional approval ratings are at historic lows, two career politicians are selling themselves as outsiders…successfully.

It’s gravely unsettling to know how easily economic adversity and demonic attacks can scare uninformed voters into abandoning common sense and even common decency.  This isn’t about a tough, hard-fought primary debating the issues of the day.  As recently as 2008, in the contentious democratic primary, the debates were about Obama’s healthcare plan vs. Hillary’s and when to withdraw from Iraq.   Today, the prevailing attacks on Obama are that he is evil or even alien and the questions within the GOP are “who is conservative enough.” 

Suppressing women’s rights, using religion as the basis for secular policy, calling your opponent “evil” and scaring people with “doomsday” scenarios from foreign opponents…we’ve gone to WAR with countries that do this sort of thing.  And, it’s happening in America, right now, today – not from the “crazy coot” down the street, but from major party candidates for President of the United States.    Just yesterday…

Romney… “I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious intolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama.”

Gingrich… “I think this is a very sober period, and I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history.”

Santorum… “We see a president who is systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian principles in this country.”

Why are we at this nadir in our democracy?  Because it’s easier to scare people than to actually solve their problems.  Virtually every level headed person on both sides of the aisle agrees that for America to meet her challenges we have to reform entitlement programs for long-term solvency, reduce and reinvent the military for 21st century conflicts, achieve sustainable energy independence and ensure economic superiority through education. 

Our challenges are easy to list, hard to solve – and patriotic Americans, including candidates for the highest office in the land, should engage in substantive debate about SOLUTIONS.  Yet the entire GOP approach is to “shut the door” on substantive debate, attacking the person and, in fact, making progress itself the enemy.

Instead of talking about education as a national imperative, you make a college education the enemy of common sense.  Because I have both, I see through this, and so should you.

You pit long-term sustainable energy – a requisite for economic growth and national security – against jobs and the economy.  If a single antiquated warship from Iran – from which the US gets no oil – in the Strait of Hormuz can cause a 10% spike in the price of crude, just maybe it makes sense to explore alternatives to oil.  Forget global warming, Iran can’t block the sun from shining or the wind from blowing across the plains, right? 

Rather than tackling these issues, the candidates are busy saying Obama is evil, un-American, an alien…whatever.  This won’t work for the electorate at large, but appears to pander well to the small but vocal minority of GOP voters on the far right who are too frightened or too stupid to ask the question “Okay, fine, Obama killed Roger Rabbit…how will you solve my problems?” 

That alone should shock us to realize the deplorable state of education in America.  More immediately, it needs to spark an outrage, starting with this blog, amongst us voters.  We must demand more of our leaders and of ourselves.  Debate substance till you’re blue in the face, but don’t engage in these…dare I say…un-American attacks on the person and the position.  While this tactic of unchecked, indefensible hate will surely fail at the ballot box, we must reject it at the public square as well.  We cannot let cowardice and vitriol become de riguer in our national discourse.  It lessens us as people, and it’s unbecoming of a great democracy.  


Losing One Of Your Own

I turned 18 in 1988, when Bush Snr. ran for President.  I voted for him.  I have voted for the GOP candidate in every Presidential race since then – 5 times in all.  And, in November 2012, I will cast my ballot for President Obama, voting democratic for the first time in my life.  Because I am part of the groundswell of voters saying “YIKES, what has happened to the GOP.”  The party of Lincoln has been hijacked by far-right extremists who will not only lose a very winnable election, but will fracture the party in the process.  

The far right is being pandered to by the candidates – except Ron Paul – at the expense of common sense and even common decency.  Turns out, for some Americans, their grasp on the American ideal is so tenuous as to be scared into reactionary positions by some economic adversity.   

You do this by being good at naming things.  The far right gets credit for is naming things.  They get a lot of credit for that.  In fact, they are branding geniuses.  They name things, make them real and then hijack civil discourse to making rational people defend the fact that they are not “unAmerican” or “attacking religion.”  

But, I have seen through that tactic and I am here to shatter myths about terms like “war on religion,” “being unAmerican,” and “lamestream media” and “class warfare” and so on.   The reality is, none of these things exist – other than in the circles that intentionally use these terms to scare an uninformed electorate into thinking “You don’t have a job because that guy isn’t christian” or whatever none sense.  So, let’s shed some myths: 

  • There is no war on religion.  Religious freedom is alive and well.  What there is, however, is hypocritical conservatives misusing the teachings of the Bible to scare people into thinking that their religious freedom is at stake because of who is in the White House.  The conservatives who do this are in fact themselves ignoring the key tenants of Jesus’ teachings, including not to stand in judgment, to help the sick and the poor, and to love your fellow man.   The people who are IN favor of religious freedom realize it has no place in our national political discourse.
  • There is attack on constitutional personal freedoms – and its by the far right.  The far right isn’t interested in real personal freedoms, just protecting those rights they hold dear – like guns, etc., while having the audacity to tell people who can and cannot get married and what a woman can do with her body.  The far right is attacking personal freedoms at the core level, hoping that by crying the other side is doing it, no one notices their own trampling of the constitution. 
  •  There is a lamestream media, its called Fox News.  The “mainstream” is the media that is most watched, which is Fox.  Fox’s shameless fear-mongering and right-pandering is lame and is polluting an American populace increasingly likely to get their news 140 characters at a time.  The fact that the arguably most elitist person on the planet, Rupert Murdoch, and his multi-millionaire anchors have convinced some portions of America that they represent the heartland while cruising around between NYC, London and LA on their private jets is hilarious and tragic at the same time.
  • There is an attack in civil discourse and there is class warfare, again, by the far right.  When they talk about “coastal” vs. “real America” or the “elites” in New York and Hollywood, while doing a quick head fake to Israel, what exactly are they doing?  These are thinly veiled code words for “white” vs. well, anyone else.  
  • The rights in our Constitution come with great responsibility.  The founders knew that.  The far right aren’t defenders of the Constitution.  They are abusers of it, for selfish, narrow-minded gains, pure and simple.  The far right wants to “right” to drive around their gas-guzzling pick up truck and drill for oil anywhere they damn well please, never paying attention to what the founder’s intended or what the Bible teaches – we’re all in this together.  What happens to the guy downstream happens to us ourselves.  The concept of shared responsibility is a bedrock principle of what makes America great.  
  • Oh and finally a memo to my gun toting friends on the far right who keep talking about the “coming revolution” and that they have the guns.  Go ahead and enact your Red Dawn fantasies of some mythical future invasion all you want.  And, if the Chinese send a nuke our way, by all means, grab your brethren and march to the mushroom cloud.  I’ll sit at my coastal house, with my elite friends and watch.  I feel safe in the American promise not because of, but in spite of you and your gun toting friends.

I am not a “democrat” or a liberal.  I am fiscally conservative and want a balanced budget and a pro-business, low tax government.  But, I am not going to sell my soul to get it.  I represent the centrist voter, and frankly, we’re tired of the angry vitriolic rhetoric masked as policy or progress.  We may be the “happy middle” but we’ve had it.  Obama may not be perfect, and he may want to raise my taxes (ugh!) but his focus is on a better America, not a frightening one.