Friday, February 20, 2009

Partisanship is not the same as patriotism

It was really a time of learning new trades, new ways of doing things, and making do. Other than heavy hearts, I fully believe that if the truth was ever told, this country was more together, caring more, with less, than ever before or since. (Cecilia P. Jones-Angell, October 19, 1990)

The statement above is taken from my mother's memoirs,which she wrote out in the years before she died, and refers to the early days of WWII. I am struck by the comment of people caring more, with less, and that the country was together.

In many ways, perhaps, it was a simpler time, despite the fact that the whole world was at war, and given that the country was emerging from the Great Depression. I think that we could learn from our history about the value of pulling together toward a common goal instead of fighting to undermine whatever hope we might find for our nation and the world.

I can accept that there are people who did not vote for our current President and who are disappointed that their candidate, their party, did not win. I know that I would be unhappy had the election gone the other way. But I hope that I would be looking for solutions and working to mend fences instead of continuing to be angry and working to tear the fragile fabric of our economy.

Today I watched a documentary by Alexandria Pelosi, the daughter of the Speaker of the House. She compiled film clips and interviews with my countrymen who supported the McCain ticket because she felt it was important to know that there are people in this nation who vehemently disagree with what the Democratic Party stands for, and who yet are faithful Americans and patriots. She wanted people to know that we share a love for our nation with people who believe differently and who feel excluded from decision-making, and who even feel betrayed and marginalized.

The documentary began with a disclaimer that not everyone who is Republican is as radical as some who are portrayed, but that the people who spoke were sincere and genuine in their feelings. I can accept that; I can even embrace the differences of my fellow Americans without accepting their ideology. What I cannot embrace or accept is the determination to see our country fail just because of spiteful feelings or resentment over last November's election.

In recent days I've seen and heard too many conservative politicians posturing over the stimulus bill that the President signed this week. I've heard some Republican governors decry the bill and make statements regarding whether or not they will accept money from the bill, even as their states sink further and further into unemployment, foreclosure crises, and budgets bordering on bankruptcy.

Fortunately, the bill allows for state legislatures to accept the money over the governors' objections so as to avoid states being penalized for political reasons. I heard Governor Schwartzenegger on this documentary as he criticized then-candidate Obama for his fiscal policies; and yet today the governor of California is eagerly awaiting the assistance this stimulus package will bring to his state. I know that the Republican governor of Florida has taken a stand with the President to implement the bill and bring relief to his constituents.

I don't think anyone should be silenced for their genuine objections, but I do think that people need to accept reality. I think Republican members of Congress need to look at where we are headed and, instead of attempting to place every stumbling block possible in the path of this new administration, they should be working for the good of the country rather than looking at their chances of getting re-elected.

I am so tired of the intractable partisanship that permeates the fiber of our nation. It was not always so; even I can recall a time when Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and even the common citizen put aside partisan politics for the good of the whole. Why would any right-minded person want our nation to fail? Why would one hope that our President will be proved wrong in his policies? Why wouldn't all Americans want to see our nation succeed, regardless of who is in office?

I truly cannot fathom the mindset that denies reality. If you don't agree with the stimulus package then, by all means, speak your mind; and if you're truly against it, then please return whatever monetary benefit you accrue. If you're really dead set against it, then you would be hypocritical to accept a reduction in your taxes or assistance with your mortgage or a job that is created or even additional weeks of unemployment compensation or COBRA assistance. If you put your money where your mouth is, then you will have credibility.

Otherwise, you are, in the words of St. Paul, a noisy gong or a clashing cymbal, seeking only to disrupt rather than attempting to heal in our time of national need.


  1. I agree with everything you've said. Gov. Arnold of CA stated that Congress needs to work for what is best for the country and its people. No matter who was elected, the solution to the economy would be done on a trial and error basis. Why parties can't put aside the petty differences to begin working toward solutions is beyond me.

  2. I would like to think that dissenters are working without petulance, and that they truly believe the plans President Obama has set into action are not what's best for the economy. That may not be true for all dissenters, but I know it's true for some. It comes down to a very polarized ideology, and a lot of the conservative chatter I've heard truly fears that we are headed toward a welfare state. Whether or not those fears are founded, the bottom line is that the conservative movement feels unheard and irrelevant (see your earlier post regarding Dick Cheney, about which I cannot comment because I am unfamiliar with that particular episode). He who controls the money holds power over the people, pure and simple. It is a legitimate conservative concern that the price tag for the bailouts and handouts will be too steep in the end--that it will in fact lead to far too great a dependency on the government, and true loss of freedom.

    For myself, I hope it is more political grandstanding than anything else. I truly want to believe that everyone with the power to influence our political climate wants this country to succeed. Even the much-abhorred Rush Limbaugh has said this. However, the economy is struggling mightily, and there are those who point to empirical evidence that suggests that the current political policies now set in motion will not improve the situation, but only worsen it. When objections are not only unheeded but steamrolled, it tends to make a person rather testy. And we get into the "I told you it wouldn't work!" attitude, which helps no one.

    I'm not sure what exactly needs to happen in order to encourage confidence in this country. I do agree with you that inconsequential bickering needs to stop. It would be so lovely to return to the days your mother referenced above. I just wish I knew how to do that. That, it seems, could be the biggest challenge of all.

  3. I have to disagree with you about Limbaugh wanting the country to succeed. The following statement supports my position, and I was actually listening the day he said this, so I am a first-hand witness to it:

    Limbaugh told his listeners that he was asked by “a major American print publication” to offer a 400-word statement explaining his “hope for the Obama presidency.” He responded:

    So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.”

    Clearly, Limbaugh has nothing good to say about an Obama presidency. And eight years of G.W. Bush has proved that giving tax breaks to companies who then take jobs offshore doesn't work.

    None of us knows what will work, but we clearly need a leader. I personally don't think we're headed for a welfare state; I think that's an overreaction. However, I am not opposed to a more socialist state if it means health care is available to everyone, not just the wealthy or those who are employed full time; nor am I opposed to fair wages for work. I am, however, vehemently opposed to millions of dollars for people who then take jobs to other countries, where pay is much less than the US and working conditions are comparable to the sweat shops of the early 20th century US.

    I know that many of us will never agree on several points, but hoping that Obama fails is, to me, tantamount to having said that one hope Bush would fail in Iraq. Even in the face of severe doubts about WMD, no one - or at least no one who counts - wanted the Iraq war to be a failure. So why do so many Republicans want this President to fail? The people certainly approve of the President (PRINCETON, NJ -- In the days immediately after Barack Obama's nationally televised address to Congress on Tuesday night, his public support has increased significantly to 67% in Feb. 24-26 Gallup Daily polling, and is now just two points below his term high. This comes on the heels of a term-low 59% reported by Gallup on Tuesday.)

    It's the conservative politicians who disapprove, and they are still smarting from their overwhelming rejection at the polls last Novemeber. I'm truly not trying to be critical of conservatives; I'm merely trying to point out some facts, including the fact that most US voters thing the Big Business policies of the past 8 years have been an abysmal failure, and even if Obama doesn't have all the answers, at least the citizenry is willing to give him a chance!

  4. I haven't heard it said any better. If the politicians don't start working together instead of against each other I'm afraid we will fail. And it won't be President Obama's fault. They need to make compromises until we are back on our feet and then they can start ripping each other apart again if that is what they need to do.The country is what should be put first, not what party.