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Election '08

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The Politics of Division

dem-a-gogue [dem-uh-gog, -gawg]
-noun
1. a person, esp. an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.

dem-a-gogu-er-y [dem-uh-gog-uh-ree]
-noun
1. impassioned appeals to the prejudices and emotions of the populace


United we stand, divided we fall. Those words should be accepted as a truism for a society. Societies with deep unresolved divisions tend toward chaos and strife with their citizens paying the most for the power of their leaders. America is no exception to this rule. We are sharply divided as a nation over many issues and collectively our society is paying the price with the loss of freedoms and the rise of increasingly corrupt politicians who are selling their people out for power and money.

If you go into virtually any fundamentalist church in America and say something like "I believe that gays should be allowed to marry because Jesus taught to love and respect everyone and that only he who is without sin should judge anyone else's life." you are likely to get not only kicked out of the church but also beaten up in the parking lot by some of the parishioners. Why is that? Didn't you just express your opinion in a free society that is supposed to cherish open dialog?

The answer lies in the politics of demagoguery that has become a plague on American society. The politicians only care about getting and holding power in the vast majority of cases. The purveyors of propaganda have taken over the campaigns and the more emotional an issue is, the more the politicians ride it to the polls. If you want to get elected in this country, you have to divide people as sharply as possible or be beaten by the other guy who was able to convince them that anyone who didn't support him was un-American.

The answer to the question of "Why would they want to divide Americans?" is actually fairly simple. There's no profit in unity and real solutions. If the politicians actually solved the problems of our society and worked for unity among our people, they would eventually be out of a job. Once Americans figured out that the problems were not so insurmountable and we don't need some white knight to save us all from the imaginary advancing horde, the people in power who know nothing other than bureacracy would have to actually work for a living. The power brokers in Washington would not be able to peddle influence and the corporate puppeteers would not have the blanket protection from the people that they have bought and paid for in the past. To be blunt, there is more profit in the problem than in the solution. As long as we are arguing about how to solve the imaginary problems, they don't have to solve the real ones and we still rely on them to run things.

Some would say "My party doesn't do that." Wake up! There is no monopoly on corruption or self-service on either side of the political aisle. The simple fact that it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to run national campaigns has put every major candidate in debt to someone that does not have the best interests of the American people anywhere in their mind. The reality of politics today is that Americans don't really pay attention other than to the most divisive of issues and that is just the way the politicians want it to be. They keep their power, accomplish little, get paid a lot and the people footing the bill just vote for whomever and whatever the TV tells them to vote or, more often, not to vote for. While many say they want an end to dirty politics, they overwhelmingly respond to the more negative ads time after time even if those ads are solely populated with half truths and utter lies.

So what is the solution? Two simple words. Two simple words that should be the first to come to mind any time a politician, activist or pundit says anything. The same two words that you should say when you see the political commercials with wild claims about how something will "impact all Americans" either positively or negatively. Those two words: "Prove it." Just ask the simple question that nobody asks. Ask how they can make the wild claims without any proof that what they are saying is true. Ask them to back up their statements with something other than buzzwords and talking points. Where's the science? Where's the data? When they pull out a poll, remind them that a poll is not a fact. Polls are snapshots of opinions from a select group of people based on a tailored question desiring a specific result. They don't prove anything other than what some people think.

When a politician responds to a question with words like "freedom", "fairness" and "greatness" which have less than nothing to do with the question you can pretty much assume that they are not answering the question because they either can't or really don't want to answer. When that is the case they are either incompetent or full of something that doesn't smell nice and you really don't want soiling the carpet of the capitol.

Good democracy requires an educated public that is skeptical of the claims of would-be leaders who smile a bit too much. Just because someone seems nice does not make them a good leader. Conversely, just because someone is not dynamic it does not follow that they are not a good leader. It is better to support a competent and honest person who may be a bit surly than it is to support a person who will charm you while their companion sneaks up on you to get you from behind. Be wary of those who would wave the flag with one hand and use the Constitution to wipe the feces from their bottom with the other.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer - Give your feedback on this article.


Iraqi fighter on top of burning U.S. vehicle

Will "Victory" Await the Next President?

Four years, 3200+ dead Americans, tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and no end in sight. What will the next president face when they take office in 2009? Should Americans be looking to find a president who can handle the rigors of war or should we be looking for a peacemaker?

As we gear up for the next presidential election it seems that the realities of war are going to be a factor in the policies of the next president. The current administration has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of letting the Iraqi people oversee their own nation for some time to come. President Bush has already said that the next president will inherit the "War on Terror" and by most estimates that will include the war in Iraq. Does this mean we need a warrior president or do we need the next great statesman to come and repair the broken alliances of this administration? Perhaps, the answer lies somewhere in between.

While the pundits rage and the candidates promise, we try to soak it in. We are bombarded with information about their stands on this or that but never really know who they are as people. So what do we use as a guide on which to base our most important of decisions? What does America need? How do we recognize it when we see it? Is there in fact anyone who can lead us back from the brink?

