Shake the addiction to political party loyaltyWritten by Jim Harpen | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of Saturdays ago, I was talking to a buddy — a Democrat with a capital D — about the economic upheavals and the barrage of bailouts by the federal government.
“Those ‘G-D’ Republicans! They all ought to be strung up!” he stated at full concert hall volume, laying the blame for the nation’s credit dilemma squarely at the feet of Republicans. I mean, this guy was fit for a middle-class lynch mob.
About four hours later, another buddy — a Republican with a capital R — asked me if I saw “…that the Democrats have indicted (Sarah) Palin”.
Buddy No. 1: The credit crisis has a lot of sources, and the biggest one — the mortgage mess — can be traced to incentives the federal government gave to the banking industry to make mortgages easier for people to get in the 1990s. And that started with Bill Clinton, a, uh, Democrat.
Buddy No. 2: I read the same article. Palin wasn’t indicted. She was subpoenaed to testify. Huge difference. And the guy in charge of the investigation in Alaska is a Republican.
If you insist on seeing everything in shades of Blue or Red, you’ll go blind.
As we grow, most of us go through inner changes in political ideology, but many are unwilling to change their party loyalty. To my parent’s chagrin, my story is a little different. I grew up in a staunchly Democratic home, so in my early years, I was decidedly Democrat. Then I became a reporter and began to see upclose what I consider the detrimental effects of well-intentioned liberal social policies, and I gravitated to the Republican side. Now, I don’t fit into either party. And I think it’s unwise to see the issues from a Friend-or-Foe perspective.
For example, I believe the surge in Baghdad is working, so the McCain/Palin ticket is Friend. I also favor greater gun control, so the McCain/Palin ticket is Foe. What’s a voter to do?
I sort of admire people who at this late stage of the game are undecided. I trust their judgment more than most people who’ve had their minds made up for months. Here’s why: Once we make up our minds, we’re not really open to new information. We read the papers, listen to the sound bites and watch the talking heads looking for validation of the choices we’ve already made rather than new and possibly accurate information that might change our minds.
And perhaps nowhere is that myopia more dangerous than in local elections. How many people have you met who say “I always vote (insert party here)”? And that’s how they vote, from dog warden to White House.
In Toledo, I’ve known elected officials under the Democrat banner who have no more regard for the little guy than some corporate scoundrels now doing hard time in prison. By the same token, I’ve known Republican officeholders who possess more compassion than Mahatma Gandhi but are clueless about the things that help businesses grow and create jobs. They went from law school to the political patronage circuit, never learning what it’s like to try to make payroll for their employees every two weeks.
Here’s a challenge:
You, unemployed bank loan officer in Sylvania filing for personal bankruptcy. Are you really a Republican? Are you really a member of the party that embraces the deregulation that contributed to the growing financial mess? And on the local level, are you satisfied with your local party’s leadership by a man whose first stroke of genius was failing to get your only local candidate’s paperwork filed in time to get him on the November ballot?
And you, unemployed West Toledo autoworker whose wife is working two jobs. Are you really a Democrat? Are you really a member of the party that pushed NAFTA through and wants to give amnesty to illegal aliens? And on the local level, are you satisfied that your Democratic mayor spends tens of thousands hiring a personal speechwriter at the same time the city is laying off union workers?
Neither of the challenges I just wrote are completely fair nor thorough. They’re biased as hell and ridiculously simplistic. But so is voting based on party loyalty.
The solutions to our problems are not red or blue. They’re all a dirty shade of gray.
E-mail columnist Jim Harpen at email@example.com.