I am not a Republican.
I believe in marriage between a man and a woman. I am a gun owner. I am a senior manager in the middle of corporate America. I detested the Occupy Wall Street movement. I believe unions stifle business growth and drive productivity out of the marketplace. My car is powered by a gas guzzling V-8 engine and I do not cringe every time I fill up the tank. I have read Atlas Shrugged. I liked it so much I read it again. I am a staunch and practicing Mormon. I believe in conservative fiscal policy and am very worried about the near $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities this country faces in the next 75 years. I am a big fan of Reagan. I don’t believe CEOs are paid too much money. I am pro-life.
I am still not a Republican.
I have been called many names by my Republican friends and twitter followers. Socialist. Communist. Liar. Ideologue. Big government. I am none of these. The uses of such phrases do not make me upset because it helps identify a more disparaging element; the Republican Party has lost their identity and justify their positions with disingenuous arguments and logical fallacies. That’s not to say that Democrats are innocent in this regard; it’s just the tolerance for differentiated thinking is so far rooted out of the mainstream GOP. Republicans try to use the same type of litmus behavior to identify Democrats, which is challenging given the diversity of the party. Even worse, there are high levels of justification for twisting facts, leveraging blatant dishonesty, and unethical practices with the belief that the end justifies the means.
Let me provide an example. Currently there are several court cases being pushed through the justice branch of government involving ID cards to stop voter fraud. This sounds reasonable on the surface. However, when you dive into the drivers and sponsors of the legislation you realize the extensive partisan backing and maligning of facts. There have only been 2,068 reported cases in which 10 have been found guilty of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. Yes, you read that correctly, 10. Yet the Republican Party has sponsored a dynamic effort to pass voter laws which by all accounts make it tougher for the poor, students, and minorities to vote; all key demographics of the Democratic Party. Faced with questions around the ethics of their actions a typical response includes, “well, these are only the cases we know of…Who knows how many there actually are.” Uh huh, Right.
Let me provide another example. I watched the vast majority of the Republican National Convention this past week. Although I fully intended to hear weak arguments and faulty logic (I expect the same thing next week at the DNC), I was leveled by the blatant disregard for statements that even remotely looked anything factual. It became so bad that even Fox News wrote an article calling Paul Ryan out for his deceptive spin. Mr. Ryan blamed President Obama’s policies for closing an auto factory that was actually closed under Bush. He blamed President Obama for not implementing the same Simpson-Bowles budget recommendations that he led the charge to kill. He called out President Obama for seeking $716 billion in Medicare cuts that were also built into his budget. He also charged President Obama for our credit rating drop which was due to congressional Republicans using the debt limit as a bargaining chip.
This type of dishonest debate has emerged as the center piece of almost all of my interactions with the right. I have a family member that rails on the parasitic nature of the poor, yet their life was extended through the saving grace of Medicare curing 10 years of unchecked cancer at a ridiculous cost to taxpayers. I know of several Republican Congressmen who blasted the pet projects of President Obama’s stimulus package, yet showed up at the ribbon cuttings to take full credit. Almost every Republican I have spoken with derides socialism yet supports the military, the biggest socialist program in the US. These same individuals also drive on public roads, send their children to public schools, visit national parks, and support the police and fire departments. The mind-numbing-repetitive-labeling of any opposing idea as liberal or socialist completely disregards the meanings of the word and enshrines the speaker in a cloud of ignorance.
Republicans attack welfare for the poor but support bailouts for the rich. They sit on the pedestal of pro-life which diminishes once the embryo takes their first breath. They hide behind a shield of fiscal conservatism but have no idea what is driving the federal budget. They also live in Utopian world of problem solving. Yes I agree, cutting off welfare might entice the poor to work, but it will also drive up crime and promote Darwinism consequences. This type of theoretical thinking is why I do not support Ron Paul – I love his ideas – but his concepts are too drastic to be reasonable.
What annoys me most about the Republican rhetoric is the demonizing (not the opposition) of President Obama. The right’s frustration with President Obama has little to do with what he has not done, but more with what he has. In 2008 President Obama campaigned on single payer healthcare reform, student loan reform, housing reform, stimulus spending, and reduction in the annual deficit. He did not follow through on a secret agenda after election but passed the exact legislation campaigned on. Where President Obama fell short had more to his compromising spirit than his polarizing agenda. He passed healthcare reform, but instead of single payer, he contracted private insurance companies similar to Romneycare. He did not cut the deficit in half because he extended the Bush tax cuts, a broken campaign promise. Instead of trillion dollars of stimulus spending he scaled back the package to include $300 billion of tax cuts. Each of these changes favored the right, but you would never know by their posturing.
Now I am sure several Republicans will read my arguments and cry foul; that I am engaging in the exact same stereotyping I am calling out. Fair enough. However, the levels are not even in the same ballpark. The last two years of congressional leadership is an embarrassment to American politics. The House floor has voted 31 times to repeal Obamacare knowing the bill would never leave the chamber. The Senate has filibustered even the most contrite votes including lower court judge appointments. Yet this is an unethical strategic advantage for the Republicans. Republicans hide behind the smaller-government-works-better mantra driven by legislative inefficiencies that they create.
It’s not that I am fundamentally opposed to the ideas shared by Republicans; it’s more that I am opposed to the way they share. Even within party, dissension from core platforms brands the iconic label of RINO (Republican In Name Only) which is the scarlet “A” of the Republican party. Such weeding out of centrist ideas fundamentally shifts the political balance and swings the pendulum too far to the right. This type of political rhetoric will continue to cost the Republicans seats in Congress, much like the last election (NV and DE). Of course any opposition to Republican ideas always results in the same typical hyperbole -- liberal, socialist, or even a liar -- which I never take personally.
Just don’t call me a Republican.
