Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scott Walker: an irresponsible leader

Ask anyone who has ever met him, and you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't think Scott Walker is a "nice guy." Even progressive writer John Nichols has said that he "liked Walker from the start," though he doesn't agree with his politics. Walker's amiable attitude has allowed him to be seen as a personable politician, the rare breed of politician who many believe actually works to help those he represents.

But make no mistake: a state managed by Scott Walker would be a horrible disaster.

The front-runner for the Republican nomination for Governor, Walker is a strict right-wing ideologue, the kind that is obsessed with privatizing government to its fullest. It's his hope to make Wisconsin more hospitable towards corporations, with the idea that more benefits to big companies will trickle down to the people in need.

We all know how that philosophy works out: it's that kind of thinking that has led to a wider wealth gap and an increase in the number of people living in poverty (about one in six Americans). The benefits of Reaganomics don't trickle down to anyone but those who wish to hold onto more wealth -- usually the wealthy to begin with.

To better understand the politics of Scott Walker, it may do us some good to know whom he has reached out to, to gain support for his campaign. Earlier this fall, Walker spoke at a Tea Party protest event in Milwaukee; he also defended that group's decision to disrupt town hall meetings, touting their actions as "free speech." Perhaps even more troubling, Walker sought the endorsement of ultra-conservative and former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin when she had visited Wisconsin earlier this fall.

Those are some pretty far-out associations that Walker is trying to court, representing some of the most extreme the right has to offer. Tea Party protesters, while free to exercise their rights to speech, used questionable tactics in order to stall the health care debate earlier this year (and have also laughed cynically in the face of a grieving mother whose daughter died because she lacked health care). The group has also labeled President Barack Obama as a socialist and a fascist, comparing his leadership style to that of Adolph Hitler's. Sarah Palin in her own right has done some pretty outrageous things, and represents the far-right's greatest hope for a presidential contender in 2012.

But let's assume that Walker's associations don't matter; after all, he's capable of coming to his own conclusions on issues. How does he perform as a leader? Recently, Walker vetoed a county budget bill that resulted in requiring Milwaukee County sheriff deputies and jailers to take eight furlough days -- this after Walker had criticized Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (and Democratic candidate for governor) for giving officers two furlough days next year. Walker claims he didn't think his veto would do that, and it's now unclear whether he can legally exempt law enforcement officers from taking so many furlough days.

If Walker wins the gubernatorial election next fall, can we trust that he'll understand what his vetoes will entail at the state level? He's already proven that he can't be trusted with the veto powers in a county government setting. So what assurances do we have that he'll be able to handle that responsibility, much less others, as governor?

Wisconsin doesn't need an irresponsible leader running its highest office. It also doesn't need the politics of Tea Party protesters, or Reaganomics, or Sarah Palin running it either. What it needs is a leader who understands the problems that Wisconsin citizens are facing, who understands how to help people directly, not through helping corporate interests. Scott Walker is not that leader.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tea Party protesters lack compassion, heckle grieving mother

At a recent town hall event in Illinois held by Rep. Dan Lipinski, several members of the Chicago Tea Party Patriots attended in order to publicly heckle the Democratic representative. They booed his comments, chanted "USA!" over his statements, and appeared to care very little for actually listening to what the member of Congress had to say about health care reform.

When a supporter of health reform stood up to talk about her daughter's personal story of a system gone wrong, it didn't seem to matter.

Midge Hough, whose daughter and unborn granddaughter died partly due to lacking health insurance, spoke candidly about the need for a public option and other reforms necessary to help this country. She spoke of her daughter's tragic ordeal, of having to leave one hospital to enter another, of having to lie to that second hospital about having insurance simply so they could be seen by a doctor.

If there was any sympathy for Hough and her family in that room, it was hard to spot. Some reports and eyewitness accounts speak of eye-rolling, of continued heckling, and even cynical laughter at the grieving mother's tale. In a mass email sent by an organizer for the Chicago Tea Party Patriots, Catherina Wojtowicz disputed the story as true, and called the Hough family operatives of Obama that "go from event to event and (cry about) the same story."

