Olympia Snowe Is My Kind of Republican

A friend at work often chides me in saying that despite the fact that I’m a Republican, how I speak about politics makes me a Democrat. I’m just as Republican now as when I first registered to vote when I was 18, and I still hold to the traditional Republican values of small government, individual freedom, and conservative – as in judicious, not political – financial responsibility. My friend teases me because I have a much more moderate position with respect to my politics, which focuses on the issues and not the ideology, so I suppose it must seem to him that since I don’t speak politics like 95% of the Republicans out there, I must be Democrat. He’d probably say the same thing about Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, who is one of the few moderate Republicans in Congress today, and who unfortunately is not running for re-election.

I read an article about her frustration with American politics today this morning, and despite the article’s title of “Frustrated Senator Olympia Snowe Give Obama an ‘F,'” the actual meat of the article focused on her general frustration with Congress. Here’s a quick excerpt:

“I think a lot of the frustration frankly in our party, in the Tea Party challenges or even Occupy Wall Street is really a reflection of our failure to solve the major problems in our country,” said Snowe. “It’s become all about the politics, and not the policy. It’s not about governing, it’s about the next election.”

So has this Congress failed the country on those critical questions?

“Absolutely,” Snowe asserted.  “You have to sit down and talk to people with whom you disagree,” said Snowe. ” And that is not what is transpiring at a time when we desperately need that type of leadership.”

What she said above mirrors EXACTLY what I’ve been talking about with others when discussing politics. Especially with my ultra-conservative friends, I’m often apt to say before going into a political discussion, “I’ll only engage in this discussion if we talk about the issue, not about the ideology. If you want to bitch about Obama did this or Obama didn’t do that, then let’s talk about how the Sharks are doing instead. Whether you like the guy or not, we have real problems in this country, and discussing political ideology is NOT going to solve them.” We usually end up talking about the Sharks…

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On Glenn Beck and Global Warming and the Danger of Fox News

I am so glad Glenn Beck is off the air. That man was an absolute cancer to American politics. The irresponsibility of his claim there was no evidence of global warming has set back the movement to help heal our planet for years (I won’t even touch on his negative influence on controlling Wall Street). I started getting clued in on his negative influence when a very close friend and I had a heated debate about global warming. As a faithful watcher and listener of Glenn Beck, he just spouted back what Beck said: There was no evidence of global warming. I was amazed by that claim, after having read scientific evidence to the contrary! My friend challenged me to provide evidence right then and there – and as we were on the phone, he knew it wasn’t possible. In any case, he was so firm in his position, that nothing I said would make him even consider the possibility.

It completely amazed me that my friend, whom I believed to be reasonable could be utterly and complete brainwashed by a known “shock jock” who was hired by Fox News Channel simply to incite the angst and anger of people. Way to go Fox, mission accomplished! You managed to drive a wedge into US politics where we’ll be cleaning up the mess for years to come, as this article from the Huffington Post relates.

I read that article last year and wanted to throw it into the face of my friend; tell him that his devotion to this wacko was dangerous, and that following the advice of someone who didn’t even believe this stuff he was saying would simply create a greater divide between conservatives and liberals. Okay, deep breath… Circling back to the issue of global warming, what really set me on the edge was what that article said about Glenn Beck’s personal position on global warming vs. what he actually said on his show,

Let’s take the example of climate change. There was a time when mainstream Republicans like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Tim Pawlenty thought that man-made climate change was a real problem and that government had a role in fixing it. Then Beck and friends on Fox News Channel and talk radio in went to work. Beck’s role in all this is remarkably cynical, as he told USA Today Weekend that he personally believed in climate change — “you’d have to be an idiot not to notice the temperature change,” he said — but said the complete opposite on the air. “Americans know this global warming thing is a scam,” he proclaimed on the radio.

When I read that, I just about screamed out in rage! Here was a man who single-handedly defeated any kind of measure to control a serious problem by getting his listeners and viewers to follow what he said on his shows and put pressure on their representatives such that Republicans who were once in favor of global warming legislation completely turned their backs on it!

Months ago a study was released that Fox News viewers were less informed than those who don’t watch the news. I don’t think it suggests anything about their level of intelligence, but to me, it suggests that Fox News isn’t really focused on news, but on commentary and opinion on a a narrow set of issues that they know will incite the anger of their viewers. Rather amazing, but I believe the net effect coming from this type of “journalism” is that it has completely changed the face of American politics from open debate on issues to arguing on whose ideology is better. Throughout history, we’ve seen what governance through ideology gets us: pre-WWII Germany and Russia.

The thing that is very frightening to me is the Republican fixation on ideology. It is turning people who I have known to be great debaters and political conversationalists – such as my close friend whom I mentioned above – into ideologues. No longer do they try to get their news from a variety of sources; no, they get their news from sources that simply fit their ideology. Worse yet, they’re unabashed about regurgitating everything they read.

Another person whom I know well is particularly prolific at ideological regurgitation. I used to have a lot of respect for him, as he is a very successful attorney, and one with whom I used to have intelligent conversations on various issues. But now, he has been reduced to yet another Obama-hater, using Facebook to post link after link on why “Obama is this…” or why “Obama is that…” What a waste of a brain.

