Monday, October 25, 2010

Hand-Wringing and Pearl-Clutching

We have about a week remaining in this circus known as the 2010 mid-term elections. Not long after President Obama took office I started to realize it was probably going to be a brutally ugly year for Democrats. And that was before the Supreme Court ruled in January of this year that corporations have the right -- as persons-- to spend freely on political campaigns.

Aside from that insidious infusion into the campaign season, I can understand why so many people are conflicted. A sizable number of Americans have been directly impacted by the recession. There's anger on the left and there's anger on the right. And we certainly don't have much common ground on the solutions.
Filings with the Federal Election Commission over the weekend show that one Republican group, American Future Fund, has purchased more television advertisements attacking Representative Bruce Braley, Democrat of Iowa, who was expecting an easier path to re-election. Another group, the 60 Plus Association, reported spending more than $150,000 against Representative Solomon P. Ortiz, Democrat of Texas, who has been considered a likely victor in November against his cash-short challenger, Blake Farenthold.

“As you know, they have been dumping tens of millions of dollars of secret money into these campaigns,” Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an interview. “I would say the outside groups have shuffled the deck in a number of these races.”

I shouldn't be surprised either that so many Americans are straddling the fence between Democrats and Republicans. Some people don't mind paying taxes but want their rights to own guns as well as wanting to restrict the rights of women to seek abortion.
Or consider James Cherry — no handy label for him either. He is a structural engineer and an unaffiliated voter who leans, he said, toward the Republicans on gun rights and abortion.

But he is also heavily involved in philanthropy, and the federal health care overhaul passed by the Democrats touches on his passions about caring for others. He enthusiastically supported the change and has no patience for Republicans or Tea Party enthusiasts who want repeal. Indeed, he is unhappy with both parties that the law does not include a single-payer government option that liberal Democrats had favored. His wife, Julia, is on the same page.

In my mind, the problem we have as a society is that we can't seem to come to terms with the notion of individual liberty. Many want the federal government to stop meddling in the rights of states, but they have no issue with the states meddling in the rights of the individual, depending on the rights. Guns: yes. Abortion: no. Same-sex marriage: no. God: yes. Muslims: No. Evolution: No. Stem-cell research: No. Prayer: Yes. Hell yes! And so on...

Until we learn to live and let live, we are doomed to repeat this cycle over and over for decades to come.

I wish I could say the far rightward march and the potential for the success of it was limited geographically. Unfortunately, this debate isn't limited to places like Texas, Kansas and Mississippi. This ill wind is blowing from Massachusetts to California, from Washington to Florida.

The anger isn't just about what Obama has or hasn't done in terms of the change we were promised. There has been progress on many fronts, and a glaring lack of progress on others. If we were simply dealing with an electorate feeling disenfranchised because we didn't get enough of the change we were promised, I seriously doubt more than a very small percentage would be switching their vote back to the Republican column from whence we just came. It's about far more than change, or the lack thereof. It's about anger and fear, lies and distortions, with a surprisingly gullible and ignorant electorate.

And that's what scares me the most about this election cycle. I will be voting here in Texas, and that doesn't come without significant hand-wringing on my part. I so desperately want to see Governor Rick Perry tossed out that I'm willing to consider casting a vote for Democrat Bill White who is proudly on record as being in favor of something I see as a major moral shortcoming, and his opposition to another I view as being grossly lacking in compassion.
White and Glass said they favor the death penalty; Shafto said she opposed it as uncivilized.

White said he would oppose legalizing medical marijuana. Shafto said the nation learned nothing from Prohibition and that making drugs illegal already is creating crime. Glass said as governor she would sign a law legalizing medical marijuana, but she said it was only a "hypothetical" because a Republican Legislature would never pass it.

Or I may have to "throw my vote away" on the Green Party candidate, Deb Shafto.

It is unlikely that Texas will ever field a viable candidate who is truly progressive. And I don't plan to spend the rest of my life in Texas waiting for one.

For the sake of my own sanity, I need to let it go, disengage, and just observe the spectacle unfolding. Chalk me up as yet another very angry voter.

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