An American Editor

March 12, 2012

Why I Can’t Vote Republican

I consider myself an independent when it comes to politics. Depending on the primary contest, because New York doesn’t have open primaries, I may affiliate with a party so I can participate in a primary, but when it actually comes to voting on election day, I rarely vote for candidates from a single party.

But as the Republicans move further away from the center, which is where I am, it becomes increasingly difficult to consider voting for a Republican. It seems that, as each day passes, the Republicans are deliberately closing the door more tightly to any thinking independent or centrist-oriented voter.

What seals my decision so early in the election year is not only the poor quality of the Republican candidates (although I admit that I do not think very highly of Barack Obama, either), but their clear lack of honesty and moral conscience as evidenced by their responses to Rush Limbaugh’s defamation of Sandra Fluke. (See “Obama Backs Student in Furor With Limbaugh on Birth Control” in the New York Times for more details about the controversy.) Even the head of her Catholic university, who clearly disagrees with Ms. Fluke’s views on contraception, came to her defense.

Here is what the New York Times reports Limbaugh had to say:

“What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” Those remarks and others whipped up a frenzy of denunciations, but on Thursday, Mr. Limbaugh held his ground, declaring: “If we’re going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Conservatives should be outraged by this attack, but they aren’t. And Limbaugh, an admitted drug abuser who has been convicted of drug-related offenses, should not be a conservative icon because of his lack of a moral conscience — but he is.

Mitt Romney and  Rick Santorum claim to be family men, and Newt Gingrich claims to have found morality. All claim to be concerned about the good of Americans, yet they are willing to stand by and let a woman be defamed simply because her views on what is a controversial topic in America do not comport with their views. This tells me that, should one of these men be elected president, given the opportunity, they will try to suppress dissent any way they can. It tells me that these Republicans do not really care about an individual’s constitutional rights, do not care about family values, do not care about anything but what will get them nominated and elected. They lack a moral conscience. I do not want as president, or even as local councilperson, someone who talks the talk of being a moral person but walks the walk of a moral-less person.

I haven’t yet forgotten the Republican lies against their own John McCain (remember the lie about his having a black mistress and a black child that magically appeared just before voters in South Carolina went to the primary polls?), and the willingness of conservative Republicans to outright, knowingly lie to voters just to win their vote.

I also haven’t forgotten George W. Bush’s lack of moral courage to stand up to the Swift Boaters in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and defend John Kerry from the false attacks. Kerry at least went to Vietnam; his attackers and George W. Bush partied at home instead. But Bush should have stood up for Kerry in this matter. Kerry didn’t give himself his medals; they were awarded by the United States Navy, and the Swift Boaters not only attacked Kerry but also attacked the veracity of the U.S. Navy — people George W. Bush, as commander-in-chief, should have defended.

As each election cycle comes, Republicans increasingly display a wholesale disregard for the things that matter most — honesty and moral conscience. George W. Bush still has no regrets about lying to the American public about the supposed weapons of mass destruction; after all, neither he nor Dick Cheney had to face enemy fire — either then or in their youth, when they avoided military service.

I find that, because of their lack of moral conscience, Republicans are quick to commit Americans to war. Bush did it in Iraq and Afghanistan; Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich are promising to do the same in Iran should they be elected. The morals-less three (Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich) are also quick to impose their male values on women. They would prefer that a woman die rather than be allowed to use contraception or have an abortion.

Have we forgotten how antigay Dick Cheney was until his daughter came out? Because it affected him directly, his tune changed. Have we forgotten how indignant Gingrich was about the so-called Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair while he was cheating on his own wife?

It is not that Democrats are so much better. Rather, it is that they are better, and my only real choice is Democrat or Republican. Given those limitations and the fact that when it comes to moral conscience Republicans seem to lack one, I will be voting Democrat in the presidential election. My hope is that the Republicans face their Rubicon again, as they did in 1964 when they nominated Barry Goldwater. That might cause Republicans to rethink their drift to the extreme right, might cause them to gain a moral conscience and no longer tolerate the tactics and lies of the Limbaughs and the Swift Boaters, and might cause centrist Republicans like Olympia Snowe (who has announced she will not run for reelection because of the rightward tilt of the Republican party and its unwillingness to be anything but obstructionist) to regain favor and their willingness to serve.

