Third Party & Independents Archives

October 29, 2004

The War at Home

The wars abroad, the elections, the economy, and fears of threats to our Constitutional liberties, are all coming together to create a war amongst Americans here at home in the U.S.A. CNN News today has video clips of folks punching others in the face at political rallies, threatening gestures with vehicles, acts of vandalism toward others who post a political support sign, and even the use of those signs as weapons against political opposites at demonstrations and rallies.

Egregious election crimes are becoming commonplace in the headlines.

Thus it seems that the violence is not just against political supporters of the opposition, but, against the laws of our land as well.

Almost the entire history of the United States reads like a history of warfare of one kind or another, from the Revolutionary through the Civil Wars, the World Wars, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of smaller events like Grenada and the former Yugoslavia. But there have been internal wars as well, women's suffrage, civil rights, and labor unions movement, the war on crime, the war on drugs and of course the Red Scare which is still being fought today as partisans accuse other Americans of being Communist or Socialist for uttering differences of opinion. If the first casualty of war is the truth it would seem the truth has had little opportunity in America. But, a read of American history also demonstrates that the second casualty of war is the Bill of Rights.

America is at war yet again, and the Bill of Rights is under attack, yet again. But the attack on the Bill of Rights is coming on two fronts today, as the Patriot Act usurps our right to privacy and a host of other rights under the banner of investigation of possible terrorist activity, links, or associations, as well as the right to freedom of political expression without being clobbered, hazed, or intimidated by our fellow citizens. When our government establishes the right to infringe upon the Bill of Rights under circumstances of potential threat, what is to stop citizens from exercising that same right to infringe upon the rights of others when as citizens they feel threatened by the vote and expression of other citizens? Very little is the answer the news cited above seems to be responding with.

And it is difficult to find any mending or end to the political civil strife here at home for years to come. The Electoral College has become a broad based point of contention, and if this election is thrown into the House of Representatives where Bush is guaranteed to be appointed by the one state, one vote method afforded in the Constitution, yet another rejection of our Constitution's ability to deliver democracy today will fuel the political war at home. Our Congress is also engaged in this political warfare, so much so, that one of the most important tasks before it, overhauling the intelligence community so that we can be afforded some measure of protection from terrorists, has come to a halt. The Washington Post reports

Lawmakers yesterday abandoned efforts to pass legislation restructuring the U.S. intelligence system before Tuesday's election, with some warning that it may be impossible to reach an agreement even in time for a lame-duck session in mid-November, according to lawmakers and staff members.

America is divided more deeply than in anytime since the 1960's, and some would argue that what we are witnessing today is just an extension of the culture clash that was begun in the 1960's. And there appears to be no event or leader in our future to prevent this internal strife from growing and growing as we move toward a breakdown of the Social Security and Medicare safety net programs, the continued loss of educational competitive advantage to schools overseas in India, Taiwan, Japan, and China and the partisan wars that cripple our government's ability to plan and implement long term solutions to large and protracted problems.

Some might say this article is full of doom and gloom and that this writer has nothing to offer. There is no shame for this writer that a detailed plan for solving all of these problems isn't forthcoming. There are no claims to genius or extraordinary leadership that can be professed here. Sometimes in the course of history and Burke's Connections, it is enough for a person to simply elevate the problem for others to solve. To raise the issues so that enough ostriches remove their heads from the sand to notice that something must be done and begin demanding that something be done before doom and gloom become daily companions as in the 1930's. The first step toward solving any problem is recognizing it exists.

Posted by David R. Remer at October 29, 2004 06:22 PM
Comments
Comment #32734

Thanks to DH in the Republican column, we have a clear insight into what President Bush thinks of Americans who don’t bow to his political aspirations. He has a middle finger victory salute he wants to share with any American who does not vote for him.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 29, 2004 06:36 PM
Comment #32761

Excellent article, David.

You always have something interesting to offer, and much to give people to think about (including me, even when I don’t post a response) with your posts.