Post by Joseph M -
Sadly, I must put Condoleezza Rice's excellent speech to the side and take aim at Congressman Paul Ryan's 30-minute roller-coaster ride of soaring platitudes, sharp condemnations, and sad flat metaphors. I like metaphors; I like to use them, read them, and hear them, but Paul Ryan proved to be a very poor man's Neal A. Maxwell when it came to spinning a yarn and using a metaphor. (Seriously, his "ships sailing" line came straight out of a worn-out Barry Manilow song.)
That said, the RNC loved the guy. The cheering and woo-hooing at his speech caused a few light-emitting diodes on my flat-screen TV to blow out. But really, if we Mormons had any question about Ryan, he settled it with his admission that his iPod playlist "starts with AC/DC, and ends with Zeppelin." Ever since we attended youth conference in the 1970s, we've all known that AC/DC stands for "Knights in Satan's Service," and that the song, Stairway to Heaven, has backmasking - (For proof, I tried to play it backwards on YouTube, but I couldn't find the reverse button.)
But in short, Paul Ryan's speech was mean-spirited and nasty. I guess this is the standard operating procedure: the VP nominee is supposed to be the bulldog, while the P nominee is the nice one. But Ryan's sarcasm and coloring of Obama's message of hope and change as "fading" and "tired" grated on me and affirmed what I already knew: I will not be voting for Paul Ryan when he runs in 2016. He even took a stab at the youthful electorate who came out en mass to vote for Obama in 2008: “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.” He also stated that "you have not failed, your leaders have failed you." But these lines do not acknowledge the deception that Romney and Ryan have nothing in their bag of Trix to assist young graduates beyond cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing government programs that help the poor.
Ryan went on to state that, "none of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us." In saying this, he denigrated the real experience of people in poverty; he somehow believes that utilizing the safety net leads to a decrease in freedom rather than a decrease in suffering for families and children. Ryan demonstrates this disdain for the poor with his proposed $1.4 trillion cuts in Medicaid. And to clarify, Medicaid is the insurance for children in poverty and adults with disabilities. Thus, Ryan and Romney hope to diminish the already-lacking health care program for people in poverty. Apparently ending Obama's healthcare expansion is not enough for them - he said that Obamacare has "no place in a free country," and I suppose this exposes what Republicans think of our northern neighbors: Canadians, with their socialized medicine, are all lazy slaves under the fetters of a government intrusion in their lives.
So here is my problem with the whole speech: Paul Ryan lies. I am getting tired of this. The stories continue about Obama raiding Medicare; I don't even remember hearing this line of attack before Romney picked Ryan, the real Medicare cutter. But it is a cunning move; if you are weak in an area, then attack your opponent in this same area to cover your own backside. The $716 billion is an actual cut to Medicare recipients under the Ryan plan, but it consists of cuts to medical providers under the Obama plan. So now Paul Ryan presents himself as the defender of Medicare, and he even enlisted his "role model" mother as the Floridian face of his plan to save old people. But in reality, he is devising a plan to usher in a new era for our seniors: Vouchercare.
And I am tired of all the "you did build that." This obfuscates the meaning behind President Obama's original statement, and it pushes American individualism (every man for himself!) to the extremes of ugliness.
The deception doesn't stop there: Ryan used the example of the closure of a GM plant in Wisconsin to illustrate the failure of Obama's policies; he even related how Obama spoke at the plant in 2008 and pledged to work to keep it open. The part that Ryan did not mention: the plant closed in December of 2008, a full month before Obama's term began. How can this anecdotal evidence be interpreted as anything but deception when Obama cannot possibly be held responsible for a plant's closure that happened before he took office?
The following are a few more quotations from the VP nominee that float precariously on top of a half-truth or a full-blown lie:
"(Obama's presidency) began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America." What Ryan fails to acknowledge is his party's and his own obstructionism in getting work done in congress to have prevented this downgrade.
"(His presidency) began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct." The housing market continues to improve; it is being corrected, and for Ryan to state otherwise is false.
"He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing." This is misleading because Ryan himself opposed Bowles-Simpson’s report.
Read this report from the Washington Post about the falsehoods in Ryan's speech. I need to sleep.
But in closing: Paul Ryan posed this question - "Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?" What Ryan doesn't understand is that we asked for this. America voted for Obama because he promised us Obamacare. Obama did exactly what he said he would do, and his has been a presidency of fulfilled commitments. We don't want Ryan's kind of change, we want the change that Obama promised and has delivered on. Four years later, it may sound trite, tired, or faded to Ryan, but for us, it is still change we can believe in.
So as McKay Coppins pointed out on BuzzFeed, "Within minutes of Mitt Romney officially winning the Republican nomination, the Facebook page for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a blunt reminder that it is “politically diverse.” And so I will attempt to express that political diversity with my own comments about the first day of the Republican National Convention. See below for the LDS Church's new video.
In case you didn't happen to watch the RNC's first day, (yesterday having been scrapped for fears that Hurricane Isaac would wipe out Tampa Bay like what Vesuvius did for Pompeii,) then you didn't miss nothing but a lot of hot air blowing around. A bunch of people spoke including John Boehner who proved that the swirling special effects behind his head can be more interesting than all his "a guy walked into a bar" jokes that never got to the punchline. And then the pink governors on parade began: the Governors of Ohio, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Virginia all got up there as if to remind their constituents, "You voted Republican once, why not again?" Also we heard from Santorum, and he was only interesting because everyone knew he'd say something crazy. They also showcased the engaging Mia Love - (have you heard of her yet?) But then there was turncoat Arthur Davis. He is an anomaly to me. But considering how he flipped from being an Obama supporter to stumping for Romney in just four years, maybe he is the perfect speaker at a convention to nominate the biggest flip-flopper of them all.
