Stuff Ballard Wrote

Category: Politics (Page 1 of 8)

Reagan & immigration

Citizen-Times, 9/2016

It’s no big deal for people to pull a verse or two from the Bible to justify some belief. It’s common practice to take this useful part and ignore the whole.

But I wasn’t prepared to see how Republicans pick and pluck from the sacred words of Ronald Reagan. I smiled as I read President Reagan’s farewell speech of January 11, 1989.

Toward the end of the speech, he describes “the shining city on a hill” – the small piece that Republicans tweeze out as a catchphrase. Read down and be ready to smile:

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”


How GOP conned Evangelicals

Daily Planet, 6/2016

My mother wasn’t known for surprises.   She lived on a straight line that went back to her South Georgia roots. But, oh my, did she spring one on us in the fall of 1980.

That year iIt was Carter versus Reagan, and we were all Carter people. My father was an old-time Roosevelt Democrat, and Jimmy is a distant cousin.

So Mom’s bomb at Sunday dinner shook things up.

“John says Ronald Reagan is God’s man,” she blurted into a pause in the conversation. “In his sermon he said this election is spiritual warfare.”

John was her pastor. We all knew him. My father called him a hustler, and maybe he was. He sure hustled Mom.

Looking back, we had no idea, sitting around that Sunday dinner table, that we were witnessing the beginning of something totally new in American politics. Millions of Christian soldiers were marching as to war on the side of the Republican Party.

This new phenomenon didn’t just happen by chance, though. Right-wing Republicans had coveted conservative evangelicals for years – their huge numbers, their zeal, their fundraising and direct mail capability.

Then in the spring of 1979, in a famous meeting in the coffee shop of the Lynchburg Holiday Inn, Jerry Falwell met with Paul Weyrich, founder of the pro-business, anti-tax, anti-regulation Heritage Foundation – and conservative evangelicals became Republicans. Falwell had originally said his flock wouldn’t accept religion mixed with politics, but Weyrich presented him with a poll that showed his flock definitely WOULD buy in.

That meeting marks the beginning of the “Christian Right” and the Moral Majority (Weyrich suggested the name) – and also marks the enlistment of Jerry Falwell as an activist in the Republican Party.   Falwell worked coast to coast for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

It was a marriage made in heaven, so to speak. The Weyrich right-wing faction was a clear minority in the Republican Party at the time.   Richard Nixon had been an economic moderate and accepted much of the New Deal and Great Society.

In Falwell, Weyrich found a partner already prepared. Falwell had been influenced by theologian Francis Schaeffer, who taught about America returning to its Christian roots, back to the way we were, as he saw it, back before “pluralistic secularism” (Schaeffer’s expression).  Falwell had held a series of “I Love America” rallies in 1976, mixing patriotism and “social concerns,” especially speaking against abortion and women’s liberation. Weyrich’s proposal gave him just the vehicle he wanted.

In reality, right-wing Republicans had no interest in evangelical issues. But in the Moral Majority, they had the foot soldiers to take over the Republican Party. And very soon, from precinct caucuses to state conventions, they did.

It goes without saying that the social changes that evangelicals want will never happen. The real power elites in the Republican Party – the super-rich and corporations and now Donald Trump – only give lip service. But the anti-tax, anti-regulation changes these elites want CAN happen. They just need the NUMBERS that evangelicals bring, voters ready to march.

So today we see ordinary working people out campaigning for Republican policies that are totally against their own personal well-being.

Rip Van Winkle would listen to a political discussion between conservative evangelicals in a restaurant, and he’d join them and say: “Let me get this straight. Y’all believe socialism is ‘godless’? My friends, it’s the capitalists who are paying y’all the minimum and not offering healthcare – so they can make more profit! And y’all are on the side of these greedy jerks?   Excuse me, folks, but that’s dopey.”

Why would working people back a party that favors big business and cuts budgets for education, that can help their children get ahead?

Why? To be blunt, they’ve been had, duped and hoodwinked. And worse, the scam is brought to them by people they trust.

A friend once said to me: “If I don’t follow what my pastor says, I’ll have to follow somebody else, won’t I?” To which I responded: “I guess so, Tom – unless of course you want to be responsible for your own beliefs and actions.”





