I am often asked by new listeners of the program about my personal politics. Although I have discussed this subject in detail on the show, I certainly don’t expect others to go back into the archive and listen to the hundreds of past episodes that I’ve recorded over the last 6+ years – however, certainly feel free to and effectively save me the trouble of writing this damn thing. 😉
I defer to the description provided in the “Meet the Host” interview:
“I am a staunch Independent. In regard to discussing topics on the show, I am neither liberal, conservative, libertarian, moderate or progressive. As should be the case with any intelligent human being who is contemplating the complexities of domestic, foreign and social issues, I am in fact all of these descriptions…the adjective that best describes my stance is wholly contingent upon the individual topic or issue, and not a broad-based and naive acceptance of all of the planks of a particular parties platform or ideology. There seems to be an abysmal divide between accuracy and ideology. However, let there be no mistake, as I am a deeply opinionated and passionate person who stresses being informed, accurate and seeing all sides of the debate, including the right and ability to change my mind. A virtue that appears to be lost in today’s ‘my team versus your team’ political environment.”
With that being said, allow me to provide a brief primer.
Pro-choice (does not = “pro-abortion”). Pro capital punishment. Pro gun (but you don’t need an automatic weapon to protect your home or to kill a deer). A Capitalist. Socially liberal. Fiscally conservative. Conservative on immigration (there is a legal path to citizenship and it should be followed). Scientifically progressive. Non-religious. As a general principle, I am not fond of unions (depends on the industry. i.e. Teachers: Yes, Auto Industry: No). I believe in personal freedom and that what you do in/with your life – or how you practice your faith etc – is your business, unless it affects me…and the moment it does, I push back, hard. I believe that government should be small enough that I don’t feel its influence in my daily life. I also feel that government has a duty to not only protect its citizens, but to help improve their quality of life, education and health. I am pro military. I am not anti-war…but I am anti-unjustified-war. I believe in Global Climate Change. I don’t want my President to be, “just like me”, nor do I want to have a beer with him. I am bullshit intolerant.
Although there are many important issues other than the ones that I listed, and as much as I could easily expound upon my reasons for each of the above statements, that is not the purpose of this post.
One of the purposes of this post (as I am sure I will get sidetracked, as I always do) is to illustrate that if we break away from choosing a political “team,” you would (1) be surprised how liberating it feels (2) realize you have far more in common with those you have been “conditioned” to oppose and (3) realize that nobody can realistically, honestly and wholeheartedly support all of the planks of one particular party’s platform. Everybody is different, and therefore our opinions are formulated and informed by personal experience and circumstances that require individual consideration of every issue. The world of politics has become too muddied, too influenced by special interest and too divisive for either party to even resemble their former selves.
Take the Republican party. I was turned on to conservatism on certain issues due in large part to Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. But the perversion of true conservatism in the last decade or so and its newest incarnation of neo-conservatism has taken principles that deserved a place in the public debate and largely devolved them into social wedge issues for the purpose of dividing up the electorate into voting on emotional & morality issues, and not always what is in their best financial or political interest.
For instance, the political rise of the evangelical right provided a ripe voting base (in response to the Democrat’s strength with African Americans, other minorities and unions). The GOP needed a counter-balance to this steady and reliable Democratic base and (1993) Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove et al, perhaps politically & rightfully so, targeted this large and relatively untapped religious voting base (also see: Ralph Reed and the “Christian Coalition”). Republican politics suddenly became ALL about abortions, gay marriage, religion in public schools and right-to-life issues (pls see: Terri Schiavo). Republican candidates began sprinkling their rhetoric with Biblical passages, references to Jesus, their supposed Christianity (pls see: sex scandals; gay & straight) and essentially – manipulatively – “spoke the language” Christians wanted to hear in order to gain their votes…then these candidates proceeded to do nothing when they got elected…until the next “Christ-laden” re-election speech when evangelical votes (and money) were needed again.
Barry Goldwater famously once said:
“On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.