Well, if you wanted to hear what Ann Romney had to say, it started like this, "This is gonna be so exciting!" And I wondered... what? the convention? a Romney presidency? or her talk? (She is Mormon, so it was most definitely a talk.) But let me get all my snark out of the way: I couldn't decide if Ann Romney sounded more like Sarah Palin (I LOOOOVE YOU WOMEEN!) or a second counselor in a bygone-era RS Presidency. (Have you noticed that some of the women speakers in General Conference smile all through their talks? Ann Romney sure has.) But her smiling laughter and awkward guffaws aside, I am bothered that she spent so much time talking about the poor and the downtrodden of America, when her husband's plan to help these people is to raise taxes on the poor and middle class and slash taxes for the rich, with some expectation that these wealthy Americans will hopefully create more jobs (or give to more charities) and trickle that wealth on down like rain water through a sewage ditch. (Click here to see my last trickle-down economics metaphor.)
However, Ann Romney appeared to be genuine in her praise for her husband. Of course, she has an incredible amount of love and respect for him. She has seen his hard work and dedication as a leader in church and as governor of Massachusetts. At one point, she said of Romney, "No one will work harder, no one will care more, and no one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live." She also spoke of Mitt's passion for serving, and how he doesn't brag about it: "Mitt doesn't like to talk about how he's helped others, because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point."
Clearly, Ann Romney was on the stage to humanize her husband and to show America the side of him that only she might see. Well, I guess I wasn't expecting her to seem so awkward herself. I guess that both Mitt and Ann are a little on the socially inept end of the spectrum, (hence, their "real marriage"). I will be interested to see how "America" (whoever that is) views her address.
The night closed with Governor Christie, who proved he isn't as likable as he you'd imagine him to be, and who also proved that he was running for the President of New Jersey (or of the USA 2016). But I'm not complaining; his speech spurred the instant-classic moment of the evening: a guy in the convention hall gets projected onto the screen behind Christie while yelling, "YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!" Wrong convention, wrong candidate. (Watch for him at 17:17.)
And Condoleezza Rice looked so tired. Did somebody force her to be there? By the way, if you check back tomorrow, you may or may not find a review of day 2. We may want to go to bed early, and unlike Condi, nobody is forcing us to show up.
As this year's political race between Obama and Romney gains traction in the media, on social networks, in churches, and elsewhere, there are Mormons who, while having nothing against Romney personally or religiously, have decided to vote for Obama. The following is from a Mormon (not me) who supports Obama and the reasons why:
I am voting for Obama. I voted for him in 2008, and I believe that he was the best candidate at that time. In my opinion, he is again the best candidate for president this year. Here are my key reasons:
In my opinion, Obama has been the greatest foreign policy president we have had since Ronald Reagan. He has largely shifted America's foreign policy focus to Asia where it rightly belongs, reduced resources in Iraq, plotted an escape route out of Afghanistan, managed the Arab Spring revolutions better than I ever though possible, strengthened international resolve towards Iran, reduced tensions along the Mexican border, corralled India in a tighter alliance, and done all of this with fewer resources. Oh, and he killed Osama in an incredibly daring but brilliant operation. How could anyone even compete with that?
Much of the success belongs to Obama's excellent Cabinet choices. Secretary Clinton has been a fantastic Secretary of State, the best we've had since Colin Powell. Gates was so impressive as Defense secretary (I have mixed feelings about Panetta) and even Mullen as Joint Chiefs has demonstrated an excellent ability to think outside the box and also confront his own bureaucracy. But Obama is the one who assembled the team from rivals (Clinton) and the other political party (Gates). And he is the one who has ultimately made the right decisions at the right times.
Even his supposed failures in foreign policy reflect good thinking in my mind. Liberals are upset over his inability to close Guantanamo, but that issue is way more complicated than most people realize. And Obama is willing to recognize reality, even in the face of his unrealistic campaign promises. Others have criticized him for his response to Libya, but again, I think he struck the exact right balance of intervention without U.S. commitment. And it was a good chance for Europe to step up to the plate and work out its defense arrangements a little bit more.
Foreign policy is largely controlled within the executive branch of government, so I hold the President more accountable on this count than most others. And I think because Obama has a freer hand in this policy realm, we have seen more of his true colors in this respect. Plus, his rhetorical gifts are so needed and so effective in the international arena. Words matter there, and Obama has the ability to really influence things by what he says. Speeches in Russia and in Egypt prior to the uprisings had a dramatic regional impact.
Those who want Ron Paul's version of foreign policy are living in historical fiction, though I empathize with their aspirations. It was Woodrow Wilson, nearly 100 years ago, who presided over the transition of America from an isolated, waterlocked, largely agrarian society to the global economic and military power it is today. That transition, while not irreversible, has been so comprehensive as to make the costs of returning to isolationism far higher than any benefits. We are a global power, our military is a crucial international asset used to secure shipping lanes, reduce transaction costs, and save lives abroad, and our role in international fora cannot be replicated.
I actually think Romney wouldn't be too bad in the foreign policy realm. He certainly wouldn't be as bad as Bush or Carter were. But I worry about his Cabinet choices, about too much focus on domestic issues, about his inability to connect with Americans let alone foreign countries. And Obama has a clear track record in this realm. Absent some compelling flaw in the President's foreign policy or some remarkable asset in Romney, I am certainly not willing to change presidents after only four years.