If you’ve read any of my responses during the time I’ve been posting here you know that many of the topics you touch on in your article are ones that concern me greatly. At the very top of the list of things that trouble me are the attacks on our Bill of Rights perpetrated by this administration (although the Iraq war, the enormous deficit, and the threat of fraud in the election all bother me also), and I have been amazed by the fact that these infringements have ironically been couched in terms of patriotism!
How _anyone_ who has kept up with the news and claims to love this country could want to give these people a second term is beyond me. But to my baffled disbelief, plenty of them seem to want to do just that. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it.


I asked a question of you in the Blue column, but I don’t think you’ve noticed it, so I’ll ask you here. Is Election Day the End of Watchblog, or will it continue?

Posted by: Adrienne at October 29, 2004 09:51 PM
Comment #32775

What we have today is a kind of mythical conflict, a phony culture war. I have been canvassing for George Bush. Yesterday, I passed a Kerry guy doing the same thing. We warned each other about potentially mean dogs and bragged about our relative strength, but that was it. And, by the way, at the hundreds of houses where I stopped, nobody has released the dogs on me, sprayed me with a hose or even been particularly less than courteous.

I noticed that some parts of town are solid Kerry; others solid Bush, but it is less common to have similar numbers of each. I have read that this is the case over the whole country. We have segregated ourselves politically and that leads to a self-confirmation bias. We talk to people who agree with us and sooner or later we start to demonize the other side. We trade stories about their dirty tricks and fraud and after we repeat them and exaggerate them long enough, they become fact. It is kind of an autoerotic story cycle. We don’t recognize the rumor we started when it comes back to us and we take it as confirmation of our own original story.

The divided and sour America I read and hear about is not the same one I see or experience. Last summer I drove all the way from Arizona to New Hampshire along some of the blue highways. All along the way, I met good, reasonable people who I am proud to call fellow Americans. They all had similar hopes, dreams and fears. On several occasion, people would say something like, sure we get along in Durango-Amarillo-Nashville-Fairfax or Londonderry, but its not like that in most places. Maybe it really is like that most places. Maybe it is just the chattering classes and political activists (which includes most of us) projecting their own prejudices on their fellow citizens. Maybe ordinary citizens are smarter than the elites.

Posted by: jack at October 29, 2004 11:00 PM
Comment #32789

Great comment, Jack. I think more is made of the polarization, too.

Posted by: Joseph Briggs at October 30, 2004 12:56 AM
Comment #32800

Ostriches abound. I guess folks just have a natural tendency to block out the negative. But in doing so, they fail to see escalating trends, or choose not to see them. We had ricin sent to elected officials, very likely from an American here at home. We had bombings of Planned Parenthood clinics, the Ok. Fed. Bldg. bombing, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Tx., AFL-CIO members destroying GOP offices, a guy threatening to kill his girlfriend if she voted for Kerry, and a large number of politically motivated hostilities on our roads, streets, and neighborhoods that get reported on the police blotters of local communities but not the national headlines.

And with all this and more we don’t hear about, the ostriches contend everything is fine based on their not having personally witnessed such an event. What can be said of ostriches. They are fine birds, but vulnerable as hell to predators when their heads are cooling in the sand.

Posted by: David R Remer at October 30, 2004 06:10 AM
Comment #32813

People will be nice up to a point. Do we expect nice friendly feelings from those nine hundred and some Democrats in Ohio who just had to go to court (in the middle of a working day) in order to be allowed to vote on election day? Even when it turned out that their residence was being challenged by _four_ Republicans who swore on the stand that they had been instructed by their party to bring those challenges?
Dirty tricks of this kind are bound to incite hatred and may ultimately lead to violence if they continue.




Posted by: Adrienne at October 30, 2004 10:37 AM
Comment #32843

Add this new story to the litany: Michigan Man Charged With Threatening Vice President Dick Cheney

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 30, 2004 01:41 PM
Comment #32845

David

I think optimism is a moral imperative. You sometimes don’t get what you deserve, but you often get what you expect from people. If nothing else, it makes you happier. The same is true of being civil.