GOP Christians with power

Daily Planet, 5/2016

An obscure Republican Congressman from Michigan wrote something truly remarkable:

“The Christian who enters politics must do so with the aim of achieving political justice. He does this by subjecting his own personal ambition and desires to the scrutiny of God’s revelation in the Scriptures. And as God gives the grace to do so, he learns to make the needs of his neighbor his own. In so doing, his search for justice becomes an act of sacrificial love.”

Paul Brentwood Henry served four terms and was elected to a fifth term when he died in 1993.   He was a solid evangelical conservative. His congressional district included super-conservative Grand Rapids.

What did Henry write here? He verbalized an attitude, didn’t he – a magnificent outlook on power. It’s almost like he’s saying: The more power Christians gain, the more they should be servants of the people.

Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 22:26):   “The one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.”

As a member of Congress, Henry had real political power. And yet he writes about subjecting personal ambition and desire to the needs of others.   He even calls it sacrificial love.

It goes without saying that this philosophy should guide all politicians, Christian or not – humbly, diligently accepting as one’s life priority the needs of one’s neighbor. After all, the citizen legislator is literally representing his neighbors.

Conveniently for this discussion, we have a large group of Christians with political power right here in North Carolina: the majority Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly. They certainly make much of their faith, and they certainly have power.

How are they doing?

I’ve heard Raleigh Republicans called hypocrites and “pseudo-Christians.” Maybe that’s because for their five years in power, they haven’t done anything that could remotely be called selfless service to the people.

They took power in 2010 through a vicious, rotten campaign of character assassinations, and they’ve consistently followed that model ever since.

Their methods?

Deception. Right after taking power in 2011, they staged hearings around the state to get citizen input on redistricting.  But what do you know, that was precisely the time when their computers were slicing up counties and precincts to create districts that ensure huge Republican majorities. There was no debate and no explanations. Election outcomes are now automatic – so citizen neighbors’ votes are meaningless.

Lying. I’ll choose two from a five-year stream of lies. Claiming “voter fraud,” Republicans enacted a sweeping “election reform” package in 2013.  It was, plain to the naked eye, designed to suppress Democrat voting. In fact, studies have shown that voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Investigations found 31 cases of voter impersonation in a billion votes cast.

The now-famous House Bill 2 gave Republicans a grand stage for lying. The whole idea, plain again, is to stir up evangelical voters ahead of November’s general election by squelching the growing gay rights movement. The“men in women’s locker rooms” allegation is a duh-level disguise. Those of you who are familiar with HB2, get a pad and count the lies in this interview with Dan Bishop, one of the GOP sponsors of HB2:

Most Democrats in the General Assembly are Christians, too, of course, but they don’t parade their faith like Republicans do, and they don’t have power. They don’t have opportunity to demonstrate Paul Henry’s principle of of selfless service.  Not yet anyway.

Wouldn’t you love to see the 2016 Democratic campaign strategy sound like Paul Henry wrote it? Maybe something like:

“We come to you as humble servants with only one goal: to make your life better. We’re not seeking power. We’re politicians, but we promise never to show it.”

I’m realistic enough to think it could happen.

Creed for (Democrat!) politicians

Citizen-Times, 1/2016

An obscure Republican Congressman from Michigan wrote something truly remarkable:

“The Christian who enters politics must do so with the aim of achieving political justice. He does this by subjecting his own personal ambition and desires to the scrutiny of God’s revelation in the Scriptures. And as God gives the grace to do so, he learns to make the needs of his neighbor his own. In so doing, his search for justice becomes an act of sacrificial love.”

Paul Brentwood Henry served four terms and was elected to a fifth term when he died in 1993.   He was a solid evangelical conservative. His congressional district included super-conservative Grand Rapids.

His philosophy was a reasonable fit to his time.   Republicans and Democrats still came together to work on the country’s problems. There was a spirit of good will.

Henry died exactly as Rush Limbaugh waddled on the scene, preaching a belligerent doctrine of “conservative” non-cooperation with “moderate” Republicans and Democrats. Republicans converted.

In the mid-term landslide of 1994, 70+ freshmen Republicans were elected, almost all of them Limbaugh-style inflexible partisans. They voted Limbaugh an honorary member of their freshmen caucus.

Ever since then, Republicans have followed Limbaugh’s creed. They’ve turned the old-time spirit of service and cooperation into all-out, no-prisoners ideological warfare. Congress doesn’t function.