This is the second most important issue for me, but I suspect it will be the number-one issue for most Americans. The economy is whimpering along, barely making much of a recovery with major structural problems at every level. My perspective is surely influenced by the fact that I have a job and that I am doing OK financially. If I didn’t have a job, or if my future prospects didn’t look bright, I would probably be looking for a change somewhere. In the Book of Mormon, Lehi murmured against the Lord only when he couldn’t feed his family, so I fully respect those who want a change of leadership given the lack of recent improvements. But a couple of thoughts:
Investment is the key to growth, and we are not making the right types of investments. If you think about your own life, you made significant investments in education, maybe a home, other capital. You likely took out loans to pay for these things (I sure did) with the understanding that your investment will yield returns later on. The problem with the U.S. right now is we had to take out loans just to survive for the past few years. It’s like we were living on credit card debt. Now the gut reaction once things start improving is to pay off the credit card debt right away. We all hate debt and hate watching how much interest eats up our paychecks. But the counterintuitive right course (in my opinion) is to take out more loans for the right type of investments first and then start paying off the credit card debt. Domestic infrastructure, education, state and local government, and energy development all desperately need significant investments right now. Waiting until our nation’s credit card bill is paid will be too late and only result in a lower rate of growth in the future. Accordingly,
The Republican’s prescription is the wrong one. What they are proposing is the equivalent of a doctor ordering chemotherapy for broken legs. Everyone is focused on debt right now, thinking paying down our debt will somehow cause the economy to come back. Again, think about it from an individual’s perspective. Does paying off debt make you any richer? Insofar as you get to keep the money you were using to pay interest, yes. But that is really a very small amount in the grand scheme of things. Things that actually make us richer—such as getting more education, getting a promotion, finding a new job, coming up with a new invention—come from investments, from risks, from innovation. Somehow, we are not focusing on that at all; instead, we are bickering about how we have mortgaged our children’s future. That cliché is driving me nuts. Of course we mortgage their future! That’s how we hope to finance a better world that they can then easily pay off with their spaceship explorations to planets made of gold and unobtainium.
In all seriousness though, the Republicans and Mitt Romney would have a valid argument if U.S. interest rates were going up and if inflation were a concern. But that’s the thing: inflation rates are at historic lows, and the world is more than happy to lend us as much money as we want. (See my first point on foreign policy; in a way, this is the reward for all our global expenditures.) Which leads me to the final point on economics:
The current public debate is not looking at the big picture. The U.S. economy is so closely tied into the world’s economy now that it is silly to try to separate them or focus on domestic reasons for our malaise. China’s economy depends on U.S. debt as much as we depend on it. Europe’s problems make our issues look childish in comparison. Brazil, China, and India are practically begging the U.S. to spend their money in our country on our goods and with our workforce. We are missing all these issues in our angry, navel-gazing rhetoric about who destroyed which job. And I think those global issues will ultimately have much more bearing on the domestic economy than nearly anything the executive branch will do.
There may be one exception to this point, however. In periods of panic and serious economic volatility, the President does have real power: rhetorical power and the ability to act quickly to stabilize the market through emergency liquidity measures, etc. Romney and Republicans have all but eschewed such tools, however, saying it is not the government’s role to take such action. And that denial of governmental responsibility in the face of economic crises is frightening. The last presidents to believe this were Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge, who together helped precipitate (but not cause) the Great Depression.
Just to summarize the economic issue:
· Investments, not deleveraging national debt, is the key to growth.
· Republicans have made paying off debt their Holy Grail, creating a myopic and misdirected economic policy.
· International economic policy matters far more than Republicans acknowledge.
· At the end of the day, the President has very little influence on economic issues, except in crises. And it is such power that the Republican party has said should not be wielded by the government.
Looking at Romney individually, I think he is actually very intelligent when it comes to economic issues. I suspect he understands all these points, and I even suspect he may agree with me. But his party has demonstrated no willingness to compromise or acknowledge any complexity on the issue, and I fear Romney would face a revolt from his own party if he suggested increasing spending on anything. So even if Romney really knows how to handle our economic challenges (although his current rhetoric suggests otherwise) his party would never allow it.
Domestic Policy and Entitlement Reform
As the words Obamacare and socialism ring through the air, I think this is the arena where the public debate has gotten out of hand. To be fair, the rhetoric on foreign policy issues was ridiculous when George Bush was president. Whereas Obama is depicted as a Keynian socialist who hates America and wants to decide when senior citizens are killed, Bush was depicted as a bumbling, warmongering puppet controlled by Dick Cheney who wanted to torture foreigners. Neither caricature is particularly helpful, except to put “rage in the hearts” (2 Nephi 28:20) of people. I suspect most Americans were not in either of these two rhetorical camps, but their rational thoughts are getting drowned out.
Obamacare—By far, the strangest thing about this entire debate is that Obamacare will not be truly implemented until 2014! We haven’t even seen what Obamacare will do, but listening to people you would think it single-handedly brought down the economy even before it was passed. The individual mandate hasn’t been implemented, insurance competition provisions remain unenforced, and the whole thing is in limbo before the Supreme Court (and I think a constitutional examination is warranted in this case). My point is, how could you possibly judge a law on its merits when it hasn’t even been implemented? One of the only truly substantive components of the law that has been implemented is the mandate that insurance companies cover dependents until they are 26 (reflecting the fact that children are in school and deferring marriage until later). And I think that has been a great success—I have family members who would not have insurance were it not for this provision.
Medicare—This is the real elephant in the room, and the part where I agree with the Republicans the most. Medicare costs are the fundamental driver of increasing health care costs, and Obamacare’s great flaw is its failure to reign in Medicare costs. The economic reality is that it is inevitable that Medicare benefits will be cut and there will be some type of provisioning of those benefits, aka death panels. Because promising essentially unlimited medical expenditures for the most expensive patients while refusing to raise additional revenue from the healthy patients is unsustainable. Given this reality, however, I think reform is actually more likely with a Democrat as president. He would have the best ability to convince his own party of the need for reform. Remember, Bill Clinton was president when welfare reform was passed. Right now the Democrats are quite intransigent on this issue, but I think economic realities and appropriate pressure from Republicans in Congress could help them come around, provided a Democrat is president. If a Republican is president, there would be too much opposition from Democrats and too much partisan gloating from Republicans to really push anything rational through.
Social Security—See my previous point. Social security as currently constituted is unsustainable, benefits will need to be cut, and I believe Obama is able and willing to compromise on this point.
Women’s and Family Issues—I have no idea what is going on with the Republican party or why they think targeting contraceptives or abortion is going to win the election. But I believe their rhetoric is harmful and counterproductive. Roe v. Wade is a reality, so let’s start talking about how we can reduce the number of abortions through education, contraceptive use, and strengthening families. This war on women and the family is phony, pathetic, and a political red herring.
