Tag Archives: politics

Of tea, democracy and litmus tests

Dear Tea Party,

Over the course of the last month people all over the world have come out to protest the economic injustice that is our current reality. It reminds me of another group of people who felt disenfranchised and disappointed with the way our government operates and they did similar things.

So, I have to ask – why all the hate? Look, I will admit that I am very much in favor of the #occupyny protests and it is inspiring that these have spouted up in cities across the globe. It truly warms my heart and I will go to at least one protest (Something I rarely do. The last real protest I attended was in front of the Supreme Court in 2000). I also admit that I do not support The Tea Party. I think refusing to compromise and work with colleagues on the other side of the aisle is one of the biggest problems our Congress faces. We simply cannot threaten to shut th government down every few months. (It also costs a lot more because agencies cannot truly function well when they get funded this way.)

Having admitting all of that, your protests warmed my heart as much as these do. I love to see people get involved and make their voice heard by their government. The First Amendment is one of my favorite parts of the Constitution. It doesn’t only apply to people who agree with me. I may not like what you are saying but you have every right to.

The idea that we all have litmus tests for who we think has a right to protest and who does not is really troubling to me. When you start down the road that someone can arbitrarily decide who gets to speak and who cannot, well, that’s the day we lose one of the things that makes this such a great country.

The art of the possible

Another broken record appeal

I complain about Washington, DC. The DC Metro sucks. The infrastructure is falling to pieces. The state of what we call political discourse makes me want to poke my own eyes out. Oh, and had to go to the CVS and some creepy, smelly guy stood way too close to me and was growling. Dude, can’t a girl get some space? Last point, we had a scary earthquake and now a crazy hurricane is coming our way. What next? Frogs? Locusts? Glenn Beck will hold another crazy fest on the mall and his minions will take over my favorite coffee place and I’ll have to get my caffeine at the totally ghetto Starbucks that frequently runs out of coffee?

Rant mode over.

And then, just when I think the best plan is to move to a farm in Wyoming, something spectacular happens; I look at the Capitol Building and all that negativity just vanishes. I remain in awe of the amazing thing we have created here. When we tear each other down by attacking each other’s patriotism or motives, we don’t just hurt our political opponents but we diminish our creation and ourselves.
My entree into this glorious world of campaigns and politics happened when I was eight. Funny story: I was at the Hawk n’ Dove waiting for a friend and the manager, Paul, asked me about this. I replied that I had started by volunteering to unseat the evil Conservative Party (not GOP, mind you, but Conservative) from the first district of New York — Bill Carney. The man next to me said, “That’s me.” — He proved it by showing me his Congressional ID. Open mouth, insert foot. We are now friends.

When I was eight, I canvassed, I handed out flyers, I stuffed envelopes. On election night as we watched the returns, the areas I canvassed had a higher turnout for our candidate, George Hochbrukner (a hard name to spell but a great one to remember!) than other areas and I was sure that was because of my hard work. He lost. He lost the next election and was elected to Congress only when Bill retired. He quit when he could no longer go for a beer and have a conversation with his opponent. It wasn’t fun anymore. He thinks civility in this business is a pipe dream.

I don’t believe that. When I worked in the Senate, I felt a bond with all over staffers. We all were there, working crazy hours for next to no pay because we believed we could make a difference. The real difference between the two parties is not that one is more patriotic than they other or believes more in God. We all want to get to the same place, we just have different paths to get there.

I read on Conservapedia that Jefferson Smith from “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” was a Democrat. They also see it as demonizing Republicans. I don’t believe that. I refuse to believe that this movie was a partisan statement. It was a call to remember that politics really is the art of the possible.

My faith in our system is being tested

The Art of the Possible by Michael Crawford in the New Yorker

My faith in our political system is pretty strong.  I was nothing short of devastated when the Bush v. Gore decision was read but it didn’t make me think President George W. Bush was an illegitimate president.  When you work on campaigns, sometimes your candidate loses.  You know that going in.  Doesn’t make it any easier. (It don’t mean the world has ended a Biblical ‘end of days’ like some people suggested when Barack Obama moved into 1600 Penn Avenue).

Recently, my faith has been shaken.  I always thought that when push came to shove, our leaders would do just that.  This long, painful back and forth and he said/she said spring has been agonizing.

I understand that people can look at the same thing and come to different conclusions without either of them being crazy.  I cling to the idea that reasonable people can disagree without being unreasonable.  I understand the urge to want the people you elect to not compromise but there’s comes a time when that is what you have to do.  This is one of those times.

It is perfectly understandable for the people in Congress who want to see a smaller government see an opportunity here.  If that was their real goal, and it would have been perfectly understandable if they had told the White House, “Look we understand we are going to have to look at the debt ceiling.  We are concerned that if we let this opportunity to really trim government spending, without raising taxes, we will have failed ourselves and our constituents, we will not do that.  Will you work with us?” (They could have just as easily taken that to the Democrats in Congress).

That conversation would have happened months ago, when there was more than two weeks to do everything under the sun.

I have two reasons to see posturing now.  The first is this debt ceiling is on spending that has already been approved.  The Republicans are just as likely to tell you they were no less in favor of spending when they were in total control of the White House and Congress.  The linkage between the debt itself and the debt ceiling is only valid when frame it as above.

The second problem is that campaigning and governing are two very different things. They require different skills sets and priorities.  When they collide, strange thing happen.  As everyone in Washington likes to quote, Senator Moynihan said, “You have a right to your own opinion but not your own facts.”  It may be a pleasant thing to think that nothing bad will happen on August 3rd should we fail here I don’t think that’s teh case.

I am loathe to bring up Michelle Bachmann here because anyone who has ever met me or read about me knows I do not agree with her political ideology.  My bigger issue — and I know everyone makes gaffes, even Joe Biden whom I like a lot — is her wanton disregard for facts (the founding fathers did not fight tirelessly to end slavery and the ‘shot heard round the world’ was not in New Hampshire) and should we fail to raise the debt ceiling, it will do terrible things to our already fragile economy.

I suspect, our leaders will do the right thing but this has been hard to endure.