You’ve got to hand it to Fox and their ilk: They’re powerful enough to sway people – super-smart people – away from intelligent and respectful debate. But that’s where the danger lies. If we allow emotion – especially anger – affect our thinking, we’ll never come together as a country. But this seems to be Fox’s goal. Appeal to the angst and you can get millions to move. Fox gets ratings that drives in revenue. But the losers are the people. It’s saddening to see what’s unfolding before our very eyes.

A Republican’s View of Why Obama Is Likely to Win the Election…

…and How Several Years of Successful Coaching Shows Me Why Republicans Will Lose in the Election

I’ve been a Republican since I registered to vote 32 years ago, and though I’ve had my ups and downs with political involvement over the years, I always have been an apt observer. This coming presidential election has especially piqued my interest because it has been amazing – and horrifying and even a bit amusing – to observe the Republican strategy in the race up to the election. This amazement comes from having been a coach of various sports over the years. I have a winning record in all the sports I’ve coached, and have four championships under my belt for my high school roller hockey team.

Not to say that I’m a great coach – everyone has room to improve – but I did learn quite a bit from studying successful and arguably great coaches such as Bill Walsh and Herb Brooks. From what I observed, a huge part of their success was simply teaching what it takes to develop a team with a winning attitude. We could talk about collaboration and cooperation and such, but there’s one thing that I learned as a coach that you never do: Ever mention or plan my game around the word “lose.”

And from that, I don’t mean don’t play the game to not lose, but also don’t play the game to make the other team lose. What? Not play the game to make the other team lose? What’s THAT about, you might say. Basically it’s this: If you plan your game around the mindset of making the other team lose, what you’re doing is projecting onto the other team your own idea of what it means to lose. Ultimately, your mindset will be your undoing. We can’t possibly know what the other team thinks with respect to losing, so if we project our sense of losing onto the other team, we essentially end up focusing on what will make us lose, and ultimately play a game of “not-losing vs. losing” as opposed to winning vs. losing. The best we can hope for in that scenario is a draw.

A good example of this comes from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Peak Performance” where Data plays a rather arrogant opponent in a game of Stratagema.

When I saw this years ago, the one thing that struck me in Data’s explanation of beating Kolrami was that he was playing to a draw. But I looked at it the other way. Kolrami had projected what his “values” of he believed would make his opponent lose onto Data. Data didn’t just didn’t play the game that way, and though he technically did not win the game, he played it in such a way to force Kolrami to withdraw.

And this is EXACTLY what I’m observing in the GOP right now. They’re playing the election game very much like Kolrami, and frankly, with all the absolutely STUPID stuff the leadership is spouting, such as John Boehner’s repeated claims of the “unconstituionality of Obama-care” though the US Supreme Court ruling completely blows that out of the water, they’re doing a great job of it. We have also had to hear every single Republican representative say in the press, “Our goal is to make Obama a one-term president.” Every time I hear that I have to laugh because that is exactly the kind of rhetoric Obama wants to hear. The GOP has essentially stated their entire strategy, and it’s working in Obama’s favor. His job approval ratings (Gallup) are starting to trend upward. The GOP will state that his job approval ratings are historically low as compared to other presidencies. But the only thing that matters is where they’re at in this current election year, and should they press above the 50% mark, the GOP can kiss the election goodbye.

The net result for the GOP? Since they’re all partaking in the same strategy, the GOP presidential nomination is frankly, still up in the air. Though Romney won Florida, his lead of 31% vs. Gingrich’s 26% isn’t significant enough for him to claim victory. Plus, 31% is not really a number about which to be ecstatic. If the numbers were in the 40’s that would be a different story, but as the numbers don’t lie, it is easy to interpolate that the Republican Party is generally fractured on who to follow. Not good.

And based upon those numbers, I’m apt to yet again vote outside the party. I have zero confidence in Romney, whom I see as simply buying the election with his riches and well-funded super-PACs. I was hopeful that Gingrich would fare better, but he has his own skeletons in the closet to deal with, and makes me seriously doubt his ability to lead the country. As such, there’s really no one in the GOP race that appears to me to be an outright leader. I realize that the number will go up as more candidates leave the race. But I also see that as those supporters settling for the remaining candidate(s). I would much rather see someone who’s garnering support organically rather than through inheritance.

Obama, on the other hand, has been quietly going about his business, and no matter what the hyperbole of the GOP may state, his policies have had success. Do I like the fact that he didn’t act much stronger on the Wall Street executives? Not at all. Do I like Obama-care? I’m a bit on the fence with that, but it has not killed jobs as the GOP keeps touting, and it has cost FAR LESS than what idiots like Michell Bachmann, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have made so many believe.

I never did dig the bailout, but understand why it had to happen, though I’m hopeful that legislation will pass that will prevent institutions from growing too big to fail. And mind you, those institutions were allowed to grow that big due to the rescinding of regulations under the Clinton and Bush administrations. Obama inherited a shit sandwich, and though I’m a Republican, I have to say that he’s done okay given the circumstances under which he took the presidency.