Of course, I am not happy with everything that Obama has done. I generally like solid conservatives on the Supreme Court who have a more traditionalist interpretation of the Constitution. Obama will most certainly not do that. Obama’s leadership style is frequently too detached to really enact substantive change. Despite his rhetoric, Obama does not have the gift of a Reagan or Clinton to reach across the aisle and really work with the opposition party. And I am concerned with growing consolidation of authority at the federal level at the expense of state and local government.
In these policy matters, I feel Obama is on the wrong side of the issue. But democracy is all about choosing the least bad alternative. I am concerned that Romney is not the master of his own fate. Too many political forces within his own party have compelled him to change into something and someone that he is not. I really liked the Romney who was governor of Massachusetts: a compromiser, able to deal with the political realities at hand, and eminently pragmatic. If that Romney resurfaces, I would be incredibly happy. My concern though is that the Republican party has been captured by a mix of libertarian, Conservative with a capital C (ie., pre-1932), and isolationist groups that have a skewed historical perspective. I am extremely uncomfortable with the rhetoric of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and other pundits from this camp, and Romney has been far too willing to pander to these groups. True leadership would occur if he stood up against those in his own party. But he hasn’t done that.
Of course it is neat that Romney is Mormon, but I actually feel that has very little bearing in this year’s election. It will make for some very interesting attack ads and quite a spotlight on the church, but I haven’t really seen how it will influence his policy choices. Has Romney ever suggested his Mormon faith has influenced his political positions? So that puts me squarely in a very small minority of Mormons for Obama.
This year’s election is not the “once in a lifetime” election I have been hearing about. Yes, there are important issues and yes, it is valuable to be civically engaged. But I have too much faith in the American system to believe that one presidential term could ever fundamentally alter the American way of life, either for good or bad. Presidents are leaders more than they are actors. What I mean by that is they set the rhetorical tone that compels others to action. But no matter who is president, there will be good people in the U.S. doing much good of their own free will.
The Constitution is an incredible document with such flexibility that I believe we can definitely tackle the pressing issues our country faces. I have tremendous appreciation for our country’s commitment to the rule of law and respect for minority opinion. I honestly believe that the U.S. has one of the greatest political systems in the world, if not the greatest ever created. It may look really messy at times, but believe me, we could do much, much worse. Nowhere else in the world is there such a large and diverse population able to live in freedom and peace. As the ridiculous rhetoric heats up on both sides, it is good to keep that in mind.
I wish I could see an Excel sheet printout that enumerated all the going-ons during the many Sunday School lessons taught this past Sunday (of which Mosiah 29 was discussed.) I read a couple of comments on the Mormons for Obama Facebook group and heard a few things from some friends, and apparently this is a nearly impossible lesson to present without it getting political - although from a distance, it is somewhat difficult to see why. (But then again, from a distance, we all have enough and no one is in need either.) Mosiah 29 is about righteous government which is something we all can agree on, but invariably someone makes a comment that alienates or isolates another. Of course, we'd assume that since we are all Mormons we could find common ground, but alas...
I suppose that some of our conservative Mormon brothers and sisters think that Obama is leading the country down to hell (King Noah-style), and some of our liberal LDS friends think that Romney will serve a similar function. Thus, our Sunday School teachers must pull out the proverbial cattle prod and steer their students in the paths of political neutrality. (But really we should just stagger the study material by one year. Why is it that we have to study this chapter during the presidential election cycle?) Interestingly, while most Mormons tense up when political topics are broached at church, other Christians relish in it. (Jeremiah Wright?) I read an article once that quoted Larry King, (who sometimes attends church with his LDS wife,) saying that Mormon sacrament meetings were so far-removed from politics and current social issues that they were boring. Well, maybe he didn't say that exact quotation, but according to this report on the Cougarboard, he became so frustrated during one testimony meeting, he swore and threw his hands up in disapproval.
But ultimately, discussing politics is not the end goal of church attendance; our hope is to learn to be more like our Saviour. However, in our attempts to be better Mormons, we sometimes forget the importance of being a good Latter-day Saint. We have received several emails that express appreciation for the site - for the connection people feel in finding other Mormons who share their political beliefs. I've also read similar comments on the Mormons for Obama Facebook group, and I believe that this comes from a sense of being alone in the (ward) world. While we should feel a kinship with our fellow saints, sometimes the side comments, questions, and accusations can set us apart.
Here is a part of one email we receieved: "Before a general priesthood meeting our ward met for a party, and it was tough to hear (one of the leaders in the ward) complain about Obama 'always talking about feeding the poor - feeding the poor!' I just couldn't bring myself to point out the irony of the statement just before we heard Apostles of the Lord tell us that we are our brother's keeper."
Another email said this: "Most of the time I feel like I'm in hiding about my "true" self in my small (a little blue dot in a red state) town. I feel I can't really be myself without being ostracized for my political beliefs. They're just a few of us in this town, and we've vowed (behind the scenes) to stick together. But mostly in silence...I don't want to fight and bicker and lose friends, so I just keep my mouth shut."
Seriously. We shouldn't feel alone at church. And this type of thing is the exact opposite of Alma's invitation to the Nephites to be baptized in the Waters of Mormon (Mosiah 18:8-10). So I guess the point is something like this: conservative Mormons, don't forget that you have liberal Latter-day Saints in your midst! And liberal Latter-day Saints: let's show love for those Fox-News-watching, Rush-Limbaugh-listening, Ann-Coulter-book-reading, Glen-Beck-loving Mormons on our home and visiting teaching lists!
And of course this is true even amongst Obama supporters; we have some huge differences in our thoughts and interpretations. This was evident as we tried to address the issues of marriage equality; after reviewing our posts, one reader of the website felt alienated by the articles supporting Obama's position. So I am trying to remember: regardless of how far apart I might feel from the gun-toting, SUV-driving, Romney-voting Mormon sitting next to me in Elder's Quorum, he is my brother in the gospel, and we have more that knits us together than that which divides.
You have probably heard about the dust-up over a comment Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen made about Ann Romney a few days ago. What Rosen actually said was that “you have Mitt Romney running around, saying, ‘Well you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’ Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing.”