This new Republicanism invaded N.C. in 2010.   In Raleigh, people who for decades had begged majority Democrats for more bipartisan cooperation were cackling and drooling with power. They were free to impose their low-minded ideology on us like the Taliban had done in Afghanistan.

Paul Henry said, “As God gives the grace to do so, [the Christian politician] learns to make the needs of his neighbor his own.”

Can it be said, by any stretch, that diminishing our public schools is serving a neighbor’s need? Or denying 500,000 citizens Medicaid out of hate – yes, hate – for Barack Obama? Or redistricting so that voting is predetermined and meaningless? Or rewriting voting rules to inconvenience citizen groups who vote Democrat?

Paul Henry knew how to apply his faith to a politician’s life. Most Raleigh Republicans govern like mean little Limbaughs.

We’ve endured a long, painful swing of the pendulum, haven’t we? We yearn for the arc to swing toward fairness, truthfulness, openness, compassion and a spacious spirit. That’s why we’re Democrats, after all.

Wouldn’t you love to see the 2016 Democratic campaign sound like Paul Henry wrote it?

“We come to you as humble servants who want nothing but the privilege of making your life better. We’re not seeking power. Your felt needs drive our priorities. We’re politicians, but we’ll never show it. We pledge ourselves to this.”

Or something like that.

I’m realistic enough to think it could be.

2004 letter against Bush & Taylor

Sentinel, September, 2004

[An Iraq soldier responded in support of this letter]

I’m actually writing this to those who voted for George Bush and/or Charles Taylor in the last couple of elections. I understand the professionals don’t bother with voters who maintain their support for the other side.  But I hate to see anybody repeat the mistakes of their past.

So…what have Bush and Taylor done for you?

They gave you a tax cut. You like that.  You got a few hundred dollars, maybe.  But does it bother you that Bush and Taylor’s friends, the millionaires, got mega-thousands in their tax refund envelopes?  And that this giveaway resulted in a massive national debt that our children will inherit?

They went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  You were all for that.  We had to strike back.  But does it bother you that they were CLUELESS as to HOW they went to war?  Months passed before they went after Osama in Afghanistan and never with adequate forces.  They had no understanding of what occupying Iraq would mean, even though volumes had been written on the subject.

They passed legislation. Yes, indeed.  For four years they passed legislation.  But can you name one item of legislation they passed?  Does it bother you that EVERYTHING the Republican Congress did from 2001, when Bush took office, until now has been for political purposes, to please their base of support, not to solve our country’s problems?  Everything.

If you’re a conservative Christian, does it bother you that they have passed or proposed law after law designed to keep you happy? Maybe not – unless you think about it.  With all the problems our country faces, they spend week after week on matters of abortion and gay marriage, for example – because they think they can get you worked up and you’ll forget about jobs being lost, the record national debt, their poor planning and handling of the war, their inaction on healthcare, etc., etc.  Do you feel insulted that they think you can be led around by your nose like that?  Do you feel like a sucker?  I would.  As soon as they’re in trouble, they hold a press conference against gay marriage or abortion in an effort to pacify you.  It would make me mad.

Have you noticed that they don’t hold press conferences to denounce their own sins of pride and arrogance and greed – the things Jesus preached against. Their objective is to divide the country into “us” and “them” factions.  That’s the only way they can win.

I guess what I’m saying to you who have recently voted for Bush and Taylor, especially you Democrats, is this: THINK.  If you can look at what Bush and Taylor have done – and I say DONE, not what they’ve talked about – and you can say, yes, they’ve done their jobs, I have no quarrel with your voting for them again.  But I’m betting if you were to look with a truly open mind, you’d say it’s time for a change.

Back to ’06: Don’t impeach Bush!

Citizen-Times, 4/2006

I don’t qualify as a liberal any more. I’m sane.

My father idolized Franklin Roosevelt. He took personal risks in working to oust the Cracker Party from its half-century hold on Augusta, Georgia.  I remember the night he slept with a ballot box under his bed, if he slept.  I absorbed from him a basic sense of fairness.

I’ve been more fiercely liberal in recent decades because the alternative crowd has been pushing ideas like “low taxes”(which really means “let’s tax working people and let rich people keep their dividends”) and “small government” (which means “let’s keep government from interfering with big business so they can make all the money they want, and oh well, never mind their employees and the environment”). I’ve regarded myself as keeper of the world that my grandchildren will inherit.

Now I look around and wonder what’s happening to liberalism. Today’s liberals seem to have gone totally bonkers.

