Democrats have a prime opportunity
By Larry Ferro
A few glasses of wine in and a friend says, “Larry, I’m Republican, you know. When I see your articles, I just move on to something more interesting.”
Hard to argue with that so I don’t. I may even understand. It’s a sign of the times. My friend has many options and doesn’t have to read my stuff.
The days of getting information from a solitary, half hour news program ala’ Walter Cronkite are gone. The eighties gave us 24 hour cable news and the nineties, an Internet that exponentially exploded our options. As a result, we can cherry pick our news sources. We’ve become like children no longer required to eat everything on the plate but instead making straight for dessert.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this except that there is a lot of unhealthy stuff out there masquerading as the opposite and it’s hard to make the distinction.
Because of this, a strident follower of the Tea Party may swear that Obama is a Muslim, wasn’t born in the U.S., has increased regulation and the debt more than any other president and secretly designs his policies to swell the ranks of the poor to help his re-election.
Living and working in the reddest state in the nation I’m exposed to all manner of this right wing information. A recent email shows pictures of an elegant, downright extravagant prison allegedly built and supported by congressman Obama. The story was false. The building resides in Austria, not Illinois and Obama had nothing to do with it. My Facebook friends regularly display all manner of stories (with official, almost credible sounding references) touting socialistic threats about to befall our country at the hands of Obama.
I could spend months refuting these things but I won’t. I won’t because my words, as evidenced from the conversation above, would not be heard. The Tea Party, falling somewhere between a movement and a cult, believes there is conspiracy in all media not their own. There is a kind of, we know better than you, you are simply not informed, kind of mentality going on. This, coupled with a complete dismissal of all things Left and a purging of Republican moderates such as Richard Lugar indicate their sense of reality leaves something to be desired.
Given this, it is not time to argue anymore; it’s time to change. We Democrats have a prime opportunity. Instead of moving to our ideological extreme to distinguish ourselves, we should move aggressively to the practical and reasonable center where we will be distinguished enough from the ever more extremist Right. It’s time to enlarge our tent.
Many moderate Republicans disagree with tax breaks for the wealthy and a growing number desire action on global warming. Many secretly support the health care initiative and see the futility of no compromise. More and more, these moderates despair over the direction of their party.
By controlling their precinct committeemen, (who select the leadership of their party), the Tea Party has screened out moderates and steered the party to such an extreme that they have alienated many of their own.
The Democrats can absorb this group but first, they must change their platform. The world is changing, why shouldn’t they change? Why should our party be beholden to policies written 50 and 100 years ago?
We should declare our intention to have a yearly, balanced budget (assuming no recession). This is good fiscal policy and is easily understood by the populace. It was our competition that labeled us deficit makers but for my entire life I’ve never seen this to be true. In fact, I usually see the opposite. Next, we should take guns off the agenda. Though they’ve been low on the list for years, we should make it official; it’s a losing argument. Lastly, we should openly state that we will return the wealthiest tax rates to historical levels and use the revenues to improve our schools and fund more research.
Our party needn’t be narrowly characterized by unions, minorities, environmentalists and university professors. Though we are not cold hearted industrialists, neither are we bleeding hearts desiring to give away people’s hard earned money. We are practical problem solvers too long defined by the other side. We will never find common ground with a Tea Party that works themselves into a frenzy over liberty, socialism, light bulbs and other worries that didn’t exist until they lost an election. If the new Republicans want to be the party that says no and undoes things, we need to be the party that actually does things. And if the Far Right stands for all the things embodied by resistance to change, then the Left should be just the opposite, embracing change and shaping it the way we want it to be.
Larry Ferro is a chemical engineer living in Pocatello.