Wednesday, June 30

What We Can Learn From Radicals

Radicalism isn't a right or left thing, it's both. Folks who want to drown government in a bath tub exist on both sides of the political spectrum. People who want freedom without consequences are as prevalent on the right as they are on the left. What we can learn from radicals , left and right, is that their formerly extreme views often become our eventual mainstream ones. Consider how radical "gunowner rights" have been and how they have been mainstreamed by the NRA and other 2nd Amendment proponents. Consider how Marriage Equality and Don't Ask, Don't Tell are moving more and more to the mainstream thanks to the left.

What we should learn from radicals on the left and right is that these movements don't take place over night and the mainstream tends to gravitate in gradual steps. This is why it is important to view the left or right leanings of the nation as a harbinger of things to come. And often the leanings take place in the halls of government.

The changes that have been played out in placing individuals on the Supreme Court is, in my opinion, the most important application of radicalism: putting people with radical ideas in the places of power. As a result of neoconservative radicalism, we have given rise to rampant corporate power-grabbing, lessened civil liberties to give government more power, and awarded more personal power to those who would enact it by the business end of a gun.

Radicals teach us that nothing can be gained without struggle. They teach us that without moderating forces, the values we presume to be our birthright are not protected. They teach us that we must be in the fray or willing to accept the consequences. Most importantly, they teach us that if their ideas are championed in the correct places, cooler heads seldom prevail.

Saturday, June 26

A Civil Discussion: Why Is It Not Okay to Stray from the Party Line?

I appreciate those people who put in time and effort to help candidates to be elected for their parties. It is a noble calling. However, it is painful when their partisanship does not allow them to call on their elected leaders to do the right thing when they compromise away things that hurt their constituents. The argument I hear from my much more committed to winning one for the party friends is we win if we are moving things "in the right direction." I would put the emphasis on "right" over direction, as many of the compromises are there to appease right of center groups. My recent post about the DISCLOSE act showcases an example of such appeasement.

However, how can we trust in a politics that promises change, but delivers gradualism or plain sells out a group of people for the opportunity to declare victory for our side now? Whether it is funding the war, tackling global climate change, economic policy, or health care, it shouldn't surprise anyone that through whittling away at legislation, average people are asking "So how does this help me?"

This is the very type of politics that Paul Wellstone and others fought (and some continue to fight) against. Wellstone said, while debating against a bill, “I believe that we will deeply regret this stampede to pass this legislation and the way in which we have taken all the human rights, religious freedom, right to organize, all of those concerns and we just put them in parenthesis, put them in brackets, as if they don't exist.” By treating those special interests and the people who are the public face for them as having more "personage" than someone affected by results of that legislation, we should not be surprised that it leads to a radicalization of politics both further right and left.

Should we feel empathy for those who choose to support their parties, of course. They are genuinely trying to do things to the best of their abilities to shape policy around what they believe is best. But should we not also point out when they are being sycophants and not using their critical thinking ability?

I understand that no political party or politician is without flaws. Voting more and more becomes an exercise in who will do less to make you angry that you voted for them than a feeling of genuine belief that they are representing your interests. However, if we really believe that the Constitution has any relevancy in our lives, we need to remember that our representative democracy is dependent on an informed electorate, not just those who excel at cheer leading.

Monday, June 21

The DISCLOSE Act: A Bill That Is False Advertising

After reading the Washington Post's article about the so-called campaign finance bill, I was equally appalled by the fact that it would exclude players like the NRA, the US Chamber of Commerce from reporting large contributors in campaign ads, but also would allow corporations who win government contracts of less than $10 million could use those earnings to support candidates of their liking. This prompted my firing off this letter to our 2nd District House Representative:

Dear Congressman Loebsack,

The current version of the DISCLOSE Act, is embarassing to the Democratic party, to the district you represent, and the United states of America. By allowing groups like the NRA to be excluded from this legislation, the argument that this creates transparency is an illusion. Further, by allowing any government contractor to be able to use money that has been paid by the American people to effectively align candidates of their choosing, is ludricrous legislation at best.

I support campaign finance reform that creates an environment of real transparency. I strongly urge you to either amend this legislation or offer a stronger remedy. As it stands, vote no!

PRIDE: In the Name of Protest

This is the fifth year or so that I've marched with my fellow Unitarian Universalist church members in in the Iowa City Pride Festival. This particular year, the parade was both eye opening and anger provoking.

