Perhaps it’s because I watched my first political convention on my mother’s knee in 1956 (despairing over JFK’s failed VP bid), but I am disappointed by the reduced convention coverage. That may make me old fashioned, but there is so much to learn, especially if you are a political junkie.
This year’s conventions are excellent examples. They have helped to connect the dots that I have been wondering about for a while, and helped answer these questions regarding this most significant election of my lifetime:
- What do you want America to be?
- What do we deserve from government?
For example, at least for me, the controversy regarding the party platforms provided interesting insights. Democrats were outraged by the Republicans position on right to life. Despite Mitt Romney’s personal belief that exceptions must be made in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the mother’s life, the hard-core conservatives included a plank that provided no exceptions. This was an embarrassment.
On the Democrat side, even though the platform had been pre-approved by President Obama, when word got out that the Democrats had removed all mentions of God, and had backed away from Israel by deleting reference to Jerusalem as its Capital, there was such a blowback that Obama ordered that they be reinserted. Being seen as a Godless, anti-Israel party suddenly did not seem like a good idea. But, this only outraged the activist delegates who had written it into the platform. God was booed three times. Only after what can be charitably described as an undemocratic political tactic from another country, the chair declared that the God and Jerusalem amendment had passed with a 2/3 voice majority, even if the “No’s” sounded louder.
So, here’s the revelation. Both parties have been co-opted by their most radical elements, and in the process they have pulled the Country apart. Is this partisanship or bullying, or just unreasonable and even un-American? Who put these extremists in charge anyway? Let’s be honest, what percentage of voters would really want a complete elimination of a woman’s right to choose? Conversely, what percentage of voters really believes that late term abortions and partial birth abortions are morally acceptable? The same is true about our belief in God. Mindful that the foundation of the Declaration of Independence is that our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are derived from Nature and our Creator, how many voters would really opt to delete all references to God as part of our American culture?
And yet here we are, a country where the sum of the parts is dangerously less than the whole, where the extremists from each Party have drowned out the calmer voices. Is this what we want America to be? Is this the kind of government and political discourse that we deserve? We the people must accept the blame for this, until we demand more and elect better.
Which brings me to former President Bill Clinton.
Let’s stipulate that Clinton has a very complex relationship with America. On the positive side he is bright person and a master politician. On the other side, well … there is the other side. Nevertheless, all politicians should take note of the way that Clinton communicates with the people - discussing, not orating, framing complicated issues in conversational language, all the while taking charge and maintaining control, and making us feel confident that he is.
So what did we “hear” Clinton say as a subtext to his endorsement that we must consider before we vote? Clinton’s career provides some insight. At 32, he was the nation’s youngest governor, and at 34 he was the youngest ex-governor. When he was subsequently re-elected, he was more prepared to listen and very ready to compromise. Success followed. A similar thing happened after he was elected President. His first two years were tumultuous over healthcare. Disappointed voters punished him by turning congress over to the Republicans in the mid-term elections. Once again, Clinton had to adapt, become more Centrist, and learn to better understand what Republicans were thinking and needing to get things done. Once again, success followed. Bi-partisanship, what a concept! Clinton owned it. Reagan too!
Wasn’t that precisely what Clinton was saying when he remarked that, “Nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day.” Wasn’t he urging politicians to find the right balance - to listen more openly and empathetically, to hear more clearly, to compromise more often, and to deliver practical solutions?
For too long we have had to endure the shrill of the loudest, most ideological partisans of each party. But this “all or nothing” approach is not what the majority of Americans want. It has gotten us nowhere. We want moderate, sensible and fair. We want practical, not ideological. We want to believe that if we are not getting our preferred result, that we are at least not getting screwed either. And, I believe that we want government to balance its obligations and its desire to provide social programs, with the ability to responsibly pay for them.
The subliminal message to America, from someone as clever and as narcissistic as Clinton, is that we the people must choose the candidate who is better prepared to lead in the same way that Clinton learned to lead America. We have seen Obama and now know him to be an ideologue, not a centrist. His acceptance speech, after all, only promised more of the same – hardly good enough. Romney’s private sector experience is much more practical, and better suited for the specific economic needs of America right now. And, his experience running a State where 85% of the legislators were Democrats proved that he is a results-focused centrist, a compromiser and not an ideologue.
Despite all the noise and the rhetoric, I “heard” Clinton tell America to elect Romney.
So, I ask once again, what do you want America to be? What kind of government do we deserve? Is what we have good enough, or are you ready to make a change? There are only 60 shopping days left until the election. It’s time to decide what we want and who has the better capacity to lead.