Of course the words Rosen chose were not good, but that does not mean the point she was trying to make wasn’t true. The fact is that Ann Romney had the luxury to choose to stay home to raise the family’s children, and she actually has no idea what it is like to struggle to make ends meet in a tough economy. That isn’t an insult; it is just a fact.
Of course it is no surprise that the right-wing media has been doing their best to paint the left (Obama) as hostile to traditional values (They hate motherhood, for goodness sakes!) A regular Fox contributor, Dr. Keith Ablow, provided an illustrative example of the discourse coming from the Right on the subject when he said: “Women who are happy raising families don’t have much ‘cred’ with Rosen or, for that matter, President Obama, because Rosen and Obama resonate only with those who carry the flag of the disenfranchised and abused. Anyone who thrives in an American company or American home, while proud and happy with any element of traditional American values, must be a hopeless automaton or relic of the oppressive past.” Yup, that is exactly what Rosen was saying, I’m sure.
Far from being concerned with women, of course the Right is concerned that Mitt Romney trails Obama by nearly 20 percentage points among likely women voters. And why does Obama have such a big lead among women voters? Well, as a man I don’t know that I am qualified to say, but I have a hunch it may have something to do with how Republicans have behaved with regards to issues that impact women particularly.
I found two (admittedly biased) sources detailing some of the Republican low-lights from the recent past with regards to women’s issues: Media Matters and MoveOn.org. Taking them for what they are worth, they are helpful in giving a broader picture of what types of measures Republican legislators across the country have been pushing for, (and all their sources are linked, so you can check them out for yourself). Here are just a few:
1) More than 150 Republicans signed on to a bill that would have redefined under what circumstances an institution receiving government funds could provide an abortion, replacing “rape” with “forcible rape”. With this language change, statutory rape, say a 13-year old impregnated by a 30-year-old for instance, would not qualify.
2) The Republican spending plan proposed to eliminated entirely Title X, which provides family planning for low-income Americans. And no, “family planning” is not just a code word for “abortions”, as birth control, pre-natal care, teen pregnancy prevention programs and other crucial health services are part of Title X.
3) The House GOP plan would also cut more than $750 million from food programs for low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies and children.
4) Republican lawmakers in Maryland cut Head Start funding, saying that it was not needed since mothers could just choose to stay home with their children instead. And at the federal level, Republicans cut $1 billion from the program, which could kick 200,000 low-income kids off the roles, and see some 55,000 instructors and teachers loose their jobs.
5) The Republican’s 2011 budget proposal cut $2 billion from job training programs, which are designed to help workers in low-wage, low-skill, and low-security jobs – disproportionately women – prepare for employment in growth areas.
6) Because women comprise more than two-thirds of the poor over age 65, Republican-proposed cuts in food, housing and job programs for senior citizens would disproportionately hurt elderly women.
7) The Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, signed a bill (passed along party lines) repealing the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court. "Economic security is a women's health issue," said Sara Finger, executive director of WAWH. "The salary women are paid directly affects the type and frequency of health care services they are able to access. At a time when women's health services are becoming more expensive and harder to obtain, financial stability is essential to maintain steady access."
As I said before, these are just a few examples of what types of actions Republican legislatures are taking all around the country with regards to issues that impact women the most (and I didn’t even mention the proposed laws that would force women seeking an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound first). So while we can all agree that a mother who has the ability to make a choice to stay home with her children is a good thing, I think the Republicans are going to need a lot more than a poor choice of words from a Democratic strategist to convince women they are actually on their side.
In January 2009, Mitt Romney penned some advice to incoming President Barack Obama regarding health care reform in a USA Today op-ed piece. Romney suggested Obama look to “the lessons we learned in Massachusetts,” in contemplating federal-level reform, noting specifically:
First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. The Massachusetts reform aimed at getting virtually all our citizens insured. In that, it worked: 98 percent of our citizens are insured, 440,000 previously uninsured are covered and almost half of those purchased insurance on their own, with no subsidy.
In a January 2008 GOP Presidential Primary debate, Romney underscored his belief that the insurance mandate should be applied at a national level. When the moderator noted, “Romney’s system has mandates in Massachusetts, although you backed away from mandates on a national basis,” Romney interjected, “No, no, I like mandates. The mandates work.” I previously posted a video clip, which showed Romney giving his support to the notion of applying ‘Romneycare’ at a national level.Read more
You have probably heard quite a bit by now about a recent incident in Afghanastan in which several Qurans were burnt by US military personnel at Bagram air base. Apparently the Qurans had notes written in them by prisoners, and upon discovery were confiscated, mistakenly added to other garbage at the base and at least partially incinerated before being noticed by Afghani staff.
In the wake of the incident radical elements of Islamic extremists used the situation to foment anti-American sentiment, which ultimately culminated in riots that killed more than 30 people, several of them American service members.
As the controversy began to heat up President Obama wrote a letter of apology to Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Secretary of State Clinton and the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, also issued apologies for the incident.
It was these apologies, and particularly the President’s, that set off its own controversy generated by the Right-wing media machine here in the U.S. Media Matters recently compiled an astounding set of clips from FoxNews on this story. (http://mediamatters.org/research/201202280001).
A few highlights:
- Liz Cheney (daughter of the Dark Lord, and qualified political commentator?) calling Obama “The Apologist”, and stating that his “default position” is to “apologize for America”
- FoxNews contributor Mike Gallagher saying that it was “outrageous” for President Obama “to go crawling to Karzai”
- And of course Carl “ham” Rove (Colbert reference), stating that rather then do any good, President Obama’s apology actually “made [the situation] worse by showing weakness”
[caption id="attachment_618" align="alignright" width="300"] A political cartoon by Gary Varvel criticizing Obama's apology[/caption]
Why should we apologize to terrorists who blow up civilians, throw acid in the face of schoolgirls and kill people over a burned book when they don’t apologize to us? As another Fox contributor, Charles Krauthamer, put it, “when I hear that [apology from their side] I'll expect my president to start issuing an apology.”