I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”
I quote Goldwater here because I agree entirely with his assertion that the insertion of religious dogma and morality into politics is to the detriment of true conservatism, and government as a whole. For example, on the issue of Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice, I am of the belief that when it comes to personal freedom and rights, along with “nobody telling a woman what they can & can’t do with their bodies,” the true conservative approach is to support choice. It is not until religion is inserted into the debate that it becomes a morality issue, and no longer an issue of personal freedom.
I have no problem with politicians having faith or religion…but I do have a problem when their religion makes its way into their politics. I do not begrudge people with religious beliefs. I begrudge people who think that those beliefs should apply to anyone other than themselves.
Now, I am sure that some people will attempt to counter what I am saying and resort to their standard, “I saw it on a bumper sticker” breadth of knowledge about our Founding Fathers being “devout Christians”; but a simple Google search on comments from the likes of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson made on religion and its place in politics, should settle that debate quickly. Many early settlers came to the United States to escape religious persecution, to worship as they saw fit, therefore to have Freedom of Religion it meant that there can be NO national religion…Christian or otherwise. But I digress…
I mention all of this to help demonstrate where conservatism began to stray from its original principles…and as a result, began to turn me away from its newest (neo) incarnation. From this point forward, when I refer to Republicans, I am specifically referring to the far-right / neo wing of the party and not the more moderate or traditional conservatives (what little remain). Anyway, back to my point…
It’s The Hypocrisy, Stupid
I have made no secret of the fact that I disliked George W. Bush immensely. I also make no secret of the fact that I spend more time ridiculing far-right Republicans than I do Democrats. The reason for that is simply…well, recently Democrats are more boring and inactive than Republicans when it comes to my main issue of ire: Hypocrisy.
Most Democrats (I’m looking at you, former Rep. Alan Grayson) don’t call people, “un-american” for disagreeing with them. Democrats don’t call parts of the country, “more American” than others, simply because they do agree with them. Democrats don’t pander to the basest prejudices and fears of race, nor do they incite and/or encourage imagery of violence, revolution and hatred…they are generally too boring, spineless and ineffective at coherent communication to be that clever.
Democrats also don’t spend considerable time working on anti-gay legislation or child predator laws, only to get caught in a Minnesota airport bathroom (Craig) or preying on teenage male Congressional pages (Foley). They don’t stand on a religious moral high-horse espousing the virtues of “family values” while ordering hookers from the Senate floor (Vitter), decrying the affair of a President while having an affair themselves (Gingrich), bang the wife of one of their staffers (Ensign) or trolling for infidelity on Craigslist (Lee). They also don’t align themselves with religious leaders who denounce homosexuality from the pulpit, while doing drugs and having sex with male prostitutes in hotels (Haggard). The list goes on and on…and on.
Now, I am certainly not saying that Democrats do not have their fair share of sex scandals…from the mother of all scandals (Clinton) to that of Eliot Spitzer…but certainly not with the frequency of the last decade or so of Republicans and definitely not with the same level of moral, religious and unmitigated hypocrisy from those who tout their “family values” and/or heterosexual bona fides. I hate hypocrites, especially those who presume to judge others and their lives…and this might give some insight into why – that although I dislike both parties – I dislike Republicans a little more.
For example, I liked (pre-election) John McCain…at one point even thought him unbeatable if he ran (before Obama burst onto the scene). But his independence and refusal to tow his party’s line – his maverickness, if you will – quickly gave way to hypocrisy when he embraced and became beholden to the same, “agents of intolerance” that he denounced years earlier. When he was for civil unions for gays…until he was magically against them during the election (gotta secure that evangelical base, right?). When he promised to run a, “respectful campaign”…then brought in the likes of Sarah Palin (her husband, a previous member of the Alaskan Independence Party, favoring secession) and began spewing rhetoric about, “palling around with terrorists”, allowing his supporters to call his opponent a Muslim for political benefit, didn’t correct the record (until later) about his opponents citizenship (when McCain himself, ironically enough, was born on a Naval base in Panama) and freely allowed his surrogates to perpetuate an underlying distrust of race, other religions and his opponents name to a certain demographic of voters (pls see: later became the Tea Party). This was especially disappointing, considering what was done to him during the 2000 GOP primary in S. Carolina by Bush and his agents.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did go to work for the Obama campaign, as I had my eye on him since his DNC speech for John Kerry…as did many others. I trained volunteers who went on to knock on some 35,000 doors in Orlando over the course of the campaign. I versed them on policy, how to answer questions accurately, delineating the differences between the two candidates and how to effectively and articulately communicate why they supported his candidacy…other than, “Um…cause he’s like totally about hope, duh.” I also knocked on doors myself, spoke at public events, helped organize voter registration drives and sat in countless living rooms answering questions about the candidate…not to mention utilizing the reach of my show.