I don't like to label people based upon their associations to organizations. But the more I see events like these, the more Tea Party protests I view on the web, the more I'm beginning to wonder: are all Tea Party protesters this insensitive? Or is this political movement simply blind to the injustices of discrimination through pre-existing conditions, or injustices through economic hardships? Do they really believe that people should die because they once had a condition that needed medical attention, or because they can't afford to buy insurance themselves?

Isn't that the true definition of rationing of care? Shouldn't this inspire us to make drastic changes to the system? Or should we say to these individuals, "Hey, you had this problem once, so we're not going to treat any other expensive procedure"?

Say what you will about the proposed bills for health care reform -- I'll be the first to admit to you they're not perfect. But they are bills that, if passed, will give much-needed help to individuals who face these situations, or to those who can't adequately afford health insurance.

We can't afford to lose another life to this crisis. How many more thousands must perish because some have unwarranted fears over government-run health care? Take a moment to consider the lives of those most affected by the health care crisis we're currently in. If you still think reform is a bad idea, at least you've taken those families into consideration.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kirk Cameron's crusade to crush evolution as silly as it sounds

Former TV teen idol Kirk Cameron has been on a crusade for years to discredit the theory of evolution. As a born-again Christian, Cameron's beliefs compel him to speak out against the theory of how specie gradually evolved through genetic mutations over millions of years, resulting in the diverse population of animals and plant life we see today.

In recent years, Cameron's mission has had several setbacks: several school boards and state departments of instruction have rejected the teaching of Creationism and/or "intelligent design" alongside evolution in schools across the nation. Intelligent design believes that, "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

However, intelligent design lacks one basic element: scientific backing. While evolution isn't perfect -- there are several "holes" in the theory, critics would contend -- it does utilize the scientific method and a preponderance of data to back up its claims. And while evolution can't provide a definite road map of how humans evolved from the first single-celled organism, we do understand, to some extent, how such a process might have worked through natural selection. Intelligent design, on the other hand, provides no proof for a Creator playing any role in the process whatsoever. It's a theory that is totally dependent on faith; and while it COULD be true, there's no way to tell for sure without proving the existence of said Creator.


Within the education system, a greater problem exists. Certainly, people are free to believe whatever they want, from Creationism to evolution, and everything in between (or even outside). But when it comes to scientific studies, what should we do? What should we teach? And should we teach theories that have no scientific backing to them?

The answer seems obvious to many: we should only teach theories that utilize the scientific method, and therefore should only teach evolution in science classes. It should not be taught as fact, but as the best understanding we have available to us of how we as a species came to be.

Students that disagree should be able to do so -- and if they wish to opt out of that part of science class, they should be allowed that option as well. As far as teaching religious beliefs goes, a curriculum that relies upon such beliefs doesn't belong in a science class -- it belongs in a philosophy or religious studies class, or outside of school altogether if those options aren't available.


Cameron's crusade has evolved as well: rather than try to fight the theory head-on, Cameron and his supporters are handing out Darwin's book, The Origin of Species, during the sesquicentennial of its first publishing date. There is a slight twist, however: their version of the book includes a fifty page introduction that aims to discredit Darwin's work. People can read both Darwin's Origins and the group's introduction and come to their own conclusions, argues Cameron.

The introduction, however, includes criticisms of Darwin's character, including accusations that Darwin despised women, promoted racism, and inspired some of Adolph Hitler's beliefs during his rise to power in Nazi Germany.

Associations like these do little for the debate: indeed, the same can be done of the Christian faith. Christians have for centuries treated women as second- (and sometimes third-) class citizens; Christians have had members within their ranks who have used the Bible to justify slavery and racism; and Hitler's speeches and beliefs were inspired in part by his Christian faith.