Should that occur, I would happily consider voting for a Republican candidate. Until then, this independent has moved toward the Democrat side of the aisle.

February 29, 2012

Shuddering in Fear: What if Santorum Becomes President?

I thought it couldn’t get worse, but American presidential politics continues to prove that worse is coming tomorrow. Now I’m shuddering in fear that Rick Santorum, or someone with his beliefs, might be elected president.

There are lots of reasons why he troubles me, but his views on public education worry me to no end, especially as they draw rousing cheers. For those unfamiliar with his views, they can be summarized as follows: eliminate public schools and return to the pre-twentieth century methods of home schooling or one-room school houses.

I admit there is a lot wrong with public education. I also admit that I believe a lot of public education’s failures can be laid at the feet of teachers and teacher unions. But as bad as I think public education has become, I firmly believe that forcing everyone to home-school would be a Titanic disaster for America.

Yes, there are some parents who are quite capable of home schooling; but most parents are not. Most parents are neither capable nor interested. As well-educated as I am, I, for example, would have a great deal of difficulty teaching my children math or a foreign language. I was not particularly astute in those subjects during my school days and I am now 45 years removed from those classrooms.

In addition, much of the American economy is based on a two-person income household. So who would do the teaching? Which parent would give up his or her job? Perhaps the idea is to indirectly force women to become stay-at-home moms, which would fit with Santorum’s other beliefs.

Home schooling is also another way to impose resegregation of America. Even the separate-but-equal classrooms that were finally found to be separate-but-unequal in 1954 would be better for minorities and less-educated and low-socioeconomic families than being required to home-school their children. Do we not have enough problems getting a well-educated workforce in the current system without compounding the problem?

Santorum and believers also want to do away with all federal and state regulation of education, believing that parents can do a better job without government interference. I think they are correct if we are talking about the successful handful of home-schooling that occurs, but are quite wrong when expanded to the population at large.

A program like that proposed by Santorum and friends will turn America from a first-world country into something less than a third-world country faster than any other program that conservatives could invoke. Education is the root of America’s success. The institution of a free public education for all children is what changed America from a follower to a leader, regardless of how we may feel about how well it has fulfilled its leadership role.

But Santorum lays down a challenge that American educators need to pick up. Whether they will before it is too late is doubtful. I haven’t read of any teacher union beginning to fight back; local teachers I know aren’t even aware of Santorum’s ideas about education — they ignore Santorum in the belief that neither he nor his ideas could possibly succeed. They are blind-siding themselves.

American education is really declining. Consider the recent posing in Afghanistan of U.S. Marines with a flag that bore the Nazi SS lightning bolts. The Marines thought the double “s” meant “sniper scouts” and admitted they were unaware that the stylized lightning bolts symbolized the Nazi SS, nor did they know about the Nazi SS atrocities. How can anyone graduate from an American high school and not have at least rudimentary knowledge of Nazi Germany?

The answer is really simple. It is the same answer that I give when asked why so many of the younger generation have such poor language skills. Teachers cannot teach what they themselves do not know and American education underemphasizes fundamental learning skills. Have a discussion with an 18-year-old about almost anything and try to follow their reasoning/logic.

Talk with a teacher about what constitutes a sentence in English (as opposed to a fragment). You would be amazed at the answer you get; the younger and closer to college graduation the teacher, the more incorrect the answer.

Yet, with all the problems of American education, it is still better than the chancy proposition of home schooling, especially among the socioeconomic strata that most desperately needs a good education to break the cycle of poverty.

Santorum and believers worry me greatly. It is not that in the broadest possible sense the idea of home schooling isn’t appealing; rather, it is that few people are equipped to provide the education needed to economically compete and survive in the twenty-first century. How many of these home-schooled children, if there were no state or federal regulations to which they had to adhere, would learn anything outside the corners of the Bible? How well-equipped would a person entering today’s workforce be to compete and survive if the extent of their knowledge is to quote the Bible? How likely is it that such a person would find the cure to cancer, design the rocket engine that will carry humans to Mars, or competently edit a book?

To say that ideas like Santorum’s will go nowhere is to bury one’s head in the sand. Sadly, too many American voters do bury their heads.

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