So, from what I have gathered, a good portion of the Republican electorate thinks that President Obama’s apology was insulting to America and its troops, pathetic, weak and harmful. Leaving the efficacy of the apology aside for the moment, I’d like to reflect on the substance of the Right’s inane reactions.
The reality is that the war that the United States is fighting in Afghanistan is not a ‘traditional war’, but rather a culture war. There are fundamentally differing views about the world on the two sides, views that cannot be softened with the help of shared history, customs, language or faith. A more amicable America is not Al Qaeda’s goal any more than a more democratic Afghan terror cell network is the goal of the U.S. We will never ‘agree to disagree.'
Because we are engaged in a culture war, the opinion of the vast majority of Muslims across the world whose minds and support are being fought over are very important to our goals. We will never win those minds and support if Muslims believe we don’t respect their beliefs. To ignore public opinion of Afghanis and other Muslims is not only idiotic, but also deadly. It should be noted that there actually are some conservative political minds that understand this, and so support Obama’s decision to apologize, in addition to a number of military minds as well. (See the Media Matters link).
As one observer pointed out, Hamid Karzai is a weak president struggling to maintain his tenuous grip on power. Whether we like him or not, he is our guy right now, and we need him to succeed for stability in Afghanistan to even be a possibility. What Obama did with his written apology was to give Karzai a tool to use as he worked to confront this mini-crisis at home. Karzai actually read the letter to the Afghani Parliament in the aftermath, using what he had to get what he could.
These common sense reasons to apologize were even obvious to George W. Bush, who apologized not once, but twice, to foreign nations for desecration that occurred to the Quran on his watch.
But beyond the common sense reasons to be culturally sensitive to the Muslim faith that is followed by millions across the globe, there is another reason, an even better reason, for being thoughtful. That reason, of course, is because it is the right thing to do. Rather than subscribing to Krauthamer’s ‘only do good unto others when they have done good unto you’ worldview, I am more inclined to go with another philosophy, something more like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Now who was it that said that? Maybe the Right believes that this only applies when it’s easy.
Because I am a Mormon, I am sensitive to how the outside world treats my faith. Beyond the history of forced dislocation, assassinations and open hostility that the early Mormons endured, I have personally had to defend my faith in public arenas, classrooms and in conversation. I know this is not unique to me, but is a common experience for many members of our church. As Mormons, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” [*] Of course this does not mean we sit idly by while minority fanatics attack us in the name of their God, but it does mean that we should show Muslims the same degree of respect that we believe our faith deserves.
Leave it to the Right-wing to call Obama’s common sense response to the situation “irresponsible and unnecessary”, an olive branch as “outrageous”, likening it to groveling before a foreign power. And who would you expect but Rove and his ilk to see what others might recognize as self-reflection and honesty as “weakness”. Is theirs a world you want to live in? Me neither.
[*] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ 11th Article of Faith.
Over the last several debates, GOP contenders use the word socialist to describe their warped view of what the Democratic Party stands for. They have leveled such attacks on "socialist" president Barack Obama, and have regularly used "socialist" in a derogatory tone against anything Democratic. Redistribution of wealth is also married to the socialist label, as with any governmental benefit. Not only do these candidates (and pundits) have little regard for the meaning of the word, they often demonstrate their ignorance in twisting its usage.
Socialistic theory encompasses government's choice to control capital. The extremist form of socialism, communism, argues for complete control of capital, eliminating all private property. Republicans follow and support many socialist platforms as a collective group and demonstrate socialistic behavior as government continued to grow at levels disproportionate to the economy. Growth of government = increased control of capital = socialism.
Let me cite some specific examples of socialist support among Republicans:
The military is the largest socialist organization in our nation. The military is not a privately run organization, nor does private capital control any equipment, technology, or weapons. The government own all military capital, and provides all services. It's quite interesting to watch Republicans discuss healthcare in the military with utmost respect, and then lash out at government controlled civilian healthcare. Veteran benefits are socialistic programs, as is all wartime activity. Think we can privatize the military? Get ready to fork out serious payments if you want protection.
Unless you are coughing up the $20k a year for private tutoring, education is a socialist program. Education is run and supported by the state and federal government, which spends roughly $7,000 a year on each enrolled student. Even if you believe private industry can operate the same program at 30% efficiency, it will still cost a family with two kids roughly $10k a year to pay for private education. In a purely capitalistic market you would pay according to the quality of the education, meaning the superior schools will cost substantially higher than average.
Medicare is another program that is entirely socialistic. With 90% of healthcare costs coming the final ten years of an individual's life, our seniors will be left out in the cold, as the payments will be unreasonable to assume. Now to be fair, the Medicare program could be privatized, which would require the 5.8% payroll tax to be saved by the individual year on year. Given the current state of our economy and the choices made by consumers, this will be a difficult challenge for the vast majority of citizens. Hospitals also are funded through governmental spending to drive consistency in quality.
I have often listened to my Republican friends complain about toll roads when traveling out east. I always found this interesting given that private controlled roads would charge per use, mimicking toll roads today. Private roads would follow market demand. If any road had continual traffic jams, the owner of the road would assume they are not charging enough, as the demand outweighs the supply. Public transportation would also be private in a purely capitalistic market, so pricing would also be owned directly by the users and not the government.
Just imagine if our society was purely capitalistic. If your house was burning down, or if someone had broken into your home, better hope you have a credit card on file with the right emergency department or no help will be coming. If your child falls off a ladder, and you have no insurance because you are one of the millions of individuals who lack coverage from your employer, there will be no emergency room visit. If you are convicted of a crime, don't look for the government to appoint a socialist lawyer if you can't afford one. If your district needs help with a specific project, don't ask the government for earmarks. If you have an innovative idea, the government will not protect you through patents.
Republicans like to look at selective measures to demonstrate Democrats are socialists. Here are a couple of facts that demonstrate socialism is not a partisan issue:
- The most money ever paid in earmarks was $56.2 billion in 2004 when Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency.