Does this mean that Christianity is evil? OF COURSE NOT! What it means is that SOME within the Christian movement have been misguided, as have some within the evolution movement. Focus needs to be paid to the subjects themselves (Christianity or evolution), and not the purveyors of those subjects. The misdeeds of those in the past who have promoted either Christianity or evolution don't necessarily reflect the dogma of either.

We have a pretty clear understanding that evolution is close to being fact, at least in scientific terms. It would be wrong of us, then, to teach in a classroom an idea like intelligent design that is unscientific in nature. Evolutionary science is based out of what the name implies -- science. Everything else is just belief.

A short disclaimer: I feel it imperative to explain my own beliefs on this subject. I believe that evolution was shaped by God's hands -- that is, I personally believe in intelligent design. What should be taught in schools, however, and what my personal beliefs are should not be similar. I recognize my beliefs as just that: beliefs. I have no authority to push them onto students in a classroom environment, nor to suggest that they are fact. As such, I am compelled to support the teaching of science in a science classroom and the teaching of my beliefs elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

American's want health care reform -- some want even more than what's proposed

The American public is desperate for health care reform. Already passed in the House (with a public option included), the fight for reform now moves to the Senate.

But do Americans want reform that was passed? Recent polls can shed some light on this question. Most Americans in a recent CNN survey are unsatisfied with the bill the House has passed. 46 percent of Americans support the bill while 49 percent find it unsatisfactory.

But that doesn't mean that Americans don't want reform -- in fact, that same poll shows just the opposite.

The poll was broken down further by CNN. Of those who responded, 46 percent did support the bill -- but 10 percent (of the 49 percent who opposed the bill) thought it didn't go far enough. That means that 56 percent of Americans either like the bill passed by the House or want it to be even more liberal than it already is; only 39 percent of Americans think it's too liberal.

Though most thought that the bill passed wasn't perfect, the results of this poll are indicative of an American public that wants reform passed -- and passed soon.

It may come sooner that we thought. Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released the Senate's plan for health care reform. The plan would ensure that 94 percent of Americans would be insured (only 83 percent are today) and would create a public insurance plan that would compete with the private industry. It would mandate that discrimination based on pre-existing conditions be outlawed, and would cut the budget deficit by nearly $130 billion over the next ten years.

The bill has already calmed the fears of some centrist Senators, who were worried the overwhelming costs would add to the budget deficit. But Republicans have vowed to fight it, through a filibuster in the upper house of Congress that can only be broken with 60 votes.

Americans will likely be mixed about the Senate bill as well, again with some who think it isn't liberal enough. But the bills before us today represent the best chance we've got towards granting health care coverage to millions of uninsured (and underinsured) Americans. Necessary changes must be made, but we should support what we have before us right now. Call Sens. Feingold and Kohl, and tell them to fight hard for health care reform. If you're up for it, call Sen. Joe Lieberman, too: he needs to hear from all Americans that his plan to join a Republican-led filibuster is hurting this country.

Lieberman phone: (202) 224-4041
Feingold phone: (202) 224-5323
Kohl phone: (202) 224-5653

Monday, November 16, 2009

Despite strong book sales, Sarah Palin's flaws remain

Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's new book, Going Rogue, is already a best-seller. In a tell-all account of her life (as well as her time as VP candidate), Palin makes several claims that have been disputed by several prominent politicos and members of the media.

"Everything is someone else's fault," says one insider, who believes Palin failed to take responsibility for her miscues during the campaign. "There's no accountability. [Her book] is mean-spirited. But if you look at the record, it is what it is."

Perhaps that sort of critique should be expected at this point -- Palin is a very divisive person, and many from the left would love nothing more than for her political career to be over. But the comments from above don't come from the left. Instead, they come from the very people she worked alongside during the 2008 campaign, from a McCain campaign aide who says Palin's new book is full of lies.

That aide is not alone -- a set of emails recently released between Palin and other prominent members of the McCain campaign shows quite clearly that several assertions from her book contradict what happened in the real Palin's own accounts!

