Oh, I Understand Plenty

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I honestly and sincerely swore I wouldn’t write about politics again this election season but conditions impress upon me the need, the obligation, the responsibility to speak.

This year, many commentators are wondering aloud how we could have gotten to the place we today occupy – an ignorant, narcissistic sociopath is a major party’s nominee for the presidency. And, let’s not be coy, I’m talking about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

In the course of the period of my lifetime, barely one-fourth of the total period of American history, politics have devolved to the level of apes – no, this unfairly devalues ape society. When I was younger, Republicans stood for something understandable and American – main street sensibility, small central government, an ethic of hard work, economic opportunity. I may not have agreed with all of it but I understood and appreciated it as a coherent political philosophy.

What today’s Republican Party stands for isn’t beyond my comprehension exactly, more beneath my contempt. Today’s GOP is proudly bigoted, ignorant, racist, sexist and materialistic. It is anti-American, at least as I understand and use that term.

Let’s get concrete.

A man of color has occupied the White House for almost eight years. Republicans have never accepted him as the legitimate president of the United States. They have done everything possible to thwart his due exercise of office. Indeed, they have tried to de-legitimize him at every opportunity.

How? By supposing out loud that he was born in Africa, that he is a secret Muslim, that he is a sleeper agent of a terrorist cell, that his election and re-election were illegitimate.

He’s been made out to be foreign. We’ve been shown pictures of him with a bull’s eye on his chest, dressed as a witch doctor, as Adolph Hitler, in minstrel-show blackface. The entire media apparatus of News Corp (Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, et al.) was purposefully arrayed against him in vile and personal attacks.

And why?

Simply because of the color of his skin.

The same rough-justice mechanism is now being deployed against the Democratic Party’s next standard bearer for the unpardonable crime of being a woman.

Here is the truth: American demographics are our destiny.

Some years ago, Republicans made a pact with the devil – the Tea Party and other anti-American extremists – in the vain hope of remaining politically and socially relevant. It was a fool’s bargain. Our country is changing, has changed. Any party that caters to white male resentment as its backbone is doomed. The fact is, Republicans are already dead; they just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge it.

And yet, TV pundits feign confusion about what’s going on in the American political landscape. As if they didn’t know.

I beg you, in the deepest way I know how, to say it simply, plainly and out loud: the Republican Party has staked its life on appealing to the basest instincts of a declining portion of the American electorate and it will die as a result. And it will die very soon. And there is nothing the party hierarchy or its craven media whore can do to stop it.

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A Real American Value

Earlier this week, I saw this (see above) posted by a friend on facebook. In the context of other messages he’s posted, I know it was posted seriously, that is to say unironically. He means to assert the message contained in the image, not poke fun at it.

So, let’s unpack what my friend seems to believe.

He believes that if I vote for the re-election of the president, I am either ignorant (wittingly or unwittingly), “a communist” (almost humorously anachronistic), or just generally anti-American. (I’ll leave for another time a discussion of what the generally accepted list of “American values” might be.)

What this image doesn’t say is what I believe: Americans (that is, smart, engaged, well-intentioned, good-hearted, patriotic Americans) can disagree sincerely and passionately about policy, assessments of fact, political philosophy, understandings of history and world affairs. We can argue. We can do so civilly.  We can support and vote for different candidates in elections and for or against ballot propositions.

I know a great many well-educated, productive, decent, hard-working Americans, some of whom are voting for Mitt Romney, some for Barack Obama, and some for other candidates for the presidency. I agree with some and disagree with some others but, either way, I don’t necessarily think those who disagree with my particular choice to be traitors, delusional and/or idiots.

And none of that disagreement means we’re any less American; quite the opposite. Civil public expression of the divergence of opinion is one American value I treasure greatly. In fact, any list of American values without it is, in this American’s opinion, fatally incomplete.

Don’t like who others are voting for? Don’t call them stupid or suggest you – and only you – have the keys to what it means to be a “real” American.

Discuss. Argue. Persuade.

In short, be a real American about it.

Let’s Grow Up

In a nutshell, here’s the pathetic state of political rhetoric in America. We’re good, others are evil. Obama is the new Hitler. We Democrats are at war with Republicans. I’m the only true believer. I’m the only fair one. Presidents control gasoline prices. The right man in the White House could prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Judging by the emptiness and stupidity of our political speech, candidates and their highly-paid consultants must think the American electorate is made up almost entirely of know-nothings and simpletons.

Some examples, by no means the most egregious, follow.

Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts:

“I believe America is an exceptional and unique nation. President Obama feels that we’re going to be a nation which has multipolar balancing militaries. I believe that American military superiority is the right course. President Obama says that we have people throughout the world with common interests. I just don’t agree with him. I think there are people in the world that want to oppress other people, that are evil.”

Anti-Obama website:

“Barack Obama, the first black president, proved to millions this year that he is either trying his best to lead the nation during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, or he is the modern-day incarnation of Adolph Hitler pushing his Socialistic agenda. One of the two.

In 2010, Barack Obama made a number of political compromises while still trying to pursue many of the reforms laid out during his 2008 campaign. Also, he was a totalitarian monster comparable to the perpetrator of one of the worst genocides in history…Barack is either a president who passed a comprehensive health care measure despite staunch opposition from powerful private interests, or a radical-Islamist sympathizer bent on systematically dismantling American democracy and eradicating all human liberty.”

