Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Return to Sanity

In this strange political season, I’m a big supporter for a return to sanity. (And today, thousands are gathering in Washington, DC, for Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.)

This is perhaps best known as the season of the angry voter. The rise of the Tea Party movement is marked by many who are angry at the system, and often angry at both political parties. Some are angry about illegal immigration. Some are angry at the big bail-outs. Some are angry at the incredible amount spend on the stimulus. Some are angry about the new federal health care bill. Some are angry at Obama. Many would vote “all of the above.”

In 2008, the Democrats rose to power by sweeping the White House and majorities in the House and Senate. In large part, their victories can be linked to anger, too. Anger at the big spending of the Republican Bush administration in the middle added to traditional Democrat supporters who were angry at the war-waging policies of the Bush administration, loss of liberties and other conservative policies. In many instances, the Bush Administration wrapped its policies in the flag, so if one were a true patriot, one would not oppose their policies.

Well, in all of this, I fear this great democracy is losing its tradition of democracy. What happened to debating the issues of the day, without demonizing your opponent?

In the early days of the tea party, we heard about angry people coming to meetings with their representatives and shouting down others. Then there were the unrelentless rants of right-wing media mega-mouths, such as Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck. Later, Sarah Palin, a once-interesting and different politician now turned party-line mouthpiece and Fox News employee, was added to the chorus. The conservative media chorus takes its cues from the policies that have traction with the angry -- immigration, unemployment, high taxes, big spending, big government – and blend these with a not-so-subtle appeal to outright racism, namely, President Obama and the brown-skinned immigrants, to name a few.

Injected with typical conservative policy are misrepresentations, conspiracy theories, and outright lies:
  • “Death panels” in the health reform bill
  • Pres. Obama was not born in the US \
  • Pres. Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian
  • The democrats want to round up guns and gun owners
  • Obama has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.” (Glen Beck on Fox News)
  • The director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, "has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population." (again, Glen Beck)
  • A claim by Glen Beck that he could not debunk theories that concentration camps are being built by the Obama White House as part of a conspiracy to establish totalitarian rule in America According to Beck, "If you have any fear that we might be heading toward a totalitarian state, look out. There is something happening in our country and it ain't good."

What this is resulting in is a number of candidates who are intolerant of compromise or negotiations with those with opposing ideas. There are now a series of litmus tests – including cutting taxes, strong measures against illegal immigrants, abortion, denying the occurrence of global warming – that candidates must pass. A Republican who might believe that some environmental-friendly policies may benefit businesses is labeled a RINO (Republican in name only).

This is very much like the ideological purity that occurs in fascism or a fundamentalist religious sect. Many of those shouting call Pres. Obama a fascist, but I find their methods to be more typical of fascist states where the people are fed an unending litany of intolerance, lies, and hate. All with no opportunity to think for oneself.

But despite my fatalistic assessment, I still have hope. I hope for a return to sanity!