Local view: Let's find the high road in politics
The political silly season is upon us. How dumb do political pundits, political parties (both Republican and Democrat) and special-interest groups think we the people are? Do we really want to know truth? Or would we rather wait for their spun an...
The political silly season is upon us. How dumb do political pundits, political parties (both Republican and Democrat) and special-interest groups think we the people are? Do we really want to know truth? Or would we rather wait for their spun answer, tested and approved? There's a survey somewhere or one can be created to explain anything they want said.
Let's turn the table here and ask the politicos and media some questions. How revealing might the answers be? Or might there be further incriminating evidence of manipulative mindsets?
What exactly is the role of political parties in our contemporary society? Common sense and common values like responsibility, accountability, respect, restraint and more seem largely to have been abandoned. The parties draw their lines in the sand, over which no member dares step. Debates are defined by the extremes. Is there no middle ground, no common center, no compromise? Most people I know are now totally disgusted with both parties and their processes. Maybe we are just that dumb.
Who sets the rules for presidential debates? Why is there not an independent, nonpartisan panel to establish ground rules that encourage good, civil debate and exchange -- not just zingers, put-downs, interruptions and worse? Why is there more focus on the moderator than the candidates? Why the focus on personality over substance? Are these probing questions unrealistic? If so, why?
What specifically is the role of the media in the political process? If the media are making money off negative ads and controversy, is there not a conflict of interest with regard to objective, balanced reporting? Is the news being "shaped" with selective, more-prevalent sound bites? How objective does the media perceive itself? Where are the "reliable sources" for this answer?
A wise person once told me: "No one can be totally objective; rather, the question is one of integrity." Another lost value?
Why is it a big deal if a politician changes his or her mind? Why does that have to be labeled "flip-flopping?" Circumstances change; new facts emerge; someone might actually develop new insights. All of which seem to be legitimate reasons one might change their mind. Don't we want leaders to be flexible and reasonable in their thinking and actions? Assuming that character, intelligence, integrity and facts enter into the decision, are those not bases for sound
decision-making? Hardly a fatal flaw. That being said, pandering or flip-flopping does happen; let's just make the distinction.
Both Mitt Romney and President Obama have been criticized for college-age behavior. Is this really newsworthy? Who among us did not make a few (or perhaps more) youthful mistakes in judgment? Such instances should be non-events; if there is a distinct, persistent pattern, that is another matter. President George W. Bush had some earlier drinking issues; he now abstains; thus that is now a non-issue (actually, recovering addicts are some of society's true heroes for the struggles they deal with and the insights they have gained into themselves and others). President Bill Clinton's in-office behavior was a legitimate concern.
Should not candidates sell themselves based on their own sound ideas rather than continually berating or belittling an opponent? Can the focus not be on a candidate's particular strengths, like character, integrity and past performance (more recent and not youthful indiscretions)? Can points not be made without attacking or impugning? Let's leave personal issues out and focus on urgent issues like jobs, entitlements, national debt and the economy. Are not issues like gay marriage and abortion of somewhat lesser importance? When was the last national
prioritization scale established?
There is a high road somewhere through this morass. Candidates should be elected on their merits and on their abilities to lead and inspire. That is what got Obama elected in 2008, his vision for hope and change. How's it working? Is that not the question for 2012?
I'm probably naive, but I hope at least some political pundits and politicos think about these matters -- we the people are not mere mice to be manipulated. Or are we?
Thomas B. Wheeler of Duluth is president of Wheeler Associates, an independent, family-owned employee-benefit and financial-planning firm.