Insulting Our Intelligence
The other reason my personal politics – and ridicule – has been focused on far-right Republicans, is what I view as the lobotomization and dumbing down of the American electorate through adolescent sound-bites, campaign slogans and the framing of debates that – in my opinion – clearly demonstrate a belief that the American people have the IQ and attention span of a 4-year old.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not a fan of George W. Bush. I liked and respected his father…he was a Statesman, and I personally feel that he got a bad rap by the end of his first (and only) term. In fact, a lot of the reason Stimulated Boredom was born in the first place was due to my absolute frustration over the 2004 election. I simply did not think he was the right man for the job, nor did I think he possessed the intellectual curiosity that I feel is integral in a President and the leader of the free world. I never thought his intentions were meant to be malicious, I’m sure he was a perfectly decent man on a personal level and I honestly thought he was doing what HE thought was best for the country…I just adamantly disagreed, just as others who oppose President Obama have the right to do.
Yet, despite my dislike for the man, defined by his policies and the people he surrounded himself with (save for Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and others who I did like and respect), I never once called him a “dictator”, “warmonger” or any other name that the far-left (who equally annoy me) reserved for him. In fact, I issued a challenge for anyone to listen to all of my past shows and provide a clip of me using such words / descriptions…it has yet to happen, as there are none. I debated his policies, gave substantiative arguments as to why I disagreed and provided facts, reputable sources and robust / in-depth discussion about them with the intent of giving others different opinions to consider for themselves. Sure, I called him stupid. I criticized his intellectual capacity and curiosity. I ridiculed his “every man” persona…since I assume most of us didn’t attend Ivy League schools or have a dad that was Director of the CIA, Ambassador to the U.N., VP for 8 years and President for 4 years. I questioned his leadership and proceeded to explain my reasons why, but I never resorted to the same level of gross mis-characterization, oversimplification and historical irresponsibility that President Obama and his policies currently endure.
After 9/11, I gave him the benefit of the doubt…as did many, demonstrated by his 90% approval ratings…which is astronomical in political terms. Everyone in the country was united by national pride and our commonality; we had the goodwill, sympathy and cooperation of the entire world. Strangers would high-five in the streets, just for being an American. Period.
By 2008, his approval rating was at 25% and before his re-election in 2004 (and especially near the end of his Presidency), it was popular around the world to hate and criticize the United States. It became a campaign promise in 2008 to restore America’s reputation…this, after sitting at 90% and having the world on our side in 2001.
There are those who still call Bush a “great leader”…but I welcome any intelligent argument for making the case as to how a “great leader” goes from a 90% approval rating and shared unity around the word…to 25% and criticism of the U.S. by other nations becoming a popular way to get elected in other (allied) countries.
How do you go from 90%, down to 25%? By creating, nurturing, campaigning on and perpetuating a political environment (still persistent today) in which you are encouraged to call the same fellow Americans you had high-fived on 9/12/01 (regardless of political and ideological disagreements), but who are now deemed “Un-American” if they disagree with you and, “Real Americans” if they do agree with you.
You encourage, nurture and perpetuate your followers to call a Presidential candidate (and now duly-elected President) a “Socialist”, “Marxist”, “Radical Muslim”, “Communist”, “Buddhist Anarchist!” and compare him to Hitler, Lenin, Mao and Stalin. You (GOP) encourage and help organize rallies that bring his citizenship into question; you manipulate people with their underlying prejudices and fears, make them “uncomfortable” and distrusting of “the other.”