Within Going Rogue, Palin says that she was reluctant to wear clothes the RNC had provided for her and her family (costing hundreds of thousands of dollars), that she was forced to pay for her own legal vetting fees, and that members of the media -- most notably Katie Couric of CBS -- had treated her unfairly.

Couric's interview with Palin gained national attention, mostly for how terrible it was. The public, which had previously been enamored with her to some extent, quickly saw her as a bumbling ideologue, and in fact her polling numbers have slipped ever since.

In her book, Palin reportedly blames a lot of people for her misfortunes -- but rarely takes responsibility herself. This sort of temperament is why Palin will never be president. The mainstream has already rejected her extreme right views; but the American public have also traditionally rejected those who can't take responsibility for themselves, who can't lead without being petty.

Sarah Palin may be appealing to the base voters in the Republican Party. She's charismatic, she's unapologetic, and she keeps a strict conservative ideology. But those attributes won't convince the American people that she's presidential material.


Perhaps Palin's rise to stardom in the Republican Party is indicative of something more, of the major fissures within the GOP in recent years. She represents the wing of the party that refuses to back down, that refuses to listen to reason, and refuses to admit when they're wrong, not only on facts but also on something as simple as what they may have said in the past.

What Palin lacks (and others who share her attitudes and temperament lack as well) is humility -- the ability to look at oneself and say, "I'm not perfect." Like the troubled student who blames everyone else but himself for his bad grades, Palin can't acknowledge when she herself has done wrong.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

RNC health insurance promotes end-of-life counseling (otherwise known as "death panels")

Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee was embarrassed when Politico reported that the party had been providing its employees with insurance that covered abortion services. After all the hubbub that the RNC and Republican lawmakers had made over the public option covering such services, it seemed quite hypocritical that the GOP would pay for abortion through its insurance plan.

So the RNC opted out of that portion of the plan so that they would no longer be funding abortions (sort of). But later this week, another startling discovery was made about the RNC's health insurance provider.

It covers end-of-life counseling services. But by Sarah Palin and TEA Party protesters alike, those services are better known as "death panels."

Of course, end-of-life counseling is not anything remotely close to what a death panel would be. Within the health care bill passed by the House, as well as the RNC's insurance plan, there is no one asking elderly patients to define what their life is worth so that they can receive coverage.

End-of-life counseling is simply asking the patient, "What options would you like to take in the following scenarios?" It can range from wanting to go into hospice care to being a "do not resuscitate" patient. But all options, of course, are up to the patient (with the doctor's advice), and never allows a panel to decide anything for someone.

But that didn't stop Republican lawmakers -- RNC Chair Michael Steele included -- from calling these counseling sessions death panels. The term, meant to instill fear in people about the Democratic Party's health care plan, worked to a large extent, causing thousands to protest and disrupt town hall meetings across the country.

But how many of those same protesters will be upset with the RNC's insurance plan? And will the RNC opt out of this portion of their health care plan as well? Probably not.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sources confirm Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will run for governor

Politico and have reported that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will indeed run for governor in 2010, ending months of speculation.

Barrett is expected to make the formal announcement Sunday. Though highly speculated he would seek the highest office in the state, it still wasn’t known for sure what the Milwaukee mayor and former member of Congress would do.

But word leaked out earlier this evening from his own office. Barrett told city staff that he was preparing a run for governor, a Democratic insider said, and asked that his staff continue to work hard while he sought the office.

With Barrett in the race, it becomes a battle of Milwaukee-based politicians. Republican frontrunner Scott Walker (no relation to the author) is the current Milwaukee County Executive. A hard-line conservative, the two share very little in common besides proximity.

It should be an interesting race to watch. Be prepared, Wisconsin.

Catholic Church in D.C. considers dropping city contracts if same-sex marriage plan passes

Religion should never put a stranglehold upon a government or a government entity; nor should a government place unreasonable burdens upon a religious organization. But the Catholic Church in Washington D.C. is trying to do just that, effectively blackmailing the district in order to get its way.

