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Looking deeper than a sales spiel | OPINION
It has been a whole year since I moved. Leaving my Marysville home of 49 years, I moved 4.2 miles southeasterly into a Lake Stevens zip code in a move toward full retirement and curtailed landscape labor. At one time or another, two real estate agents had been involved, each presenting homes that offered different benefits.
Memory of their sales pitches popped up when I heard Mitt Romney saying, “This isn’t an election between two candidates!” How true. His statement echoed the difference that separated the two real estate agents’ comments about why this or that new home might be right for me.
Picking a new home wasn’t a choice between real estate agents. It was based on finances, location, size, floor-plan, special features, nearness to family, neighbors, security, community services, shopping and more. Since a lot of this stuff lay outside both agents’ expertise it was up to me to figure the best balance. Like Romney indicated, it was more than a choice between two candidates.
But the media doesn’t want it that way. Obama said, Romney said. Sound bites in or out of context, most short of identifying each party’s design, methods, history and promise. Today’s GOP may be a little like that of Reagan’s time but nothing at all like Eisenhower’s GOP. A party’s doings are reflections of who’s calling the shots at the moment, so evoked memories of past glories and defeats are meaningless.
The manipulators who finance pet candidates’ elections have two distinct agendas. Number one is making pet-candidates electable so they can achieve number two: having government do their bidding. The first is akin to polishing a home’s curb appeal, a superficial view that leaves a strong impression. The second is engineering laws and policies that direct the nation’s contracts, profits, resources and subsidies into their pockets. It’s all about money.
Since neither party has clean hands, voters are left to decide which hands are less-dirty because in today’s political clashes, it’s impossible for either party to emerge totally clean. If one sleeps with dogs, he will rise up with fleas. In American politics, you make deals, and sometimes that means making deals with the devil.
Republican architecture is tidy — everything in plumb, all pipes and wires running straight from central control to the troops. Call it government by corporate clout. It’s a disciplined top-down leadership that issues marching orders to senators, representatives and justices. It boasts well-defined goals and a machine fully capable of shaping national opinion. While admirable in efficiency, it falls short of government by the people.
The Democratic Party is anything but tidy, harboring a fractious mix of small merchants and manufacturers, small and large labor groups, small ethnic populations, small environmental groups, small charities. And some big components like healers, educators and Hispanics. Unlike the GOP, all have a voice.
Romney was so right. It isn’t a contest between two candidates. It’s a war between two ideologies that diverged across 50 years from near-center positions to become polar opposites. When disinformation is such that hens are duped into voting for the fox, we need knowledge. Like home-buyers who avoid unwise purchases by hiring building inspectors, voters can learn from respected analysts that stand against pressure from either party.
Don’t look to newscasters. They and networks prefer heated contests to truth. That’s the way it goes in an industry that lives or dies according to ratings and market share. Along with The Great Race and NASCAR, they cast politics as one more competitive sport. Who’s ahead or behind in polls or who’s raked in the most campaign cash now poses as news.
Some political “building inspectors” do tell it like it is. These aren’t party office-holders or TV anchors with hundred dollar haircuts but thinkers committed to reporting what’s important. Norman Orstein works for the American Enterprise Institute, a staunchly conservative think-tank. Thomas Mann is with the Brookings Institute, a venerable centrist organization.
In a Washington Post column, Orstein and Mann described the GOP as an insurgent outlier in American Politics because of the “party’s extremism, antagonism to facts and science, hatred of compromise, and complete opposition to the Democrats’ legitimacy.”
Orstein is a Republican. Mann writes like an independent. Together, they inspected the Republican house and found serious structural flaws. But instead of abandoning their parties, they press for redemptive change, recognizing that the nation needs a re-oriented Republican party even more than it needs a next Democratic victory.
Orstein and Mann called on journalists to stop trying to present “both sides” of issues, and instead to concentrate on truth and substance, to stop treating filibusters as routine and obstructionism as normal. They wrote that the only way for the GOP to regain its health, vitality and relevance is for voters to punish extremism.
Mitt Romney hit the nail on the head. Candidates’ headline-making charges and countercharges are largely meaningless. Instead, voters should be thinking about government’s functional flaws, and that the upcoming election might restore decency to Congress and the Supreme Court.
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