The decision of who leads us must come in part from our definition of "victory" in Iraq and in the "War on Terror". What would "victory" look like if we achieved it? For some, "victory" comes in the form of a democratic Iraq and Afghanistan. For others "victory" comes in the form of a Middle East molded in the image of America. For yet others still "victory" comes in the form of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan having peace in their land and no U.S. troops anywhere around. Whose "victory" is the right one for America?

On this fourth anniversary of the Iraq war, we need to think about what "victory" means and what it will look like and then we need to think about what policies will get us there. After all of that, we then need to decide who can best take us there. The only "victory" the next president will likely be able to count on is the one they have on election night. Any other "victory" will more than likely be a loss for at least some Americans.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer - Give your feedback on this article.




Can Anyone in Washington Actually Do Anything About Gas Prices?

With the national average price of gasoline going up at a steady pace, it seems like Washington is ominously quiet about ways to address the issue in the here and now. We have heard many politicians talk about oil independence but not a whole lot about addressing the unprecedented profits of the oil industry while they claim the price of foreign oil is driving their pricing. How is it that this is all because of rising prices for oil yet the oil companies haven't felt any of the pain? They are suffering all the way to the bank it would seem.

The thing that nobody seems to be calling the oil companies on is the simple principle that when price is driven naturally by supply and demand without being manipulated, profit margins tend to stay somewhat flat. Only when the companies decide to pinch a little more profit out of each transaction does the profit rise with the cost. If the oil companies left profit determinations in absolute dollars as opposed to percentages, they would still make ungodly amounts of money without squeezing the life out of their customers. Becasue they base their costing on percentage margins per transaction, they make more and more money at our expense. Add to that the ability to stop production on a dime and they can rape us even more.

So what can politicians do about it? Well, they do have the ability to put price caps in place which would halt the rise entirely or they could put a profit tax on oil without loopholes for "R&D" increases to hide profits. The latter could divert some of that money back into the economy by giving tax rebates to people who drive energy efficient cars or be used to create jobs repairing our failing infrastructure. Sadly what is likely to happen is nothing because the oil industry has armies of lobbyists who buy and sell our politicians on a daily basis. The only real recourse the American people have is to vote for candidates who refuse access to the oil lobby which is a pretty small group.

Staff Writer - Give your feedback on this article.



California Makes it Official: 2008 Primary to be Held in February

With a stroke of the pen Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put California into the driver's seat in the 2008 Presidential Primary. "Moving up the primary from June to February gives California the influence it deserves in choosing the next presidential candidates," the Governor remarked after signing the law.

Lawmakers and party officials in California are delighted but the national response has been much more tepid. In an article for Wednesday's Jamestown(NY) Post Journal, the writer asserts that the early primary will kill the chances of any "dark horse" candidate to come out of the shadows and win the nomination.

Other articles in other states are less critical of the move but still raise the questions of how it will impact the later states to have California move their primary up. With the moving of the California primary, other states such as New York, Florida and New Jersey are also considering a move of their primaries to coincide with California. This would create a "Super Tuesday" primary that could lock up the nominations in a single day.

For obvious reasons, smaller states are not pleased with the decision by California but in the end, California has made their move so what remains to be seen now is will the other states also move their primaries in order to keep from losing ground to California in the primary.

Staff Writer - Give your feedback on this article.



Dirty Politics Go High Tech

With the advent of YouTube and the access to video manipulation software widespread, it is no great surprise that the supporters of candidates would make use of the technology to support or smear candidates.

The latest volley in this war of the web is an ad that has popped up on YouTube mirroring the famed 1984 Macintosh ads but replacing the "Big Brother" figure in those ads with footage of Hillary Clinton. The end of the ad gives a shot of the Barak Obama website address and encourages support for Obama.

While Obama and his staff deny any involvement, it will more than likely not hurt them in the polls to have this ad on the web. The video runs about a minute and was made to look nearly seamless with the original footage from the Macintosh ad. YouTube has not pulled the ad as of yet and despite its apparent slant for Obama and against Clinton. Unless Apple asks for it to be pulled on copywrite grounds, it will likely remain up and has already spread well beyond containment for the Clinton camp.

Staff Writer - Give your feedback on this article.





Fringe or Future of the Party?

Alabama Republican Hugh Cort represents the classic conservatism of Reagan Republicans. He is pro-life, anti-gay marriage and favors Constitutional amendments to accomplish both of those goals.

The doctor of psychiatric medicine and proclaimed Christian is also a strong proponent of the war in Iraq and favors putting 100,000 to 200,000 more trops in Iraq to win the war. His hard line stance on illegal immigration will likely sit well with strong conservatives. Dr. Cort supports strong Second Amendment rights and advocates for them openly.

On government spending Dr. Cort's website has the following to say "Government spending is out of control, even Republicans, many of whom are running for President, are spending like a bunch of drunken Democrats. I will fight for a line-item veto, a balanced budget amendment and put an end to pork barrel projects." While some would find this inflammatory, others may welcome such frank expression of opinions.

As with all candidates, Dr. Cort will have his proponents and detractors but ultimately, only the voters will be able to say if Dr. Cort represents the ideals they want in the White House.

Staff Writer - Give your feedback on this article.

 

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