I was supporting Bush today at a Halloween parade. A reporter for German television came by and asked me why I was supporting Bush. I told her why I supported Bush and added that if Kerry won, I would support him as president. All the time I was doing this, an obnoxious woman with a “Kerry” sign kept on trying to get in the way. I told the reporter, and her audiences, that we should all try to be Americans and when we were done I asked her to go over and talk to the Kerry people too. She told me that she was surprised how polite the Bush people had been compared with the rude Kerry supporters. So what happened? I won. The opposition looked shrill. Had I responded with my own shrillness, we would have both further trashed the U.S. reputation in Germany. The obnoxious woman probably felt foolish and I might have dented her stereotype. That is what I choose to think, in any case.

I don’t think I am being ostrich like. I understand that there are nasty people and I am willing to deal with them expeditiously, but only when necessary. That is the other side of civility – demand respect from others. I developed a reputation for both being a fun boss and of firing people. The two are not incompatible. Everyone should avoid conflict when possible. If it is unavoidable be fierce in conflict, compassionate in victory and civil & optimistic most other times.

Posted by: Jack at October 30, 2004 02:05 PM
Comment #32854

Jack,

Sounds like a good story. Wonder how it will be played in Germany, if at all?

Of course it depends on who edits the story and if there is any sort of an agenda for the station.
Same as here.

Posted by: Dawn at October 30, 2004 03:27 PM
Comment #32877

Jack, that is an imminently respectable response, and in line for the most part with many branches of Buddhist philsophy.

My original contention with your first comment was with your opening line, What we have today is a kind of mythical conflict, a phony culture war.

It appears to be ostrich like in that it refutes any reality to the headlines and incidents reported in the article. They are real. And they are following a rather lengthy time line now, dating back some 4 decades now. I am all for optimism provided such optimism does not blind one to reality.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 30, 2004 06:18 PM
Comment #32912

David

With nearly 300 million Americans, I would expect some bad actors. I always tell my kids that 99/100 people are good, but you will probably come in contact with more than 100 people today. It means you should be careful, but it doesn’t mean that most people are bad or getting worse.

You mention Buddism. I have always been drawn to a modified version of Taoism, but lately I have been “coming home” to St. Paul. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. I still have faith in America.

Posted by: jack at October 30, 2004 11:12 PM
Comment #32920

jack, I agree with you about faith. I still have faith in humanity, and the bright promise the Constitution held out to future generations, along with its author’s warnings and cautions. I have lost faith in the leaders of government today however, they are like clergy who have gone through the motions of believing for so long, they have forgotten what believing is or what the words meant when they were fresh.

I have also lost faith in the two party system which limits voter choice, and issue education, and true debate. I still believe however, that in 8 to 12 years, voters will be ready to bring third parties to the fore to challenge the two major parties. Should be healthy for all, if we have not passed the point of return in terms of the social safety net, the national debt and economy. They are all of course integrally entangled and interdependent in our future.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 31, 2004 12:00 AM
Comment #32930

“I think optimism is a moral imperative. You sometimes don’t get what you deserve, but you often get what you expect from people. If nothing else, it makes you happier. The same is true of being civil.”

I agree with you in this - in a general, life-philosophy way. But I’m afraid it doesn’t apply in politics as they’ve been unfolding in the past eight years.
Many Democrats feel they are seeing the complete demise of civility and a rise in underhandedness, dirty schemes, and real attempts to undermine our concerned opposition to Republicans. We may expect everyone to play by the rules, but often they don’t, therefore civility goes out the window, anger rises to levels we never wish we had to feel, and optimism accordingly takes a nose dive.
Lets face it, it doesn’t take a sense of general incivility to start a riot, it only takes enough outrage incited by a few extremely uncivil people working as diabolically and deviously as they possibly can to stir up a whole lot of trouble.