All they seem to care about is their cause. They aren’t giving thought to cause and effect.

The occasion for this column is an article in last Saturday’s Washington Post titled, “…Anti-Bush Cries Get Louder.”  It was about growing sentiment around the country – including North Carolina, the article said – in favor of impeaching President George Bush.

Understand. Nobody writing on this page has derogatoried Bush more than I have.  But impeachment?  Have we lost our minds?

Why not, you ask? I’ll tell you why not.

America is tottering on so many disaster brinks I’ve lost count: budget deficit, trade deficit, job losses,  national forests’ being sold, the Muslim world against us, civil liberties eroding, dependence on foreign oil, and I’m just getting started.

Bush has proved even more incompetent than I said he would – but the voters reelected him. And he’s got three more years.  The country can’t afford a bitter fight over impeachment while the glaciers melt away.  Remember how Congress stood still for a year when Bill Clinton was on trial?

Further, there’s no chance whatsoever that impeachment will happen with a Republican Congress. And if Democrats win Congressional majorities in November, it would be a disaster for us to spend time on impeachment that should be spent on solving the country’s problems.  Not if we’re more than adolescent food-fighters, that is.

And if Democrats call for impeachment now, the voting public will say, “Sure, that’s what Democrats will do if we give them Congress: they’ll go after Bush.” And they’ll conclude, “I don’t want to watch that movie.”

Folks, not only am I against impeachment: I’d like to see Democrats work in partnership with the White House after they take Congress.  We need every resource the government’s got mobilized against problems like energy independence, Social Security and, yes, the Iraq War.  If Democrats don’t do what’s best for America, like Republicans have not done…well, they should.

Another one. Senator Russ Feingold has called for censure of Bush for the way he conducted warrantless wiretaps outside the law.  And all the liberal groups are whooping like people at a cockfight.  Hey, tell me:  was I asleep when a court or commission decided that what Bush did is in fact illegal?

Are the liberal groups just using impeachment and censure to raise money? Is Feingold just fishing for liberal votes looking to 2008?  Are they just giving Democrats a harmless way to vent their frustrations?  Do they really think that rational Americans want Congress to waste its time on this kind of nonsense?

The liberal activist group,, sent me a survey asking whether I thought they should support “progressive” Democrats opposing incumbent Democrats who haven’t spoken out strongly enough against the Iraq War.  I replied – and I had a whopping 14% on my side in the survey — “Are you crazy?  I oppose the war, but if you replace incumbent Democrats with neophyte Democrats in the general election, you’ll just be helping Republicans hold Congress.”

To me, that’s all that matters, politically, in 2006 – the Democrats’ retaking Congress. And I’m against anything that distracts from that one single objective. My word to all liberal causes, no matter how worthy you are:  Stay low!

I don’t want to feel righteous showing off my liberal ideals. I don’t enjoy feeling pure for purity’s sake.

I want to feel relieved — that Republicans can’t ruin America any longer.  I love America as I’ve known it —  the America my grandchildren will never know if Republicans keep power.

















Person we need for president

Citizen-Times, 1/2006

[My shopping list for 2008 election.  Note highlighted sentence]

Headline: The 2008 elections are rushing toward us, a time for national rebirth

 I count only 1,000 shopping days to the 2008 presidential election — not much time, considering what’s at stake. In 2000 and again in 2004 our two parties gave us two bad choices.  Clearly, the media-hyped primary system doesn’t work, so it’ll be up to us grassrooters to get it right next time.  Here’s my two cents worth.

 But first, if the only thing that matters to you in choosing a president is what your pastor says, we’ll pause here and let you get off.   This is for people who realize that national oblivion waits beyond the 2008 election if America makes another bad choice.

 What I’m looking for, bottom line, is another Harry Truman, with or without the fedora.

 Truman had deep beliefs, but he isn’t rated “great” because of his stances on issues. He’s great because, again and again, he met the challenges of his day.  He was more than just “pro-defense”:  he initiated “containment” of Communism, founded NATO and stopped the invasion of Korea.  He was pro-civil rights as early as his 1940 senate campaign in racist Missouri, but he’s called a great president because he dared to integrate the military.  He carried out the Berlin airlift against all odds.  Truman was a man for his time…and for ours.

