CN Column 04/23/10: Political dichotomy an illusion

A couple weeks ago, I was sharply critical of the GOP, citing a poll that revealed, as I wrote, “the extent to which black-hearted hatred, poisonous fear and wing-nut extremism have infected the modern Republican party.”

That column proved to be the most controversial I’ve yet written for publication here at Citizen’s News; it inspired a few objecting e-mails and at least one unreasonable phone call. Even Callum, my editor, agreed it was “one of [my] more pointed” pieces.

But the responses I’ve received illustrate, to some extent, one of the myriad problems with two-party politics in this country. To many, it seems, criticism of the conservative message or the Republicans automatically equates to unequivocal support for liberal ideas and ideals, and by default makes people like me seem like shills for the Democratic party. It may go both ways, but I’m not so sure; I’ve never gotten feedback about more conservative columns accusing me of being a GOP panderer.

Let me take a moment to say I truly appreciate any and all responses to my opinion writing, and I try to take the time to respond personally to those who take the time to write me. I’m always glad to engage readers in a conversation or e-mail exchange, regardless of whether they agree with me.

But on a few occasions, and especially on this one, I’ve been accused of being too liberal—one reader even called Callum several weeks ago to complain I’m too much of a “bleeding-heart.” Readers seem to believe that because I think the conservative movement’s rhetoric is going, or has already gone too far means I’m a Democrat, a liberal, a bleeding-heart, or what-have-you.

Although I like to think I make my stances sufficiently clear, I’d like to set the record straight to those of you who read my column and shake your head, writing me off as just another liberal media hack.

First of all: I stand for no ideology. I am not affiliated with any political party at the local, state or federal level. I am not a “party person.” I vote independently, and yes, I vote.

I do believe in nurturing a “marketplace of ideas” in the media, not to mention in political forums and in citizens’ everyday lives. I believe this marketplace could—and should—be devoid of hyper-partisan rhetoric, personal aspersions and assumption-making.

I believe if we must have two parties in this country, as appears to be the case, we need two healthy, high-functioning parties that can make equally compelling cases to independents. We need two parties with clear leaders whom everyone can at least respect—something we have in neither major party at this point. We need two parties that can respect each other as much as both claim to respect the American people.

I believe voters should judge issues on their own merits and according to personal values. I believe criticism of one thing is not the same as support for its perceived opposite, and by the same token, I believe that very diametric opposition is nothing more than a calculated illusion.

I do not believe in the political dichotomy we’ve all been fed by Washington bureaucrats and the media. I believe people’s opinions, like my own, manifest themselves across a wide spectrum of thoughts, ideas and beliefs. I do not believe in left and right.

That being said, I implore those of you who are good enough to read my columns to bear in mind that I, like you, believe in liberty, justice and freedom from oppression. I believe in the United States just like every “real American” out there. You don’t need to “take the country back” from people like me. The country is ours to share, and I think we’d all be better off if we tried to explore issues sans the talking points and platitudes.

Do I have liberal tendencies? Yes. I’m 22 years old. I just graduated from college, for God’s sake. I watch HBO, PBS and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; read the New York Times, Rolling Stone and Harper’s Magazine; and listen to college radio and NPR—bastions of the so-called liberal media, all. I have a bumper sticker quoting Kurt Vonnegut on my car, listen to Bob Dylan and am the proud owner of several wantonly ironic T-shirts. Give me a break.

But I was far more liberal a year ago than I am now. Several months fully engaged and entrenched in local politics and budget issues makes one immediately cognizant of the fact that fiscal conservatism is really the only spending philosophy that makes any sense. I opposed the bailouts under Bush and Obama, just as I oppose our foreign wars.

I believe small businesses should be given as many tax and regulatory breaks as possible; but big businesses, especially banks, insurers and trading firms, have proven they need to be monitored and policed. Conversely, I believe the banks shouldn’t enjoy a government safety net funded by tax dollars.

I believe in people’s freedom to do what they will with their own bodies at the counsel of their doctor and in their own homes, and I believe all people who pay taxes—and even many who don’t—deserve equal access to health care in a fully-developed nation like ours. I believe the government could and should play a role in ensuring it.

I’m just another guy who has a lot of opinions. The only difference between you and me is that I have a platform from which to disseminate them. So if you feel differently or have a cohesive counterargument, let’s talk. I’m a good listener.


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