Now Playing: "My Back Pages" Bob Dylan / The Byrds
Topic: Divided We Fall!
During the 2004 Democratic Convention, President Clinton said “They need for us to be divided.” In another speech, he said he would like us to return to a political debate between who is right and who is wrong, rather than who is good and who is bad. His reference to right and wrong was not in terms of who was morally superior, but who had the better ideas for America.
He then went on to describe their ideas versus the Democratic ideas, and did not malign the opponents, saying they were sincere in thinking their ideas were better, but with each example, it was apparent who had the better ideas for America, fiscal responsibility versus borrow and spend, a smarter, more comprehensive and proactive response to acts of terrorism versus waging war at the wrong time with the wrong adversary, and I could go on.
Following the film premiere of “The Hunting of the President”, President Clinton spoke eloquently of our heritage, saying there has been a re-occurring battle in our history between government of, for and by the people, versus a sincere but misguided trend by some to concentrate the wealth and power in the hand of a few, what some would call an aristocracy. A “big brother know best” philosophy. He indicated we were immersed in such a struggle now, but that historically, we had always ultimately chose to expand liberty, rather than decrease it. (See “A More Perfect Union” “ by clickin on this link.)
But I am most focused on this “They need for us to be divided.” quote and the right vs wrong - good vs bad comments. Think about this. Who benefits the most from our current polarity, left versus right, conservative versus liberal, pro life versus pro choice, gay marriage versus defend marriage, gun control vs right to bear arms, etc? Who laughs all the way to the bank, while we fight among each other, and many are cajoled into voting against their own self interest. Is it the chosen few, that top wealthy 1%, the corporate power mongers, the war profiteers, the environmental de-regulators, etc?
Howard Dean said Democrats had to find a way of getting the votes from those who drive pick ups, with the American flag decals on the windows and gun racks on the back. Following the dedication of his library, why did President Clinton ask, “Am I the only one who see’s both George W. Bush and John Kerry as good men, who just see the world differently?” That quote stuck in my throat like a bad piece of meat, because I am unable to see George W that way, but others do.
My problem with George W is his unapologetic way he gives away the store to those wealthy corporate interests that bankrolled his two runs for the Presidency. It has never been so transparent to me before.
Yet, in more subtle ways, Democrats cave in to the same interests. Like all those Democratic Senators that voted for a bankruptcy reform bill, that allows credit card companies to seduce the working poor without accountability, while failing to protect consumers who lack insurance, buy medicine on credit, and end up over their heads in debt.
Perhaps Clinton was just trying to help us follow his suggestion of not maligning the individuals on either side, so we can get to the heart of the debate.
Many years ago, Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live, while saying “fight the real enemy”. Later, Madonna would say the same as she ripped up a picture of Joe Budafuco. But who is the real enemy?
Perhaps, the real enemy goes beyond any one person or group of people. Keep in mind Clinton’s notion of judging the ideas rather than the individuals. If the real divide is between those who favor democracy versus those wealthy powerful few who favor aristocracy, we have got the numbers and democracy wins.
“They need for us to be divided.” Not the Republicans, the religious right or the neo-cons., but rather those “well intentioned” aristocrats, who think they know what is best for all. They are blinded by an addiction to absolute wealth, that can only be fully protected with absolute power. But there must be an allusion of democracy in all this, and that comes with the manipulation of those wedge issues stated above.
Every wedge issue has the potential for some common ground. Most notably, some pro life and pro choice people have come together in a common ground organization. No one is truly pro abortion. No one advocates for more of them. The debate is more like pro law versus no law, but the rate of abortions in America, vacillate more on the economy than on the law. So what else really reduces abortion? Could it be education and prevention of unintended pregnancies? Could we all strive to make abortion obsolete, rather than fighting over whether it should be legal?
The essence of the gun lobby is supported by those who simply want to be able to defend themselves, something we would all want to be able to do in some way or another.
I believe, perhaps naively, that we can re-frame these debates, not along the lines of attacking each other, but by fostering a few Stephen Covey principles like, seeking first to understand, seeking win - win solutions and starting with the end in mind. Not everyone will cooperate with this, but if enough do, the manipulation by wedge issues ends.
The state of Kansas has a Democratic female, consensus seeking Governor. So much for the red state - blue state theory. As one of my bumper stickers says, there are only purple states of varying shades. Of course, there are some seeking to unseat her, but there is still broad based support for consensus seeking solutions.
To win, we have to compete against a well oiled, polarizing noise machine, that feeds on hate and fear rhetoric. Yes, it is my bias that the bulk of it comes from the so called right, and we now know that some of these pundits have been paid off with tax dollars. I think the noise machine on the so called left is more a reaction to the inaccuracy (and maybe deception) imbedded in some of the hate and fear speech of the right. But this reaction lends itself to some hate and fear rhetoric as well.
We need to stick to the facts, and the ideas that work best.
I think there are still sincere conservatives, who can base their arguments in a thoughtful review of the facts. But the hate speech is easy to pick up, and should be challenged apart from the issue being debated. Bob Novak, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter can’t seem to get through a paragraph without a disparaging swipe at Democrats, liberals, feminists, etc.
A two fold response would challenge the divisive hate speech, and counter their assertions with a better analysis of the facts. This is not likely to occur in the present climate of the so called mainstream news media. But the success of movies like “Fahrenheit 9-11" suggest that there is a hunger for a broader debate, a hunger that can sell soap, if that broader debate is given air time.
One last note, the Voting Reform Bill of 2005 is not getting the citizen support it deserves. The last I heard, only a couple hundred thousand have signed on at the sight below. Keep in mind over 116 million voted in 2004, and this bill responds to all the concerns that may have corrupted the accuracy of that vote, the touch screen voting machines with no paper trail, the long lines for some voters, but not others. You can still give your support at Count Every Vote 2005 This is another essential ingredient to restoring democracy in America.
Don’t give up the fight!