You enter a war in which every single justification for going and sending troops into harm’s way, not a single one of them turns out to be true and therefore public opinion turns against the effort. To continue to call people “un-American” who criticize this decision. You out CIA agents when their husband’s disagree with your narrative and case for war. You manipulate the terror levels to coincide and overshadow potentially embarrassing news. You obtain phone records of American citizens and engage in warrantless wiretapping. You violate the same Geneva Convention that we prosecuted the Japanese in WWII as war criminals for (waterboarding)…but call people “weak”, describe them as “providing aid and comfort to our enemies” and accuse them of “not supporting the troops” if they disagree with it.
You evoke the memory of 9/11 and warn of future attacks if your party doesn’t win, all the while accusing people who oppose you of forgetting that horrific event. You wait a week to visit an American city devastated by a hurricane. You increase our deficit by giving tax cuts to the rich and passing a Medicare Prescription Plan that you can’t pay for. You turn a surplus into a crippling deficit. You increase the National Debt by more during your Presidency, than all previous Presidents combined. You never veto a single spending bill or budget and accuse people of, “not wanting to fund our troops” if they raise an eyebrow about earmarks and pork meant to benefit members of your party. You accuse the opposing party of “siding with the terrorists” and “appeasing” them.
You give people a dumbed-down and oversimplified reason for why we were attacked – “because they hate our freedom” – instead of having faith that the American people can understand complexity and the unintended consequences of foreign policy…of which I did a 3-hour discussion on after the death of Osama bin Laden, providing accurate historical, ideological and political context. You ridiculously rename French fries in the cafeteria, “Freedom Fries” because an ally disagrees with your run-up to war…thereby encouraging blind nationalism in which we marginalize the opinion of other countries / allies.
You deploy Fox News to spread your talking-points, appreciating their propensity for putting ideology over accuracy.
The list goes on and on…and on.
However, this is where my issue with the far-right – and why I criticize them so often – comes from. It is stupid and childish bumper-sticker slogans. It is empty gestures in the form of magnetic car flags and criticizing those who don’t share your $0.99 brand of patriotism. Making an issue out of the absence of a flag pin on a lapel. Questioning other American’s patriotism for the simple fact that they disagree with you and your policies. Producing campaign commercials that hint at the coming violence of terrorism…if you don’t elect us. Becoming the reality-TV version of politics and allowing “movements” to spew their hate, racism and violent fantasies, as long as those folks go to the polls for your benefit. It is decrying “runaway spending”, when you hypocritically didn’t have the same fiscal discipline (you suddenly profess to possess now) when you were in power. It’s falsely espousing your desire to provide Healthcare Reform, but “not until we repeal the current reform” (I venture, because the other guy got it passed)…when you never lifted a finger or uttered a word about doing so during the years when you were in power. It’s not denouncing the rantings of lunatics…as long as those lunatics are on your side…and registered to vote.
It’s the hypocrisy, stupid.
I’ve rambled on enough and appreciate anyone who made it this far. I am holding back, for fear that this post will only get longer, but I write this with solemn seriousness, frustration and concern over the direction our politics have taken us. I freely admit, that as an Independent who has cast my vote for both Democrats and Republicans, that the 8 years under Bush and this new political environment – that I personally feel was created and compounded under his Administration and plunged him from 90% approval to 25% – has completely soured me on the new direction that conservatism has taken. There are many great conservative ideals, but those got lost a long time ago amidst the deafening noise of social wedge issues, calling people’s patriotism into question and nurturing the worst demons in people in order to get votes.
As for the Democrats, feel lucky that my tangents on far-right Republicans led me to write a post that is already too long; as I am not a fan of yours either…you just have the lucky distinction of not being as infuriatingly hypocritical in the last 10 years as your right-wing counterparts across the isle. I suppose it’s just a matter of time.
You are the party of FDR, Kennedy, Truman…Democrats who oversaw WWII and the Cuban Missile Crisis, yet somehow you allow yourselves to be portrayed as “shrinking violets” when it comes to National Defense.
Fortunately your guy in the White House seems to be the only one carrying the party’s balls.