The Ohio story I cited above is a good example of what I am talking about. It only took four Republicans with a secret agenda to cause almost a thousand Democrats to have to take off work to appear in court so they’d be able to exercise their right to vote on Tuesday. The majority of those Democrats had lived in their residences for several years and had voted in their precincts before these challenges had been raised.
What might we suppose that large group of American citizens are feeling right now? That the country is becoming less fair? That our election systems are breaking down? That Republicans cannot be trusted? Outrage? Anger?
I’m sure that many of them might be feeling one or more of those things - and all because of four people instructed by several other Republican party officals in the state - every one of them people who don’t even know the _meaning_ of the word civility.

You said:
“an obnoxious woman with a “Kerry” sign kept on trying to get in the way.”
And that the reporter was:
“surprised how polite the Bush people had been compared with the rude Kerry supporters.”
But then you end your post with this:
“If it is unavoidable be fierce in conflict”

Well, I think it is safe to say that that Kerry supporter was being fierce in conflict. If she has been reading the same kinds of stories that are developing around the country that I’ve been following she is angry and outraged. She might be thinking that unfortunately, politeness and civility probably isn’t going to help us in our battle against those who are trying to silence us in their attempt to steal the election.

Like you said, sometimes one doesn’t get what they deserve, but you’ll often get what you expect from people. Well, if Democrats begin to always expect the worst from Republicans - but rightly so, because we just keep getting burned, perhaps a larger number of good, civil, polite, nice and kind Republicans will find themselves suffering a great deal of incivility by Democrats because a few Despots are way overdue to get what they deserve.
Just to be clear, I’m not comparing anyone here to that kind of Republican.

Now, I know you and David probably won’t respond, but thats okay. I’ve spoken my mind, and that always feels good.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 31, 2004 01:50 AM
Comment #32948

Adrienne, you have outlined just one of many ways that the hostile political environment can express itself. More and more Americans see the Government and those running it not abiding by the laws and rules they made for themselves, not abiding civility nor observing Jeffersonian parliamentarian rules. It begs the question, will citizens also exempt themselves from the laws and rules designed to maintain civility? I think we are seeing a number of then doing that in this election.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 31, 2004 05:23 AM
Comment #32956

The Democrats also work to undermine democracy by voter intimidation and using lawyer power. There was a huge story on Democracy Now about it and I have also seen it on the local level, how they work to keep Greens down and prevent communities of color from gaining too much power.

Posted by: chica at October 31, 2004 08:19 AM
Comment #32969

“More and more Americans see the Government and those running it not abiding by the laws and rules they made for themselves, not abiding civility nor observing Jeffersonian parliamentarian rules.”

Yes. On both sides. [heavy sigh]

“It begs the question, will citizens also exempt themselves from the laws and rules designed to maintain civility?”

There is nothing more basic to the sense of freedom than the right to vote.
With registration forms being thrown away, residences being challenged, voter intimidation, the perceived sense that lines are going to be held up while officials check multiple pieces of identification in order to make voters standing in the line leave, or run out of time to vote, etc., etc., wouldn’t you say the rules have already been tossed? That means the only law left is the law of survival - which has never been and never will be, an exercise in civility.
And you have no idea how it troubles me to contemplate that being the case in America.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 31, 2004 10:00 AM
Comment #32975

“The Democrats also work to undermine democracy by voter intimidation and using lawyer power. There was a huge story on Democracy Now about it and I have also seen it on the local level, how they work to keep Greens down and prevent communities of color from gaining too much power.”

Since I have been involved with and always vote Green in all my state and local elections, I’d have to agree. But I don’t think it has anything to do with Democrats wanting to prevent communties of color from gaining too much power - I think its because they don’t want to give up any of their power to _anyone_.
That being said, I sympathise with Democratic opposition to the Green and Reform Party during this presidential election, because neither party can possibly win (its going to take years of hard work to achieve that goal), and they (and me) are desperate to see incompetents like Dubya and Co. be thrown out of office.

