Political Blog 3: Manifesto

This is the one where I explain what I believe and why I believe it. It’ll have a few links for anyone interested in reading more. Also, as before, I will be sharing my political opinions. So if you are easily offended by the opinions of others, turn back now.

In my first post in this series I talked about how two generations ago a bunch of Democrats became Republicans. Ronald Reagan was the most prominent of these. He said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic party. The party left me.” My journey has gone the other direction. I started as a young Republican in the Reagan era, but in the last five Presidential elections, I have voted for the Democratic candidate. I won’t go into detail as to why I voted for each, but I do want to take a few paragraphs to explain how I got here.
First, just to clarify, I don’t consider myself to be a Democrat. If I had to classify my political leanings, I’d say I am a moderate progressive. A lot of misplaced Republicans reclassified themselves as Libertarians. There are several Libertarian surveys that ask a bunch of loaded questions about your beliefs in the limits of government power. Once you take the survey, it tells you that you’re a Libertarian. Because most modern Republicans believe in a limited government, it’s easy to fall for this one. The problem is that even those who believe in limited government, in reality, still think the government should collect taxes and pay for things like education, roads, and defense. A true Libertarian believes the government should scale back defense to protect our borders only, scale back education to the point of privatizing education, and scale back infrastructure support until private industry fills the gaps. So for the sake of keeping this discussion centered around realistic governing principles, I am going to dismiss Libertarianism outright, except that I reserve the right to come back to it when discussing the Tea Party movement.

Speaking of the Tea Party, let’s go ahead and get this out the way. The Tea Party movement grew out of Republican resistance to President Bush’s TARP program. I won’t go into much detail. I’ll just say that the economy killed over, and President Bush signed legislation that allowed the Federal Government to spend a butt ton of money trying to resuscitate it. This was the right thing to do. If you don’t believe me, check out what happened when President Hoover faced the same scenario and did nothing. However a bunch of the far right wing base disagreed, mostly because they were already living close to the poverty line and didn’t feel the impact of the crash. This specific niche of Republicans is far removed from the Rockefeller Republicans. This is the guns, god and hate branch of the Republican party. These are people who have been in an economic recession for thirty years. Nothing changed for them when the recession happened. They are literally opposed to everything. This movement has been bankrolled by some very rich, very powerful people who have an actual stake in what the government does. And they’re using the movement to send people to Washington who are completely unqualified to be there. In 2010, the Tea Party took over the House of Representatives. How? House elections are quick, happening every two years, and they take place on a small scale. The average House district is barely larger than a city. It’s easy to mobilize an angry undereducated mob on a small scale. So the newly bank rolled Tea Party swept into office a group of Congressmen who are barely qualified to be dog catchers, and also beholden to the movement. Because these people don’t believe in government spending in any form, they stopped passing bills. Because they were elected as Republicans, the Republican party took over control of the House, and the new majority stopped governing. Hence, the party of Hell No. Why would a bunch of rich guys want these yahoos in government? Because the rich guys oppose President Obama, and they’re willing to bring the government to it’s knees to prevent him from passing a single piece of legislation.

What I’ve described above is the modern Republican party. A once great party now dominated by an angry mob of undereducated, economically depressed bible thumpers. I don’t want to offend my religious friends here. When I say bible thumpers, I’m talking about people whose politics is informed by their religion. Not normal religion. These aren’t the Baptists and Methodists we all know. I’m talking about hands in the air Evangelists who honestly believe that God and Michelle Bachman have two sided conversations. I guarantee you Michelle Bachman and  Rick Santorum aren’t religious zealots. They know that act wins votes from the Tea Party. And while we’re on it, the Tea Party’s love of guns is tied to a mistrust of government and a blatant desire to see it overthrown forcefully. Bloody revolution made America, but it didn’t make us great. America was made great by the peaceful transfer of power provided by our Constitution. If we disagree with our elected officials, we vote them out of office. We don’t storm the Capitol, guns a blazing. I didn’t leave the Republican Party. The party left me.

So now you know what I don’t believe in. Time to tell you what I do believe in. It’s called the Third Way.  It’s a modern progressive set of ideas that came about in the early nineties. It supports the pursuit of equality in society through the distribution of skills while rejecting the redistribution of wealth. The very most basic broad brush distinction would be: Conservatives believe that if we provide economic opportunities through tax breaks, etc to the wealthiest in our country, they will build businesses and spend in such a way that provides economic opportunity to the middle and bottom wage earners. This is trickle down theory… a rising tide raises all boats. Liberals believe that if we take from the wealthiest through increased taxes and give it to the middle and bottom wage earners, then everyone will be better off. This is an old fashioned redistribution of wealth. The third way suggests that if we provide opportunity through education and training to the middle and bottom wage earners, they will take advantage and improve their station in life. It involves a large government investment in education and infrastructure. This is all way over simplified, but it’ll do. The third way is liberal. It was embraced by Bill Clinton in the US and Tony Blair in the UK. It’s also dominant in Australia and Canada.

To fully flesh out my political philosophy, this is what I believe. I believe in extravagant government investment in education, infrastructure and R&D. I believe in marriage equality. I believe in a woman’s right to choose (and yes that means I support her right to choose to have an abortion. Not because I hate babies, but because I firmly believe this is not in the government’s wheelhouse). I believe in equal access to health care. I don’t think the ACA (Obamacare) got it right, but I think it was a good first step. We live in the richest country in the world, no one should be going without health care or going hungry, even if they’ve made horrible life decisions. I did not support the invasion of Iraq, the establishment of the Guantanamo prison, or the use of water boarding on terror suspects. I accept man made global warming as a scientific fact that requires immediate action to reverse. While we’re talking about scientific facts, I also believe in evolution and think creationism has no place in a science classroom. I believe in stem cell research. I strongly support the separation of church and state. While I think we should allow our morality to influence our decisions, we should never allow one theology to dominate our public discourse. Allowing a radical theology to take over a single party and then allowing that party to take power is what happened in Iran in 1979, and it wasn’t pretty. I believe a well regulated free market will be the secret to reestablishing order from the current economic chaos. I do not support the new movement toward voter ID. There have been less than five documented cases of voter fraud in the past twenty years. Anyone who is telling you voter fraud is a problem is using scare tactics to convince you it’s okay to restrict access to the voter booth. The people who will not get an ID and thus be unable to vote are the elderly and minorities, people who traditional vote Democratic. This same strategy was used for years in the South as a poll tax. They had to pay to vote. This kept the poor, mostly the black poor out of the voter booths for a hundred years. We can’t go back there. Almost everyone I know will vote for Mitt Romney in November, but I would never do anything to prevent them from doing so. We can’t win by cheating.

I will be voting for Barack Obama for the second time in November. Do I think he’s the ideal representation of what I believe? No, but he is the closest representation of my political beliefs. Do I expect you to do the same? Of course not. I expect you to vote your conscience. I just wanted to use this platform to explain what I believe and why?

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