The easiest way to write an article is to castigate your opponents and avoid their arguments. The easiest method to deal with political differences is to deride opposition arguments as ill-informed, stupid, unsubstantiated opinions, and illogical. The easiest path to frame your opponents in a bad light is to pick out the inconsistencies in their position and highlight them. When you consider that the majority of elections, including Presidential ones, are decided in the 52% to 48% range, it is not a stretch to say that the country is, primarily, divided into two significant political ideologies. However, the composition of Congressional infighting demonstrates that within these political ideologies there are considerable differences. For example, Democrats range from Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), considered very liberal, to Heath Schuler (D-NC), a blue dog Democrat (very conservative). Such a wide range of beliefs within a party is ripe pickings for negative columns.

This political season the Republican Party, combined with Tea Party enthusiast, has elected a host of “green” primary candidates who have said some scary things. For example, Rand Paul questioning whether government has the right to force businesses to stop discriminating against their customers based on race. And Sharron Angle who started out saying that “we need to phase Medicare and Social Security out.” Such ill-considered comments make them easy prey for political pundits and decrease their chances of winning at the ballot box. However, there are a number of moderate Republicans who espouse more temperate views, even though they appear to be a dying breed. My point is that within both political parties, there is a diversity of opinion which makes it easy to write a column.

Then you have the distracters. These are the people who make headlines with outlandish claims. There is Orly Taitz who claims that Obama was not born in America. The Supreme Court, twice, has declined to hear her appeal of a $20,000 fine for filing a frivolous lawsuit challenging Obama’s legitimacy as President. Justice Clarence Thomas rejected her first appeal and Justice Samuel Alito the second. In other words, both conservative Justices let stand a Georgia federal court ruling that her challenge to Obama’s birth status was without merit. Then you have Franklin Graham who is claiming that Obama was born a Muslim because the “seed” was passed down at birth from his Muslim father. Franklin is no Billy, that’s for sure. We did not demonize the German people for WWII. We, correctly I might add, blamed the Nazi’s.  Why are some insistent on blaming all Muslims for 9/11? When one considers the mood in this country about Muslims, is it any wonder that distracters are doing their best to tie Obama with the Muslim label. Distracters serve the purpose of misdirecting our attention from the basic philosophical differences over the role of government.

I have said before, and will say again, that conservatives have some solid ideas about governing that need a proper airing in the marketplace of ideas. For example, Sharron Angle has switched positions on Social Security. Currently, her political ad has her saying: “I’d like to save Social Security by locking the lock box, putting the money back into the trust fund so the government can no longer raid our retirement.” That was Al Gore’s position during the 2000 Presidential campaign. It is a common sense, simple but elegant, solution to Social Security.

We need to get back to the challenging, and difficult, task of debating our policy differences. Both Republicans and Democrats have fairly solid arguments to buttress their positions but you would not know that from most of what you read and hear from the media. Just because the media is reactive and hungry for ratings does not mean that we need to follow their lead like sheep. I might not like the tactics being used by the right but I can understand that under that angry verbosity lie some well formed ideas about the role of government, the role of taxes, the role of free markets, and so forth. We would do well to focus our work around these most important issues and not allow ourselves to outright dismiss the ideas of our opponents without a fair hearing.

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Jim Fitzgerald

Jim Fitzgerald

A clinically trained psychologist, Jim had a private practice in Cobb County for almost 30 years. For the last ten years he has been a Professor of Psychology at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, but lives in the North Georgia Mountains.