Perhaps because it is an election year, the turnout of Democrats running for office was very noticeable. Also noticeable were the outpouring of religious right folks who numbered around twenty or thirty who seemed to feel that those in the parade were commiting an abominable sins.

I imagine that if there were a non-abominable sin parade, these same folks would find a much smaller audience than they were able to attract at this weekend's event. Nonetheless, the group did disperse as quickly as the last GLBT parader swung their rainbow flag past them.

While I appreciate protestation and practice the art of it on a regular basis, I wonder if an opportunity to educate was squandered on Saturday. Granted, I would not expect either side to be converted, but at least there should be a way for people who fear for others' mortal souls to hear that those "sinners" are doing all right without the power of their prayers.

I wonder how it is possible for a group of anti-Gay zealots to "love the sinner but not the sin" when they focus so much of their attention on the sinners? I am glad to support my friends as an ally, but I also dispair at those who would choose to believe that their existence is somehow a threat to them or their God--the very same God that we are made in the image of.

Wednesday, June 9

Post-Primary Mini-Dissection

It was a great day to be a local incumbent in Johnson County as all of them made it through the primary either unopposed or winning by large margins. It was also a very good day for women candidates of all parties as US Senatorial candidate Roxanne Conlin, US House candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Iowa House candidate Sandra Greiner withstood multiple challengers. On the other hand, in state- and national-level politics, it was not a good day to be a staunch conservative, as more moderate candidates were successful in defeating their "I'm more conservative than you" adversaries.

Voter turnout in Johnson County was an abysmal 10%, but showed that registered Republicans were more excited about the primary than their Democrat counterparts as more party faithful on the R side voted in the primary. A look at the early voter stats showed that Republicans won over Democrats in upping their membership for the primary. So what does this mean come November? It means that both parties will be working on turning out registered voters. It means that incumbents in challenged races will have to remind people why they should keep them around. It means that even in the Republic of Johnson County, there are those who aren't thrilled with the status quo on a state and nationwide level. However, the only thing that is stronger than the winds of change are the doldrums of apathy--and that will be what both parties will be dedicating themselves to defeat.

Tuesday, June 8

Primary Day: How I'm Voting

Primaries for me are difficult to generate excitement over, but this one is interesting on a couple of fronts. Locally. Janelle Rettig's "re-election" is an easy choice. She's doing a great job and has earned the opportunity to continue to serve. Besides, she and long-time incumbent Sally Stutsman are not being opposed by anyone except Write-In. In fact, other than the race for Dave Jacoby's House seat, there aren't any local primary contests that are contests. I was surprised that Janet Lyness was not challenged and I'll actually be writing in her 2006 opponent, Nick Maybanks, as my choice. Her office's handling of the John Deng investigation still makes my skin crawl.

The big races, of course, are the US Senate Democratic primary and the Republican Gubernatorial race. I have been disappointed at the tone of these races, as it shows what is wrong with the body politic, too much monkey business--both from the candidates and the party movers and shakers.

In the Democratic Senate race, the discourse is not helped by the fact that there is not an ideal candidate in the bunch and the sense that Roxanne Conlin's candidacy was a direct result of the IDP's belief that Chuck Grassley can only be defeated by a rainmaker; nobody can deny that Conlin has found deep pockets (although professing to prefer publicly-funded elections). Tom Fiegen, who was endorsed by the Des Moines Register has a great idea about generating jobs and has some progressive ideals, but his personal stance toward womens' reproductive rights and his low blows about Conlin's husband hurt him with the traditional base. Bob Krause, who is the only one who wants to end the war in Afghanistan and properly fund the VA is running a poor third. While I will vote for Krause, I am not sure that his pro stance on gun rights will help him win other progressive friends.

I hope to develop an enthusiasm for Roxanne Conlin, but so far she has been big on platitudes and short on plans. I'm not sure that Iowa's record for electing women to higher offices helps either. On the other hand, Chuck Grassley is looking weaker and, if anti-incumbency fever peaks in November, another of Iowa's "traditions" could very well change.

On the Republican side, Terry Branstad may very well return have the opportunity to return to Terrace Hill. The fact that Chet Culver doesn't generate a lot of goodwill among the party's more progressive members and the "strategy" of encouraging folks to cross party lines to vote up Bob Vander Plaats is a sign of how weak Culver may be. The saving grace for Culver may be that people are more afraid of what Branstad may do to gin up base support and then even reluctant Dems will have to support him. I will write in my vote for 2006 candidate Ed Fallon during the primary. Culver has not earned my vote either around labor issues or showing leadership about Iowa's economy.

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