The Catholic Church provides services to tens of thousands of people within D.C. through contracts it has established with the district. But because the city might pass an ordinance that would legalize same-sex marriage and other protections for gay and lesbian couples, the Catholic Church is considering opting out of the contracts, leaving the city and thousands of people who depend on the services the Church provides in the dark.

To be sure, the Catholic Church has some legitimate concerns. The city would exempt the Church from having to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. But the Church is concerned because, should the ordinance become law, it might mean that the Church would be forced to provide services in a non-discriminatory manner.

These concerns, however, don't justify the Catholic Church's actions. The set of circumstances here brings up an important question: Who Would Jesus Extort? It may seem silly to some, or maybe even offensive, but that is exactly what the Catholic Church in D.C. is doing. It's exerting its control over the city by refusing to provide services because it disagrees with a policy position the city has taken.

What else could you call such actions? The Catholic Church has a right to express its displeasure with the city's mandates, and to question whether the Church should be forced to help those it doesn't necessarily want to help.

But by threatening the city in this manner, the Church is acting in a very selfish way -- a path that was rejected by a certain Son of God nearly two thousand years ago. The Church has the right to do this...but somehow, from a Christian perspective, it just doesn't feel right.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Westboro Baptist Church: stay away from Obama daughters, soldiers' funerals

Is there no decency left in this country? Is everything that was once "off-limits" now fair game?

The Westboro Baptist Church, a religious organization notorious for staging protests outside of fallen soldiers' funerals (with signs like, "God Hates Fags!"), has come to Washington D.C. to protest outside of the schools where the president's daughters attend.

Known for holding extremist views (such as believing that all the nation's ills can be traced to homosexuality, abortion, and the acceptance of other religions as acceptable within society), the WBC refers to the Obama children as "satanic spawn" of a "murderous bastard" in its most recent protests. The church is also protesting at various locations in D.C. including the White House and the World War II Veterans' memorial.

To be sure, the WBC has the right to hold these protests, as protected by the U.S. Constitution. The right to free speech protects the rights of those the majority may find to be reprehensible or distasteful.

But so, too, do opinion writers have the right to find these acts immoral and/or indecent, and may express their displeasure by the same rights vested to the WBC. As such, this opinion writer will speak out on those acts.

Everyone has a right to express their views. They have the right to express how they feel about many issues. But the WBC has no decency whatsoever in my mind. To verbally assault the president's daughters, to attack any politician's children, is a step so low that it boggles the mind.

It's borderline threatening to do what this church has done, to stage events in front of the schools where the president's daughters attend, to call them "satanic spawn." What reason do they even have for doing this? What do they accomplish by putting fear in the minds of children -- not only in the minds of the president's daughters, but also in their classmates' minds as well?

The answer is simple: there IS no purpose to these events, in these staged protests. They are simply designed to bring attention to the church, to bring extremist followers to their doors. The president's daughters (and dead soldiers, for that matter) are props, as important to the protesters as their offensive signs and imagery are. The only purpose Sasha and Malia serve to these protesters is that they are the daughters of the president.

By doing something so offensive, so blatantly wrong, this church brings about more attention to itself. That is the real goal here: the WBC, it's clear to see, could care less about the Obama daughters.

It's disgusting how some can see this as justifiable, as serving some greater meaning. Whether you agree with the WBC or not on the issues, the violent words and imagery they project unto the president's daughters is wrong...and I worry for the souls of these church members.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Boehner confuses Constitution with Declaration, and grievances within fouding document to current events

At a recent TEA Party protest in Washington DC, House Minority Leader John Boehner stood before a crowd of thousands. Encouraging him to stand against the proposed health care bill in the House (which is now endorsed by the AARP), he spoke of a great founding document, the U.S. Constitution. Holding his personal copy of the document in his hand, Boehner recited the Preamble to the crowd:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," Boehner said, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

Without a doubt, many TEA Party protesters at the event felt a sense of pride in hearing those words.

