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January 12, 2012 9:20 am

The Amend Corner: Blowing in the wind

Written by Don Amend

Since we just survived the political circuses in Iowa and New Hampshire, it seems like a good time to comment on political rhetoric—you know, the stuff political campaigns use to attack the other guys in the race for office.

A few years ago — 2004, to be precise — there was a Republican commercial featuring a wind-surfer who was continually shifting his direction as the wind changed. The point was that Democratic candidate for president John Kerry, who apparently did enjoy windsurfing, drifted with the wind in his political positions.

At the same time, though, the Republican candidate, George Bush, was claiming that he was the mainstream candidate, and Kerry was out of the mainstream.

Now, think about that for a minute. What’s the difference? If you’re in the mainstream, aren’t you just drifting with the current, just like the guy who’s drifting with the wind? Granted, rivers change their direction a lot slower and less drastically than the wind does. But it’s also true that the mainstream always flows downhill, which isn’t quite the right direction you want to go if you’re leading the nation. In fact, there are some situations when you definitely should get out of the mainstream, say, when your raft is approaching the crest of the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River.

But enough of the past. Let’s look at the current campaign, where the winds and currents seem to be shifting.

The other day, Mitt Romney knocked Barack Obama for his call for “fundamental change” in America during the last presidential campaign. Romney’s argument was that Obama is not in the mainstream of American thinking. Americans, he said, don’t want or need fundamental change. 

At the same time, though, his rival Newt Gingrich was actually saying fundamental change is needed in the way the government operates, and, in fact, the proposals of all the Republican candidates, Romney included, involve fundamental changes in the tax code, Social Security and Medicare. Moreover, changes in, for example the climate or the economy of Europe, force fundamental changes on us whether we like it or not, and no president, no matter what his experience, has the power or the ability to stop them from happening.

So, which way will we go if the Republicans win? Will we stay in the mainstream or get out of it? 

The wind also switched directions recently when Romney called Obama a “crony capitalist.” Well, that’s kind of strange, considering the standard Republican Party line has been that Obama is a raving socialist, maybe even a Communist, who wants to turn America into a socialist state.

Along those same lines, the notion that Obama is a dictator who “rammed health care down our throats” and wants to take away all our freedoms, still is rampant among the more rabid conservatives. Rick Perry, for example, recently made the ridiculous proclamation that the 2012 presidential race is as important as the D-Day invasion of Normandy in saving the nation from an Obama dictatorship.

At the same time, though, Republicans are denouncing Obama for weak leadership because Congress can’t resolve the budget crisis. Does that mean they would rather we elect someone who would ram a budget down their throats?

In short, the wind coming from the candidates, not to mention the television windbags who comment on the election, seems to be shifting.

Now the point of this essay isn’t to knock Republicans, although admittedly, it’s fun for me, as a Democrat, to do. Democrats contradict themselves as much as Republicans, but they aren’t campaigning against themselves as the Republicans are doing this year, and that makes the Republicans an easier target.

The real point is that meaningless catch-phrases such as “being in the mainstream” are a poor basis for making a decision. Too much of our political rhetoric is made up of name calling and fear mongering, and politicians offer too many over-simplifications of our current situation and magic solutions to solve our problems.

But that’s what we get, and it’s our fault, and we should demand better of our candidates. But to do that would mean they would have to sail against the wind, or swim up river in that metaphorical mainstream.

That would be the fundamental change we really need in this country.

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