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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Polarized Politics and How Republicans Can Earn My Vote

If the title didn't give it away, I'm stepping into politics again.  Paying attention to the news makes one intimately aware of just how polarized the political process in the United States has become; this isn't anything new, but it is something that I think we should be highlighting more and more when we try to talk about politics.  We're victims to it--the political process.  Even when we attempt (by "we" I mean a good portion of "everyone") to engage in "fair" politics, we inevitably are sucked into polarized rhetoric or thought processes:  namely, the "us vs. them" mentality that so defines American politics today.

But while I say the above with all seriousness, I do think there is a fundamental problem with viewing polarized politics as inherently negative.  The problem in the U.S. isn't necessarily that there is an unfair level of polarization which creates its two primary parties, but that the view of the political element here has been one that limits itself only to the "us vs. them" and not to the real question that needs to be asked:  if we must choose a side, which side is the one offering a solution?

Regardless of what we might think about the solutions proposed by Democrats, the fact of the
matter is that they are offering a solution, one that is fairly concrete, if not difficult to understand due to the monumental nature of it.  Democrats have, from fairly early on, offered solutions to the environment, the economy, healthcare, LGBT rights, and much more (immigration seems to be the next on the list).  Republicans, however, seem to offer a platform based entirely on preventing their "opponents" from doing anything whatsoever.  Where they have ideas, they are kernels, rather than full-fledged plans (though some plans have been suggested, and summarily executed by budget councils who pointed out that the "fiscally responsible" version of a bill will in fact prove to be more costly in the long run).

With all of this in mind, I'd like to offer a list of things that Republicans can do to steal my vote away from the Democrats.  Note that almost all of the following requests are, in some way, being countered by Republican lawmakers, lobbyists, and so on in this country:
  1. An economic policy that does not revolve around extending Bush-era tax cuts, but instead focuses on reasonable methods for creating jobs, protecting middle and lower class individuals, punishing business owners and so on for poor behavior (such as the banks), and preventing the continued expansion of the gap between the rich and the not-so-rich.  If trickle-down economics worked, then we would have seen it do so in the last twenty years.  As it stands, the poverty level hasn't dropped down to 25 million (where it was before Reagan) since the recession of the 1980s.  No such platform exists.
  2. A rejection of all anti-gay rhetoric and an acknowledgement that homosexuals are a) not morally inferior people, and b) deserving of the same rights as myself (a straight man), even in a country dominated by Christians.  Republicans need to acknowledge that gay people deserve the same protections as people of color, that denying marriage to them is a violation of their civil rights, and that a country that fights to prevent or destroy existing homosexual families is a country flirting with the edges of fascism.  No such platform exists.
  3. An environmental policy that acknowledges that global warming, whether caused by humans, or accelerated by them, is a reality and that regardless of our beliefs, it is a signal that we need to restructure our entire transportation model so as to usher America into a future completely independent of oil, foreign or otherwise.  It also must seek to protect, preserve, and maintain the pristine beauty of our various parks, ecosystems, waters, and so on.  No such platform exists.
  4. A social policy that readily acknowledges that racism, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, and so on, in all their forms, have not ended, and that we still have much work to do to protect people from the wrongs other people would do to them.  It must be a policy that seeks to mend the lingering social, economic, political, and emotional scars/echoes of a lost era.  No such platform exists.
  5. A healthcare policy that offers detailed and reasonable solutions to our healthcare problems in this country, that finds ways to reduce the cost of healthcare so that everyone can afford it, and that does so without resorting to the rhetorically empty phrase "let the private sector take care of it."  Republicans need to acknowledge that the private sector is not a sea of morally or ethically sound individuals.  No such platform exists.
  6. An educational policy that seeks to push us away from test-culture into a "hands-on" culture, that pays attention to and amends key issues in schools in regards to funding and race (i.e. schools with predominately non-white students are also often the poorest, or in the poorest areas, and, thus, are often under-served by the government), and that reasonably provides a flexible blueprint by which students can learn the necessary critical thinking skills that will foster mental growth and produce a generation of Americans ready to take America forward into a very competitive future.  No such platform exists.
  7. An acknowledgement that science, however flawed, continues to provide us with wonderful advancements in all fields, that creationism is not science by any stretch of the imagination, and that it is absolutely crucial that we build up a generation of able-minded scientists in all fields to improve the intellectual and technological value of America.  No such platform exists.
  8. A publicly stated refusal to support any bill, amendment, or public school district that seeks to violate the rights of its patrons and students by teaching religion as religion in public schools.  Religion is and should remain private.  No such platform exists.
  9. Finally, a public and private refusal, under any circumstances, to lie, misinform, misdirect, or otherwise lead astray Americans in any political/public engagement, and a refusal to protect or accept money from corporations, particularly when doing so means protecting the few over the many.  No such platform exists.
I am under no illusion that there are some Republicans who have plans for some of the things listed above.  But I'm not interested in one individual with an idea, or even a small group of individuals with ideas; I'm interested in the GOP as a whole and the platforms it is proposing.  The GOP continues to say that things need to change, that our current government is doing it the wrong way, but they rarely, if ever, provide reasonable counter-solutions.  How can you possibly know if the way one is doing things is the wrong way if you have no reasonable alternative?  This is like saying "you shouldn't eat meat, but I'm not going to tell you why, and I'm the only one with the answer."  I'm not going to beg you to tell me why, or to provide me with the needed alternative; I'm going to assume you haven't a clue what you're talking about and that there's nothing wrong with eating meat, because, if you had an alternative that worked, you would have come to me with it in the first place.  Empty rhetoric doesn't suddenly fill up when it is uttered.

Now the question I'd like to ask you is this:  what things would you add to this list?  Have at it!

P.S.:  Yes, I realize that some of the above items apply to Democrats too, and perhaps I will write a similar list for them in the future.

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  1. I'd also add:

    A concrete pledge - with an absolute minimum figure attached that was comparable or competitive to that given by other countries - of foreign aid to reduce world poverty. And, following this lead, an unswerving commitment to lead the way in international policies. To be first whenever possible, and immediately behind the first when not, in regards to environmental, energy, diplomatic, and economic concerns.

  2. I agree, although we should probably change the language so they can't manipulate it and do evil things with it. Just sayin'.