In any case, I believe that the only way for a true GOP leader to surface among the mediocrity that’s present in the race right now is for one of the candidates – and perhaps the party as a whole – to stop playing the game of “not losing.” They need to start volunteering their leadership on issues that are important to americans – all americans – and not just the financial elite and lobbies. Until they stop playing the game the way they’re playing, Obama has nothing to worry about.

Sure, I Believe In a Free Market – Kind of…

The battle cry of the RNC and Tea Party (I’m a registered Republican, by the way) is “free market.” I’m a proponent of a free market; markets that aren’t hindered by government. But I’m not at all in favor of a system of plunder and enslavement that is simply veiled by the term “free market economy.” You what that kind of free market got us? Just the Crash of 2008. What was that the result of? Very simply, it was deregulation of the financial sector. Without regulations to put a throttle on them, the big financial institutions came up with sub-prime loans. They then figured out a way to securitize that debt and create bonds on the paper. Then they created “insurance policies” in the form of collateralized debt obligations to insure against those financial instruments that I suspect they knew were going to fail.

In essence, the “free market” basically gave those Wall Street bastards the freedom to gamble with other people’s money. And the worst thing about that “freedom” is that after the Wall Street boys completely screwed up the economy where we saw millions of foreclosures and millions of jobs lost, they had nothing to worry about. The American taxpayer came to their rescue! You can’t tell me that it is more complicated than that. The freedoms those people enjoyed allowed them to act in such a way that they collectively brought the global economy to the brink of complete failure; they were all essentially acting as huge, interconnected hedge funds and they eventually became too big to fail. If one went down, they all would go down. So what did they do when they realized that they’d completely fucked up? They cried for help and they got it in the form of a $700 billion bailout!

Think about this: If anyone of the “little people” did what Wall Street did, they’d be ruined, if not jailed. You see anyone go to jail? Not at all. In fact, a year after the collapse, Goldman Sachs awarded billions in bonuses to its employees. No one learned any lesson. Perhaps the ultimate victims in this – the rank and file American public – learned a lesson: That those in the upper echelons of the financial community are simply above reproach and in reality and sadly, above the law.

The financial crisis just proved that a free market that is also free from moral responsibility does not work. With this coming election, I’m actually deathly afraid that my Republican leaders will simply allow Wall Street’s trend of fiscal irresponsibility to continue. Thus far, all I’ve heard from the candidates is not how they’re going to protect against the 2008 crash; instead, they’re making this a class war and taking the side of the crooks who got us into this mess in the first place; calling them “job creators.”

Frankly, I don’t really give a shit about politicians’ rhetoric on how they’re going to create jobs – especially within the context of this particular economic environment. I believe that they first have to find a way to keep Wall Street in check. If that means creating some sort of oversight or regulation, so be it.

To me, a free market is a market where everyone is free to prosper. But in order to make that work, there has to be some sense of responsibility and accountability. There was neither in this latest saga in our economic story, and all that’s going to happen if this continues is that we’re bound to have another collapse.

When I Vote for President I Will Vote…

…with my conscience.

My brother and I have always wondered what was up with our father and many of our ultra-right-wing conservative family members, puzzling over their seemingly blind support of candidates or anything Republican for that matter; all this on top of their absolutely annoying criticism of Democrats. On the other hand, one of my closest friends has been a staunch Democrat; staunch to the point of getting angry if I didn’t agree with his political ideals.

This morning, I read an article on the Romney aides attacking Newt Gingrich’s reliability and trustworthiness, and essentially calling him an anti-Republican, and just falling short of calling him psychotic. But the thing that one of the aides said struck me:

I don’t think Newt Gingrich cares about conservative principles

I then realized that statements like the one above are the root of the problem that I’ve been having with BOTH sides of our political landscape. Each camp has been very effective in polarizing the masses and debating on ideology, not the issues. If an issue does come up, it seems – at least from what I’ve been reading – that the legislators don’t argue the merits or the problems with the issue itself, they argue the ideology.

The net effect can be akin to brainwashing. Anytime you bring ideology into anything, you bring in emotion. Push the right emotional buttons – especially the anger buttons – and you can instantly move thousands, perhaps millions, towards your point of view. Today’s politicians have been extremely effective at that. Take a look at the GOP: Their resounding, practically single-minded battle-cry has been to make Obama a one-term president. My question for my fellow Republicans is simply this: What do you stand for that will be for the good of the American people?

Oh, they say all the right stuff to address the issues on their websites, that’s for sure. But the news they make has been all about political ideology. As a Republican, I anguish about this as it makes me extremely reluctant and actually confused about who would be best suited to run against our current president. As it stands, I believe the one who refuses to engage in the ideology debate will be the one I vote for; that is, if they don’t drive me away as a Republican voter due to their ideological squabbling.

So that is why in the end, I will vote my conscience, and vote for the candidate whom I believe believes in “by the people for the people.” That may be Republican – and I’m hoping it is – but it may not be, and as in previous elections, I will cross party lines.