James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters:

“Everybody here has a vote…If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to America where we belong…We didn’t declare war on them, they declared war on us. We’re fighting back.”

Rick Santorum, GOP presidential candidate and former US Senator representing Pennsylvania:

“It really has to do with what your principles and what your core is. I have a core…. And that’s a sharp contrast with Mitt Romney, who was for RomneyCare…. this is someone who doesn’t have a core. He’s been on both sides of almost every single issue in the past ten years.”

Barack Obama, president

“Lot of the folks who are peddling these same trickle-down theories, including members of Congress and some people who are running for a certain office right now, who shall not be named, they’re doubling down on these old, broken down theories.”

Newt Gingrich, GOP presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House:

“We paid $1.13 on average during the four years that I was speaker. When Barack Obama became president, we paid $1.89 that week…That’s right, President Obama has taken us from $1.89 to the most expensive gasoline on average we have ever had.”

Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts:

“Finally, the president should have built a credible threat of military action and made it very clear that the United States of America is willing, in the final analysis, if necessary, to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. Look, one thing you can know and that is if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon…And our current president has made it very clear that he’s not willing to do those things necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly.”

Nuclear Bullsh*t

Not long ago, as reported by ABC News, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized his opponent, president Barack Obama, for not doing enough to stop the Iranian development of nuclear weapons.

“If Barack Obama gets re-elected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon…and I’m not willing to allow your generation to have to worry about a threat from Iran or anyone else that nuclear material be used against Americans,” Romney said.

I’ve written previously about the hypocrisy of much political campaign talk about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the ability of this (or any) American president to influence its eventual (and inevitable) outcome. I’ll say it again: short of bombing it to the Stone Age (which no one can seriously advocate), the American president can do nothing to prevent any other highly-motivated and highly-resourced country from developing nuclear weapons. The science is known, the materials and technology are available, the expertise exists. Sanctions (economic, trade, or otherwise), diplomatic action, even targeted military action will not prevent anything. These steps can only make nuclear weapon development take longer and be more costly, so, at best, temporarily forestall the inevitable.

So, Romney can say he won’t “allow” Iran to have nuclear weapons all he wants; it’s merely campaign ‘sound and fury.’ And it’s mighty telling that, when pressed, Romney hasn’t been able to articulate a concrete path toward the stance he suggests Obama can’t deliver. Know why? The path doesn’t, in fact, exist.

In this election season, can’t you at least be honest about that one little thing, Mitt?

It’s Ohio

A caveat: a lot can happen between now and election day (November 6).

That said, I have done the math a few different ways, and if the presidential election goes the way I think it will, this will be fairly close, and hotly contested Ohio will be the deciding state.

Here’s how I think it happens: Obama carries the northeast, pretty much outright, and the west coast. With some of the upper midwest, he gets to 266 electoral votes, just shy of the 270 the winner will need. Romney carries the southeast, some of the midwest, the Plains and mountain states. That gets him to 254 electoral votes.

Ohio has a delegation of 18 electors. Whoever carries Ohio will win; I don’t believe either candidate can win without carrying Ohio.

So, if you want to know who will occupy the Oval Office starting in January 2013, keep your eyes on the Ohio polls.

Plain As The Nose On Their Faces

Not many people know it, but I have a super power. I can see through words to see the intent behind them, in political speeches, campaign advertisements, OP/EDs.

Well, to be honest, it isn’t all that super. It comes from about 25 years of writing speeches and coaching people. But still, it’s pretty cool.

Today, The New York Times published an “obtained” copy of a storyboard for an anti-Obama TV ad produced by Strategic Perception, a political public relations firm founded by Republican ad man Fred Davis, and funded by Chicago Cubs owner and long-time conservative cause bankroller Joe Ricketts. The link to it is here.

Looking it over gave me a clear “ah-ha” moment. I know how the Romney campaign is going to work, what buttons they’ll try to push and to whom.

You can flip through all the pages of the storyboard, but I’d like you to pay special attention to the photographs of the actors/models who stand in for “real” Americans. See the character types they represent. Notice their ages, ethnicities, apparent walks of life. Notice, too, who’s missing.

Get it? Isn’t it perfectly obvious? Do you see now how these political consultants conceive their candidate’s path to victory in the election?

I see you there, Fred, hanging out with your dark-suited, white-shirted pals. You’re not so clever. I know just what you’re thinking.

Why Marriage?

There are many purposes served by marriage, the public declaration of the permanence of love between two people: social stability, the encouragement of certain sets of behaviors, provision of loving and positive infrastructure for children and families, financial and legal benefits, among them.

Why should one class of Americans be allowed to avail themselves of these benefits and not others? Specifically, why should only heterosexuals be allowed to marry?  Further, why should our society as a whole be deprived of the strength and goodness arising from same-sex marriages?

Here are my thoughts in defense of marriage, posted previously on this blog. Briefly, based on my personal experience and observation, I believe couples of all types seeking to be married should be fully supported in that goal. And now, it seems, our president does too.

Let certain states express bigotry, fear and loathing, if they feel so compelled. There is no defensible justification, there is no positive social purpose served by denying the right to marry to anyone – not on the basis of any single religious philosophy, not on the basis of race, not on the basis of gender, not on the basis of sexual orientation or preference.

If marriage is to exist at all, it must exist for all who desire it.