Some, however, probably felt a bit confused. Indeed, the document that Boehner was quoting was not the Constitution -- it was the Declaration of Independence.

That someone in today's world may confuse the two (both documents date back over two hundred years ago) is not surprising. Equally as unsurprising is that a person at a TEA Party event missed the mark (protesters within the crowds have spread lies and misinformation for several months now). But what should worry some is that a ranking member of Congress, the leader of the oppositional party in the House of Representatives, got the two mixed up.

Nevertheless, the sentiment is what matters more than the error. Boehner was articulating what many TEA Party protesters felt: that they had a right to protest this government, to bring it down, and to defeat Obama and his Democratic allies.

The Declaration of Independence -- the real document that Boehner had quoted -- justifies just that. When "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are deprived from the people, then "it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it (government), and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

The Declaration indeed is a very rebellious document. But it's purpose was to address the grievances against the King of England at the time. Comparing those grivances to today's, and you'll notice something: the grievances of today are squat when you look back at history.

Patriots of 1776 rallied against unfair taxation (without represenation in Parliament), quartering of soldiers in colonial homes, dissolving of "representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people," unfair trials without juries, and general disregard for the law made by King George.

TEA Party protesters today are rallying against...taxes, high spending at the federal level, Barack Obama's birth certificate, health care reform...hardly anything comparable to the grievances of the late 18th century.

Whereas King George took away the livelihood of the people, took away their just rights, took away their right to purue their own happiness, Barack Obama is asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more in taxes (something most Americans support, and that father of the Republican Party Abraham Lincoln imposed). He is asking that we not fear high spending. And he's asking that we use some of our revenue to help put in place a health care plan that will allow people to keep their insurance, or to purchase a public plan offered by the government itself.

Oppose these policies all you want -- that's an American ideal that we all can celebrate, even if we do disagree with one another. Comparing the grievances of conservatives today, however, to the grievances the colonies had with King George, and you're out of line.

Barack Obama has done nothing to constitute the removal of government as we know it, as Jefferson suggested we do in times destruction to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." We mustn't be hasty, and we shouldn't over-dramatize the grievances we may have with the president, with some of us proposing an actual revolution to deal with them.

Disagree with him. Be emotional about it. But don't compare apples to oranges.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Joe Wilson asks: "If you like public option so much, why don't YOU get it??"

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), the Congressman who in late September cried out "You lie!" during President Barack Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, has come up with a brilliant idea in order to make Democrats look stupid on health care reform.

If they want to make a public option available to the American people, Wilson argues, then they should back it up by being required to have it, too.

"If this public option is so good, then why don't the congressmen take the plan?" Wilson stated, repeating a line that he says was asked of him several times by his constituents.

It's great political maneuvering by Republicans: if Democrats want a public option, their argument goes, then they should have to give up the insurance they have now through their employer (the federal government); if they aren't willing to do that, then the American people will undoubtedly have some misgivings about the public option plan.

There's only one problem with Wilson's proposal: it assumes members of Congress deserve to have the same health insurance that the American people have. Flip that around, and it means the American people are also deserving to have the same insurance as members of Congress.

Yet, you don't see Wilson or his conservative allies calling for all Americans to have their (the representatives') same health care plan. If Joe Wilson were really serious about his demand for Democrats in Congress, he should also consider buying his own insurance plan, the way many Americans have to do today. If he's lucky, maybe the American public would let him and his cohorts pay the average amount for an employer-based insurance plan for a family of four -- more than $3,500 per year, an increase of 327 percent over the last decade.

Of course, many more Americans might want members of Congress who are supporting Wilson's proposal to try paying for insurance themselves, without the employer-based number. After all, many employers are now dropping their workers from their plans. The average cost: above $5,500 (in 2005).

