2006-08-31 / Editorial


By Robert Morton-Ranney

According to the latest pundit pontifications, Republicans and Democrats have settled on their overall strategies for the upcoming mid-term elections.

The thinking is that Republicans will keep talking about the War On Terror, because polls say most Americans think the GOP is better at facing nasty people around the world who don't like us.

And Democrats will focus on the War in Iraq, because polls show that it is becoming increasingly unpopular and they hope that Americans view the current rulers as too trigger happy.

Local campaigns will feature a variety of issues of greater interest to the people actually filling out the ballots, but the national emphases will bring their own pressure to bear.

The danger is that we will fall into the trap of decision by abbreviation.

Tired of Iraq? Elect a Democrat. Afraid Bin Laden's about to launch another wave? Stick with a Republican.

No election should be a referendum on a single issue. There are just too many issues that matter. Every self-aware society needs to cull its past for wisdom and a general sense of identity, scour the present seeking both areas of excellence and signs of decay, and consider the kind of future that might be best and how we can move toward it.

While not alone in these tasks, we look largely to our elected officials to lead us in pursuing them.

The trouble is that the same people we expect to act like statesmen are the ones we have already labeled as politicians.

In America, devaluing politicians is a full-time hobby. They are decried as sleazy chameleons willing to say anything that will enable them to get or keep their jobs.

As if none of the rest of us has ever done such a thing.

It's somewhat understandable in a nation where breaking away from the mother country required an attitude that brought the king down to size.

But an ambivalence is made clear each time the president enters a room and all rise. The British press corps would not think of doing such a thing when their prime minister appears.

The U.S. has done a tremendous job of telling its own story. While there are still stories that have gone unheard and perspectives that are yet to be tried, no one could ever accuse us of lacking self-identity.

On the question of current excellence and decay, we are more open to question. We have a general sense of economic growth or decline, but most of us are too fixated on the price of gas and the chances of inflation to try to see the big picture.

As for what might not be going so well in other parts of life, well, isn't it more interesting to see if that guy really killed JonBenet?

And the future?

I would like to hear our elected leaders, and those who would like to stand among them, offer their plans for how best to address the moment when Chinese and/or Indian economic growth outstrips our own. What kind of a nation can we expect to be at that point, and what preparations need to be made? How will we deal with the increasing academic excellence in other societies?

I would like to hear our leaders give their opinions on the state of the earth's climate in 50 years, and what the best-case scenario might be and how we could help it come to pass.

I would like to hear much more about alternative energy sources, and architecture and urban planning that optimize energy use.

I would like to hear less about lower taxes and more about how to make sure taxes are fair across all income levels. And, is it finally a good idea that 5 percent of the population in this country owns more than half the wealth?

I would like to hear more about how to form acquaintances and then friendships and then partnerships with groups and organizations and whole societies around the world who could become new enemies if we don't.

Surely both Democrats and Republicans look forward to having grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren, and great-greatgrandchildren. The future will be just as important to them as it will be to any descendants who might follow me in life.

But if in this election season you want more than just unending iterations of "waronterror-wariniraq, waronterror-wariniraq," you may have to go to the trouble of asking for it.

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