Might sound terrible to you that I feel that way - but I’m actually putting America first when I support John Kerry.
Dubya and Co. must go because they are trying to change the meaning of our government. With their shredding of the Bill of Rights, with their optional war, with their religious fervor being injected into government, with their disregard for civil rights, with their inability to act diplomatically, with their representing big business rather than the people, with their disregard for the envirnonment, with their lunatic deficit spending… I could go on and on here, but I’ll stop.
This administration needs to go - and I honestly don’t understand how anyone in a swing state could give their vote to a third party, thereby helping Dubya and Co. to four more years in which to render our system of government completely unrecognizable.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 31, 2004 10:27 AM
Comment #33024

Adrienne

I probably would not have responded, but since you asked.

My impression statistically is that there are bad guys on both sides. I personally see more Democrats, but I accept that you see more Republicans.

My experience with the Kerry woman was as I described it. There was no conflict until she tried to create one. Even then, she didn’t succeed. If she had listened to what I was saying, she would have heard that I was saying that people on both sides should get out and support their candidate and if John Kerry was elected I would support him. I would never represent my country that poorly to a foreign audience, as she did. Even after her rude behavior, I still treated her well and suggested that the reporter should interview someone on the Kerry side.

This woman was angry at the wrong person, at the wrong time and to the wrong extent. My considered opinion is that she lacks either perspective or self-control. I won’t hold it against her, but she looked like a fool in front of an ostensibly neutral observer. That can’t have been her goal.

Posted by: Jack at October 31, 2004 01:48 PM
Comment #33071

AN OPEN LETTER TO A MOM IN MICHIGAN

I know how anxiously you’ve been following this campaign; how important it is to you. I know that you’re scared – for yourself and your children, and that there’s nothing more important to you right now than having a government, a President, who can keep you safe from harm.

I feel the same way. That’s why I feel strongly that George W. Bush shouldn’t be our President anymore. I’d like to tell you why I feel that way.

He’s been telling us that we need to be strong to be safe – that if we were stronger, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened; and that if we get even stronger, it won’t happen again. He’s told us that he’s been strong for all of us, so we need him to keep on being strong for us, or else we’ll get hurt.

It sounds very reassuring. The only problem is that it isn’t true. Here’s why. You can never be stronger than somebody who’s willing to die to hurt you. The United States is the strongest country in the world many times over, and we’re the strongest any country has ever been in the history of the world – we already were on 9/11, and it didn’t help: 19 men willing to die killed 3,000 innocent people…with box-cutters. However big an army we have, however many bombs we drop, however many people we kill, that won’t stop someone who really wants to hurt us.

We don’t need someone to be strong for us – we’re plenty strong already. What we need is someone to be smart for us, because smart is the only thing that will stop these people before they hurt us. Smart enough to find out who they are, where they are, and what they’re planning. Smart enough to see where we’re vulnerable at home, and fix it in time. Smart enough to fight terrorism without making friends for the terrorists all over the world.

And smart, George W. Bush isn’t. As far as terrorism is concerned, he’s done just about everything wrong. He’s led us to war to prevent another terrorist attack…but in the wrong place. You and I and our children get searched whenever we travel, and ID-checked everywhere we go…but a terrorist can bring a bomb or a poison or a germ into this country by boat, and it won’t even be checked. Our daily lives are plagued by vague warnings of impending attack…but Mr. Bush’s government has taken away money for the police and firefighters who would be the first to respond to an attack, and many of them aren’t home anyway – they’re in Iraq with the National Guard, and they can’t come home, because their tour of duty’s been extended.

We need somebody in the White House who gets it right, who’s smart enough to protect us, and that person isn’t George W. Bush. So, I urge you, for your own sake and your children’s – give John Kerry the chance to be smart for all of us; give him your vote next Tuesday.

Posted by: PMG at October 31, 2004 05:50 PM
Comment #33141

That is one helluva persuasive argument, PMG.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 1, 2004 03:54 AM
Comment #33470

Adrienne, I did not have an answer for you earlier. But, I do now. WB will continue after the election. That comes from the head honcho, Cameron Barrett, founder and developer of WatchBlog.

Posted by: David R Remer at November 2, 2004 07:29 AM
Comment #33498

Thanks, David.
Its nice that we’ll be able to continue to argue with, and learn from, each other.


Posted by: Adrienne at November 2, 2004 10:05 AM