First, an apology to my friend, Keith Wilhite. Keith is a fine Christian man with whom I would entrust my children. Nonetheless, I just went off on him just because he was the nearest Republican.
It was like I was in a Democrat/Republican hockey game. When the fight breaks out, you grab the nearest opponent and start wailing on him, even if he did nothing.
I'm a registered Democrat. And the fact that you probably just thought "a liberal!" is exactly the problem I have with American politics. The truth is I'm a fiscal conservative. I think there should be a rock-solid connection be taxes and spending. If you lower taxes, you have to lower spending. If you raise spending, you have to raise taxes. It seems pretty straightforward to me, but nobody has the balls to actually behave that way.
So I support a balanced budget amendment that works like this:
1) Congress approves and the President signs whatever budget they can work out
2) An independent group of Super Accountants periodically certifies that the federal budget is actually balanced using standard accounting principals
3) If the budget gets out of balance, Congress has 30 days to get it back in balance or taxes are automatically raised to make it balanced.
You want $100 billion for war funding? Fine, unless you cut something else, taxes are going up. $700 billion to bail out Wall Street? OK, here's the bill on your taxes. It doesn't get more fiscally conservative than this: If it's worth having, it's worth paying for. No Free Lunch.
The fact that people just hurl "liberal!" at me like an epithet when the hear "Democrat" is why I increasingly dislike American politics. It's become a shockingly rude, cruel, mean spirited, win-at-any-cost, honor-less mess. And I'm becoming infected by it, as evidenced by me going off on Keith for no real reason. I am starting to understand very well why people just withdraw from the process.
With all the moderate people withdrawing from the process in disgust leaves the hard-cores in charge, which merely increases the level of slash-and-burn.
Today both sides -- both sides -- try to win through insinuation, scare-tactics and distorting records. Over the last decade especially, both sides have poured millions into labeling their opponents and then creating wildly simplistic caricaturizations for those labels.
One hundred years ago, "liberal" meant generous and reform-minded. Today it has been made to connote "pro-homosexual, lazy, socialist baby-killers who are military cowards,envy the financially successful and don't think anyone should have to work for a living."
One hundred years ago "conservative" meant cautious, contemplative and prudent. Today it's been made to connote "stone-hearted, greedy, oppressors of the masses who want to electrocute gay people and favor legalizing indentured servitude."
Neither is true. You heard it from a registered Democrat: the stereotype of Republicans is not accurate. The truth -- not that anyone is interested in truth any more -- is that the Republican and Democratic Parties are not monolithic. There are all kinds of differences within each party.
Unfortunately, the hard-cores in both parties have embraced nasty, snotty, name-calling, rude, denigrating one-upsmanship as a way to win. There's no honor. Less candor. All minds are closed. Nobody tells voters anything they don't want to hear.
Why? Why? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT WORKS. The venom on both sides is what the American public laps up and responds to. Honest, reason, politeness -- that's the sure route to defeat. Whenever someone tries the high road, they immediately sink in the polls. If you want to be President, you have to get ugly and meet voters in the gutter. Go negative and you rise like a rocket. As a wise man once told me -- in the context of raising children, but it still applies here -- behavior that achieves the desired result will be repeated.
As long as the negative stuff works, it's going to continue. And I'm not optimistic that enough Americans are going to be as repulsed by it as I am that it will end any time soon.
So I'm thinking about changing my party affiliation to Independent and just ignoring the whole disgraceful free-for-all. I already can't talk politics with anyone because I can't stand having the "liberal" stereotype above automatically slapped on my forehead like "6-6-6." And nobody seems to be open to considering opposing views, except for the purposes of ridiculing them. So what's the point?
None that I can see.