Still others might want Congress -- under the auspices of the Wilson plan, once again -- to go without health insurance of any kind, the way one out of every seven Americans must live today. Paying out of their own pockets, members of Congress would be forced to pay more than $16,000 per year (the average cost of health care coverage for a family of four). Or, if they're like real Americans struggling with health care problems, they might not take themselves to the doctors at all, hoping for the best when their children get the cold, praying that it isn't something more complicated than the "sniffles."

Joe Wilson shouldn't be asking supporters of health care, "Why won't YOU get the public option?" He should be asking his own party, "Why aren't we doing MORE to give Americans the opportunity to have health care coverage, the way WE have it?" If it's good enough for Congress, then surely it's good enough for America.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A year since Obama's election, the lies from the right continue

A year has passed since the election of President Barack Obama. In that time, many things have happened, each a noteworthy piece of the president's short history in office thus far.

But I'd like to take a moment here to discuss what hasn't happened, to alleviate the concerns of some out there who may have been worrying...

The rule of law has held true; the president has not disregarded any law or conducted himself or his office in a way unbefitting of the office he holds. In fact, the president and his Justice Department have kept in line with laws they themselves find to be distasteful, such as the Defense of Marriage Act. Despite Obama and his administration finding this law to be reprehensible and unjust, the president has made it clear that it will be enforced (perhaps, in a way, to push Congress to repeal it themselves, the legal way it should be done).

Democracy is still going strong in our nation -- today's elections are clear signs of that. A strong example of democracy in action took place today, with several key races going in favor of those who oppose the policies of Barack Obama and Democrats in Washington. In what many conservatives will label a decline in the president's popularity (not necessarily true), Americans should also see as proof positive that this president respects the will of the people in choosing their leaders.

America is not the socialist wasteland that many thought it would become when Obama took office. In fact, an interesting graphic (see image above) provided by the Atlantic Magazine shows just how socialist America became after the acquisition of GM -- less than a quarter of a percentage point (.21 percent of the entire economy). Obama has also made it clear that his administration doesn't intend to hold onto GM once it's back on its own feet again, and there hasn't been anything that would suggest otherwise.

The right to dissent, by an individual or a news organization, is still strong today: TEA Party protesters and FOX News commentators are indicators of that. Despite the administration's clear belief that FOX isn't actually news and should be disregarded, it's clear that the president has no desire to remove the network or infringe upon their right to report what they want about his administration, despite what right-wingers may want you to believe.

I bring forth these four facts -- the rule of law being preserved; democracy continuing unabridged; America's continued capitalistic tradition; and the right to dissent -- to make a point: the fears exhibited by the right over what an Obama presidency would mean prior to his election have not come to fruition. These fears have been continued well-into his presidency; but as we have seen a year after his election and ten months after he has taken office, the president has not yet executed his "master plan" to bring down America. He has not filled his White House with terrorist sympathizers; has not made Islam the official state religion (or ruined the rights of others to practice Christianity); he has not made the nation any less livable for white people; has not compromised our national security; and yes, his birth certificate is still authentic.

Despite all this, despite what has NOT happened in the ten months since he has been the chief executive of our nation, conservative commentators and extremists continue to believe that this president will bring down our country somehow, and continue to spread the hate of Barack Obama in a fervent attempt to bring down his presidency.

Is there no decency left in this nation? Are conservatives really that desperate, really that willing to do whatever it takes to gain power again, even if it means disseminating lies and inaccuracies? To hold a position is one thing: conservatism isn't "wrong" as much as liberalism isn't. But what IS wrong is the method conservatives are utilizing in order to win more to their side.

It is the method of fear in conjunction with lies. Think about it: if you believed everything the right has told you in recent months (or years), what would you believe? You'd believe that Obama was a Muslim and that he wasn't born in this country. You'd believe the health care bills proposed by Congress would create death panels, would give illegal immigrants free health care coverage, or create a massive debt (latest CBO numbers show a reduction in the deficit by 2019). You'd believe that ACORN was running the Census in 2010 (it never was running any aspect of the Census). That's just the short list.

