Sunday, May 29, 2011

Don't Throw Away A Dog Because Of Its Fleas (and other useful political advice)

In the last year, I have had the pleasure and frustration of debating politics with a good, astute friend of mine. In the course of our discussions I have encountered some flawed lines of reasoning that I believe lead many citizens to make uninformed decisions. Here are a few points worthy of your consideration:

Don't Throw Away A Dog Because of Its Fleas: My associate has categorically written off the Tea Party largely because of the presence of some extreme fringe elements. But, in any open, dynamic, democratic movement, some undesirable individuals will enter and inevitably the opposition will focus on them as a means to invalidate the entire movement.  Those familiar with history will recall that this was also the case with the Civil Rights & Anti-War Movement; their opponents chose to focus on the presence of a few communists and radicals as a means to evade a more substantive debate. The wise course of action is to focus like a laser on the core issues and policies in question.

Focus On The Desirability Of A Movement, Not Its Followers: Frequently my friend will point to the supposed characteristics of Democrats over Republicans as grounds for voting for the former. While I can understand the intuitive appeal of this line of reasoning, history shows that it is spurious. For example, outstanding cultural figures, like the Noble Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda and the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre were vocal supporters of communism, in fact Mr. Neruda wrote an Ode to Stalin! And the much esteemed philosopher, Martin Heidegger was supportive of nazism. Equally, conservative thought is not invalidated because of Sarah Pailin and other buffoonish followers. Again, my advice is to base your decisions on the validity of a philosophy and a policy.

Focus On Actions, Not "Values": Many voters determine who they will vote for based on the stated values of a candidate. GW Bush was able to garner votes through his support of "family values" and "conservative principles." And Obama energized many voters with his "progressive values." But, when we look carefully at GW Bush's policies, we can find few that were truly conservative; domestic spending, entitlements and even regulation grew under his watch. And in spite of Mr. Obama's rhetoric, he has continued many of his predecessors policies, including military intervention against non-belligerent nations, corporate welfare and the presence of Wall Street insiders in his cabinet.

Think More Like An Accountant: Much of President Obama's rhetoric is very appealing; after all, who does not want "health care for all" and a "green revolution," but when we approach his policies like an accountant, they become deeply troubling. Anyone who has seriously looked at the hard numbers of the federal debt and unfunded liabilities cannot possibly look at President Obama in a favorable light and will see the need for radical reform of entitlements.

You Don't Have To Choose Between A Giant Douche Or A Turd Sandwich: An increasing number of voters have become completely disenchanted with most Republican and Democratic candidates, as demonstrated by the 83% disapproval rating for congress.. Rather than vote for a candidate they vote to keep out the more distasteful option, much like the South Park satire in which students are forced to choose between a "Giant Douche" and a "Turd Sandwich." For example, my good friend has expressed very strong misgivings about President Obama, but will vote for him because he "refuses to let the horrible Republicans back in..." Equally, a great many conservatives are turned off by the Republican prospects, but are willing to swallow the bitter pill in order to "throw Obama out of office..."  While I understand the appeal of this line of reasoning, especially in close elections, it is a major impediment to real reform. It shields mainstream Republicans and Democrats from competitive pressure, allowing them to continue the awful bipartisan policies of: gross fiscal irresponsibility, excessive military intervention and a ruinous war on drugs. At a certain point, the only ethical option is to "throw away your vote" on "unelectable reformists" or to declare that you will not lend your support to awful policies, even if that means abstaining from voting.

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