- The largest governmental subsidy is spent on fossil fuel (oil) with $72.5 billion (2002-2008) allocated through legislation signed by Republican presidents. The 2002 Farm Bill also provided expansive governmental subsidies to farmers across the US.
- In 2003 Republicans passed a $1 trillion dollar government entitlement prescription drug program to support Medicare. Part of the legislation shifted drug price negotiating power from the federal government (largest buyer of drugs) to the insurance companies (who then billed the federal government), creating a fixed pricing windfall for the Pharma industry.
- President Bush was the first president to see the annual budget cross the $2, $3, and $3.5 trillion dollar spending levels.
- Homeland Security was the largest expansion of government since the Department of Defense.
- The EPA was proposed and signed into legislation by Republican President Richard Nixon.
- Defense spending is the largest bill our government pays today, driven by Republican legislation.
- President Bush signed TARP and the first round of auto-bailouts, effectively creating social programs for the wealthy.
The most telling reason Republicans are closet socialists, is the way they vote. The only candidate campaigning on an anti-socialist platform is Ron Paul, and it is no secret how the Republican base feels about him. The other Republican candidates follow the same line of thinking as previous generations before -- lots of tax cut rhetoric, and no discussion of trimming today's socialist programs.
Throughout the GOP primaries Newt Gingrich has mentioned the name of Reagan 3.2 times per debate. He continues to invoke his name trying to piggyback on his popularity and drive association with The Gipper. The other candidates have not exhausted this approach to the level of the previous Speaker, which is ironic given Mr. Gingrich constantly disagreed with President Reagan’s politics. To Mr. Gingrich I say, you are no Reagan...and for that matter, Reagan was no Reagan.
The conservative movement holds up President Reagan as a beacon of light, an example to all Republicans. The Tea Party themselves use Reagan's name as a synonym for deity. Certain forgotten (or ignored) facts about our 40th president make this name jockeying borderline laughable. Reagan was not a small government Republican, nor would he be a friend to the Tea Party today. Reagan’s mix of compromise on positions and issues changed with experience, and would drive today’s Republican Party crazy. Many have forgotten that Reagan began his political career as a liberal Democrat. His conversion to the conservative movement came upon marrying his second wife, Nancy, and through the presidencies of Eisenhower, Nixon, and influence of Goldwater. Although Reagan campaigned on conservative principles, he did raise taxes both as Governor and President to balance the budget. Adjusted for inflation those tax increases were the largest the country had ever seen.
Reagan’s social platforms would disqualify him from today's Republican Party. Ronald Reagan was borderline religious and there is very little record of him attending church before, during, or after his presidency. Reagan saw the Christian faith as a buffer to communism and used religion as a weapon. One of the first bills Reagan signed as Governor of California was the “Therapeutic Abortion Act” which led to two million abortions in the state. Reagan signed the first “no fault” divorce legislation and is still the only divorced President that has led this nation. Reagan was also vocal in opposing a California initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools. Reagan signed an amnesty bill that provided citizenship to three million illegal immigrants understanding the labor impact to our Nation’s economy. It is difficult to believe that Reagan would be supportive of building walls around our borders, while working to tear down walls in Eastern Europe.
To be fair, Reagan campaigned on values aligning with the conservative movement including smaller government, strong defense, less welfare, lower taxes, and less government in people’s personal lives (Patriot Act would have been DOA). On several of these principles he was true to his core. Unions weakened under Reagan, taxes were lowered, and defense spending flourished. Perhaps the most notable anti-Union action came with the firing of 12,000 governmental air traffic controllers who went on strike, which empowered the private sector to overcome their fear of unions. Many have called Reagan an economic mind, but there is no substantial evidence to back such a claim. His embracing of supply-side economics demonstrates his weakness in this area and the real economic genius of the period was Paul Volcker (today, Mr. Volcker serves on President Obama’s economic policy board, and has been written off by the same conservatives who embraced his policies in the 1980’s). Reagan did understand the conceptual idea of the Laffer Curve which drove Reagan’s desire to lower taxes. Reagan also froze the minimum wage, a move that is supported by free market theory.
Reagan’s popularity was based on the same reason Newt Gingrich loathed the man, his ability to compromise and to respect his political opponents. It is not a secret that President Reagan’s biggest political opponent was Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil. Nor was it a secret that when working hours were over the President would have opposing Democrats over for a beer. One time after a feud President Reagan called O’Neil up for a truce in which the Speaker replied, “Old buddy, that's politics--after 6 o'clock we can be friends; but before 6, its politics.” O’Neil passed Reagan’s tax cuts and Reagan signed O’Neil’s social programs. Although partisanship was starting to build in Washington it was Newt’s frustration with the compromising hand of Reagan that led him to construct “The New Deal”. Newt was no Reagan Republican, opposing President Clinton at every turn, even to the point of shutting down government. The rise of extreme partisanship was beginning and Newt was the architect. Reagan’s reelection was a monstrous landslide in 1984, and his popularity was driven through his ability to unite both parties.
Reagan’s management of the cold war is also a stark difference to how Newt and Republicans think today. At the near conclusion of the Cold War President Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of communist Russia. This infuriated Newt and others from Reagan’s own party. Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to disarm and worked together to remove nuclear arsenal across the globe. Reagan and Gorbachev surprised both of their countries with the agreement and compromise was the pinnacle of Reagan’s success. Given the tone and rhetoric from the right today, it is safe to say Reagan would have been portrayed as weak and an enemy to the United States.
For Newt and other Republicans who use Reagan’s name as a political weapon I would say, stop. Reagan would not be your friend today. The Republican Party would not embrace his compromising spirit, economic and tax policy, and perceived weak positions on social issues. In the 2008 primaries, Obama and Clinton argued about who could come to the middle. Today, the Republican Party members are arguing about who can move furthest to the right. There is little question which of these positions Reagan would support.
(This week marks President Reagan’s 101st birthday).