 That’s the first thing I’m looking for in a candidate for 2008: someone committed to solving the country’s problems, even if the solutions aren’t popular.  These are desperate times for America.  Everything with George Bush has been Republican politics.  He’s pushed problems off to the future.  In 2008 the future will be us.  

 I’m looking for somebody strong enough to bring about energy independence when American drivers want gas guzzlers and big oil roars back with lobbyists and televisions commercials. Somebody strong enough to chop spending, including defense, and realign priorities.  Somebody strong enough to instill patriotism in corporate boardrooms.  Somebody strong enough to cut government waste, veto pork, raise taxes if necessary to achieve economic stability.

 Second, I’m looking for knowledge. I didn’t say “intellectual.”  I want someone intelligent, yes, but mostly someone committed to understanding the fine print of government.  Truman became expert on every issue before him.  David Lilienthal said he preferred working for Truman over Franklin Roosevelt because, “I got answers from Truman.”  He understood the core issues.  His decisions were sound.

 Third, I’m looking for someone who’s real. I’m weary with presidential image, manipulation of voter perceptions, half-truths and bull.  I want an honest person, not a phony-baloney p.r. man like we have now.  A democracy ceases to work when the government spins its people into bamboozlement. 

 Fourth, I’m looking for a bridge-builder, somebody who can work across party lines and national interests. 

 Fifth, I’d like someone who will lead us back to the national morality that the Founding Fathers assumed would be our character forever. I want a true leader – a gathering place for other good people, regardless of party, who love their country and want to see it returned to former glory.

 So who’s out there like this?   A few personal observations.  Russ Feingold and Mark Warner seem to be tough men of principle.   I think Hillary Clinton would make a great president – she’s tough, she’s a renowned bridge-builder and she understands – but she’d also make a fat target in the general election for the Swift-Boat smear-mongers.  John McCain is a puzzling hybrid:  part bulldog, part toy poodle.  I wish Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm hadn’t been born in Canada.  I wish Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel were a Democrat.  Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina fits many of my criteria and might be a great candidate someday.  John Edwards?  He’s got to show me more grit and less grin. 

 We have no meaningful primary in North Carolina.  So we who care will have to be creative – writing letters to Iowa and New Hampshire newspapers urging voters to get off hot-button bandwagons, hounding our state party chainmen, even writing to candidates urging principle over position.  I hope others will draft their presidential criteria and try to tilt the primary system.

 I’m also going to plant the idea of a one-term presidency. Reelection doth make cowards of them all.   

 OK, I’m naïve. But I also love my grandchildren.




Social conservatism isn’t really

Citizen-Times, 9/2005

[This is more negative than I’d rite today]

The 19th Amendment, the one that gave women the right to vote, was passed by Congress in June, 1919 and went out to the state legislatures for ratification. Fourteen months later enough states had voted yes, and it became part of the Constitution.

But along the way…Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Maryland and Delaware voted no.  Let me repeat that:  these Southern states voted against giving women the right to vote. (North Carolina and Florida apparently didn’t vote on the amendment in this time period.)

Looking at the ratification map, I understood something that had always puzzled me about my Southern heritage:   social conservatism.  I understood that “social conservatism” isn’t conservatism at all.  It’s been mislabeled.

OK, their denying women the vote is, technically speaking, “conservative” – defined by Webster as “a disposition in politics to preserve what is established.” That’s certainly what was going on at the time, no matter how ignorant and ridiculous it looks with 85 years of hindsight.

The same can be said for social conservative opposition in the past to movies, modern dancing, card-playing, “bobbed” hair, Sunday retail, lipstick, women in “men’s clothes”…and integration of the races.

I know about this stuff. You see, I was raised conservative, but I got over it.   I went away as a missionary, experienced other cultures, and came to see my native culture more objectively.  I left my upbringing behind without understanding what makes it tick.

Now I think I do. I don’t think Southerners in 1919-20 really thought they’d win their fight against women voting.  Liberals were threatening to topple the world as it was supposed to be forever, changing the role of women.  So conservatives dug in.  This is a powerful clue toward understanding today’s social conservatism.

I think the word “conservative” should rightly apply only to political questions – limited government, interpretation of the Constitution, laissez-faire economics, that kind of thing.  There’s virtue here.  These positions are timeless – political conservatives in the 1940’s had the same beliefs that political conservatives have today — and their positions can be debated.