Fear is a dangerous tool in politics today. It isn't being used exclusively by the right, but they are using it extensively. We must be sure that what we hear isn't fear-based misinformation, that the information we're being given is factual. Hopefully, more Americans will disregard the lies fed to them in year two of the Obama era of presidential politics.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NY Congressional race indicative of changing nation

A congressional race in upstate New York has political aficionados salivating at the drama it has created, with the outcome potentially changing the course of the Republican Party in future elections.

In what should have been an easy win for any Republican running, Dierdre Scozzafava, the GOP's candidate, has stepped aside due to endorsements made by several key party leaders for one of her opponents. The Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, has received support from conservative Republicans like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, both contenders in 2012 for the GOP nomination for president, as well as other prominent party heads. Even House Minority Leader John Boehner said earlier this week that he regretted supporting Scozzafava.

The schism allowed for the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, to gain some ground and actually have a chance in this race. With the two right-leaning candidates splitting the vote, Owens could have won as a Democrat in this conservative district, a feat that has never been accomplished.

With failing polling numbers, though, Scozzafava dropped out of the race, leaving the Conservative Party candidate Hoffman to claim most of the right-of-center voters. However, in a bitter twist, Scozzafava added even more drama when she cast her endorsement -- to Democrat Bill Owens.


In all likelihood, Owens won't win this race. But that he even has a chance at it, that a moderate Republican would endorse him over his conservative opponent, speaks volumes about the fragile makeup of the Republican Party today, as well as the political balance we see among all Americans.

It seems that moderates have no place within the party of Lincoln these days, that only hardliner-conservatives can make a difference or have a voice within the GOP. When conservative commentators harass Colin Powell for his moderate views, or when politicians must bend over backwards to appease their "party leader" Rush Limbaugh, it's clear that moderates aren't wanted anymore, are seen as undeserving of a place at the table within the Republican Party's proverbial dining room.

What happens then? The Democrats reap the benefits, gain more moderates and independents towards their cause, and become seen as the party of reason and common sense. Americans begin to realize that the unwarranted fears of a public option are not valid; they start to understand that thinking about foreign policy matters is better than investing in a potential quagmire, or that diplomacy doesn't necessarily equate appeasement as conservatives maintain it does.

Yes, the schism between moderate and hardliner Republicans is indicative of something: America is changing. We were never fighting a left-vs.-right battle, but rather it was a "who can win the moderates?" fight. Right now, the conservative-driven Republican Party is losing that battle -- Democrats are winning, are more in-tune with the American people (indeed, one in three Americans now consider themselves Democrats, with only one in five calling themselves Republicans).

America is turning left, albeit at a snail's pace. Don't believe me? Nearly three-quarters of Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy. Nearly three out of five support higher taxes if it means everyone can have health insurance.

America is moving left on social issues, too: earlier this year, in a CBS poll, 42 percent of Americans thought that gay and lesbian couples deserved marriage rights, while 25 percent preferred they only receive legal rights that married couples get, without the title (e.g. civil unions); only 28 percent thought that they deserved no recognition at all. The very fact that the American public elected an African American as president -- with more votes cast for him than any other president in history -- is also surely a sign of change in the politics of this nation.


Perhaps it is a bit much to draw all this out from a simple (yet very complicated) Congressional race in upstate New York. But the parallels of that race and this nation's changing attitudes are too much to ignore. We are seeing this across country: what should be a straight forward, Republican vs. Democratic race is amounting to something more, something deeper.

The mainstream Republican, thwarted by her once-trusted allies, is beginning to question her loyalty to that party. The Democratic majority is beginning to welcome that questioning spirit, to become more inclusive in its ranks. And the die-hard conservative Republicans? Though a vocal group, their presence in the discourse of this country is shrinking. We still hear them, but as time passes, more of us -- mainstream left and right -- are starting to ignore their calls.