Social conservatism is another matter altogether. The philosophy that I grew up under, that is so visible and vocal today, is not timeless.  Social conservatives change their targets as American society leaves them behind.  They’ve stood, figuratively speaking, in one schoolhouse door after another.  The taboos I listed above (movies, etc.) were all hot conservative issues when I was a boy.

This approach to life should not be called “conservatism.” It should more properly be called “Drag-me-kicking-and-screaming-ism.”

And unlike political conservatism, socially conservative positions aren’t open to debate. They aren’t the product of weighing competing ideas in search of truth.  On the contrary, most social conservatives feel themselves engaged in spiritual warfare.  They anchor their social views in Scripture and fight for absolute right against absolute wrong.

This isn’t new. In the 19th century, Southern preachers found abundant support for slavery in the Bible — Ephesians 6:5, for example, where slaves are told to obey their masters as if they were obeying Christ.  (Interestingly, abolitionists argued more from the American principles of liberty and equality than from the Bible.)  Those opposing the vote for women might well have quoted First Timothy 2:11 (“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.”)   I remember the biblical arguments I heard as a kid in support of segregation.

We must fight evil in the world, yes – but true evil, not cultural disagreements. Actually, the Bible is far more urgent that we resist the evil influences of society on ourselves (Romans 12:1-2) – evils perhaps like the seduction of television and its advertising, excessive ambition and accumulating stuff — and that we influence the world for good (Matthew 5:16).  Correcting society scarcely shows up as a biblical blip.

Yankee Senator Rick Santorum is a Kick-and-scream-ist about working mothers: “…The purported need to provide things for their children simply provides a convenient rationalization for pursuing a gratifying career outside the home.”

What will be said 85 years from now about this and other battles that today’s social conservatives are waging – for example, opposition to evolution, homosexuality, stem cell research and the “morning after” pill? I think I know.  Don’t you?

P.S. Stephen Towe’s nostalgic commentary (AC-T, August 14), in which he blames “liberal forces” for changing his boyhood world of the 1970’s, is illustrative. Liberal forces change all societies, constantly.  I remember my mother decrying the “worldliness” of the 1950’s!

Political correctness: wide view

Daily Planet, 12/2015

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.” – Donald Trump

I confess this particular national problem hasn’t made my Top 50. But I’m not without opinions.

I’m in favor of political correctness, and I’m also against it.

Let’s start with some history – at the beginning, in the 1930s.

The Socialist Party of America pinballed its way from identity crisis to identity crisis for decades. Their presidential candidate did get six percent of the vote in 1912, but then it was faction against faction through the 1920s.

But American Socialists never accepted the radical ideas of the Communist International. In 1936, they backed FDR. Meanwhile, the Communist Party USA was in lockstep with Stalin, including support for his bloody purges – and they called for an armed struggle to establish an American Soviet state.

Socialists criticized the Communists’ slavish, unthinking obedience to Moscow. They called American Communists “politically correct.”

<comment> The Socialists used “politically correct” as a put-down. I agree with that principle. When somebody parrots an ideological line without testing its validity, they deserve disrespect.

Groups of all kinds tend to have ideologies, belief systems, creeds that they want their followers to adopt completely.   They like political correctness.

In the world of politics, no group is as politically correct as conservative Republicans. There are conservative articles of faith, and millions of conservatives embrace them unconditionally. Why else would anybody be against environmental regulations that give us and our children a cleaner world? Why else would non-rich people favor huge tax cuts for rich people when the cuts mean poorer public schools?

In my experience, liberal-leaning people are far more open-minded, more questioning of liberal doctrines than are conservatives.

<resume history> In the ‘60s and ‘70s, America changed. The Civil Rights Movement, in particular, made us aware that we were using words that were no longer appropriate. We also stopped having black-face minstrel shows and the like.   As I recall, this change was spontaneous. I don’t remember its being called “political correctness.”

<comment> I’m in favor of this, too. Avoiding these words signaled that we had grown as a people.

<resume history> But quite soon, inappropriate speech and attitudes became officially taboo on college campuses and in publishing guidelines. This was true political correctness. In 1972, Stanford University even switched their mascot from Indians to the Cardinal, their school color.

<comment> I don’t buy into legislated political correctness. It has certainly helped us discard words and attitudes that needed to go, but I like the 1990 Newsweek cover: “THOUGHT POLICE – There’s a ‘politically correct’ way to talk about race, sex and ideas. Is this the new Enlightenment – or the new McCarthyism?” I tilt away from censorship.

<resume history> Now we come to how the phrase “political correctness” has become part of Republican jargon. Sometimes they use it correctly, but sometimes, oh boy, it’s nothing more than a clumsy club to bash Democrats with:

Ted Cruz: “This is a president and administration that has turned a hard heart to the persecution and suffering of Christians abroad….And this bizarre, politically correct doublespeak is simply not befitting a commander-in-chief….”

Rush Limbaugh: “We’re led to believe everybody opposes it and disagrees with political correctness, but yet everybody’s scared to death of it. So who is it? Well, it’s the power structure wherever you happen to be.

Comment on New York Times article: “Trump has started attacking the whole religion of political correctness to the cheers of the masses. Without that weapon, the left is simply powerless.”

<comment> Anybody who’s watched the GOP debates has seen every single candidate take positions completely in line with the current passions of the Republican base, even if they previously held other views.

What shall we call this phony devotion to the new Republican orthodoxy?

Right: political correctness.

Charisma’s children

Daily Planet, 10/2015

The world was coming unglued in the early ‘70s.   Mighty America was all but begging the North Vietnamese for peace talks. Women’s Liberation was actually happening. The law seemed to give more rights to the criminal than the victim.

America was ready for Dirty Harry.

Movie posters featured the bore of Harry’s .44 Magnum revolver, with words superimposed on shattered glass:   “Detective Harry Callahan. He doesn’t break murder cases. He smashes them.”

In a time of insecurity, Harry was the man.   He called a punk a punk. He had no respect for pussy-footing institutions.   He knew what was wrong out there, and he knew how to fix it.

Later in the ‘70s, along came Ross Perot. When two of his employees were taken hostage in Iran, he recruited Vietnam veterans from his company and a retired colonel to lead them, and they went in and rescued the hostages. He used the State Department; he didn’t ask their permission.

A song appeared: “Where are you now when we need you, Ross Perot?”

When the going gets tough, we seem to look for a tough guy.

Certain people have a hard-to-define something that draws us to them as followers – especially in times of stress. It’s called charisma.

So, with presidential elections coming up soon, it might be a good idea for us to think about what we want in a president.   I don’t like it, but charisma – and non-charisma – will inevitably play a part in how we vote.

When we’re drawn to a candidate by his or her charisma, we should take special care. Caveat suffragator. Voter beware. Charisma cuts two ways.

We know about bad use of charisma from the likes of Hitler, Napoleon, Senator Joe McCarthy and (in my opinion) Andrew Jackson.   When they gained positions of power, they came to see themselves as all-powerful. They ignored lawful checks on their power.

Some say John Kennedy misused his charisma.   He centered power in his office.   He had a Cabinet only because departments needed heads. Congress was a necessary annoyance.

But that’s precisely the appeal of Dirty Harry and Ross Perot, isn’t it? They don’t fret over how things are supposed to be done. They just get ‘er done.

We also know examples of charisma used well. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Lech Wałęsa led movements with the force of their personalities. They knew they had right on their side, and against all odds, they refused to give up.  

Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt used their personal charisma to lift the spirits of their people in desperate times.

Barack Obama belongs here, too. Twice he electrified voters with his expansive personality. And in the face of an intransigent Congress, he didn’t give up on his goals and promises.  

Now we come to my man: Harry Truman. Charisma?   Maybe 3.6 on a scale of 1-to-10.   Yet he’s universally held as a Great President. His strength was in decision-making – even when his decisions were unpopular. He integrated the military (angering Southern Democrats). He ordered the atomic bomb and stopping North Korean aggression. He was behind the Berlin Airlift, G.I. Bill, Marshall Plan, the formation of NATO.  (And he got rid of a Republican Congress.)

And then there’s…Donald Trump.

Imagine Dirty Harry applying for a detective job and telling them what he’ll do if he’s hired. That’s what’s going on in the GOP primary race. Trump’s target people are those fed up with what they see as America in decline – loss of respect in the world and Washington’s politicians and bureaucrats. They are in stress, and they want a savior.

In a charisma-free field of politicians, Trump is a beacon to the up-to-here crowd.

And finally, there’s Gov. Pat McCrory, bless his heart: no charisma and no savvy. A dud for all seasons.

Engage your minds, voters of North Carolina. If you do, all will be well.   

« Older posts

© 2023 Mountain Snail

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By