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Focus, People! By CHARLES M. BLOW

 

The general election is off to an inauspicious start.

We are already lost in the weeds of the inconsequential.

Like kittens chasing a spot of light on the floor, the public and the press are jumping about with excitement and outrage over ancillary issues. Even there we are doing so by creating false equivalencies.

For instance, an Obama supporter, Hilary Rosen, made an unfortunate remark about Ann Romney’s being a stay-at-home mom, and the president quickly distanced himself even though Rosen apologized.

On the other hand, one of Mitt Romney’s supporters, the inflammatory Ted Nugent, made despicable and threatening comments about the president’s re-election, and Romney only soft-pedaled away from him, even though Nugent never apologized.

This is what we’re discussing — a manufactured mommy war and a rhetorical warmonger.

And while we’re distracted, recent polling suggests that the race is tightening.

This all makes me want to grab every American by the shoulder and say, “Focus, people!”

This will be a long election fought with hundreds of millions of dollars over relatively few voters in the middle. There is unlikely to be a knockout punch or a trump-card issue. There will be many ups and downs, faux pas and faux issues. But we shouldn’t lose sight of what really matters — what this and every presidential election is really about.

It is about the size and function of government in our lives — whether we value social safety nets or social Darwinism.

It is about how the government collects and spends money and whether those activities are ruled by a spirit of fairness or disproportionately favor the most well off.
It is about whether rhetoric criticizing the size and influence of government ends where individuals’ bodies begin. Whether you believe, as I do, that all liberty begins with personal liberty. That none of us has the right to impose our beliefs and values on others. That each of our bodies is sovereign, to be governed as we so choose, without the interference of government, so long as our individual choices don’t impede or encumber the liberty of others.

This is about each of us being able to love, and marry, whomever we chose.

This is about women having unfettered and unfiltered access to a full range of reproductive options, which is most fundamentally about the physical and economic well-being of both them and their families.

This is about how we prioritize and provide direction and incentives for our educational system so that we produce citizens who are well equipped to compete in a tightening global job market.

When you consider the gravity of the real issues, the minor ones drift away like the seeds of a dandelion.

This is about the judges the winner of the election would nominate, particularly to the Supreme Court, and how those nominations might balance or further skew the justice system.

This is about war philosophies: how easily a president is willing to commit troops to war, how he might execute a war once it commences and how willing he is to end it.

It is also about whether we will deal humanely with people who are in this country illegally, many of whom have been here for decades, many of whom work and are otherwise law abiding, many of whom have been raised and educated here.

When you consider the gravity of the real issues, the minor ones drift away like the seeds of a dandelion.

Neither candidate is perfect on every point, but they are not equal. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the Democrats and Republicans, have radically divergent views about the direction of the country. One is progressive; the other is regressive.

Romney and the Republicans are running a campaign of opposition and retrenchment. They want to repeal, restrict, restructure, reclaim and restore. They want to take the country back to a reality that exists only in their imaginations — and to a world that will never exist again — and freeze us there.

But that’s utterly unrealistic. There are no cryogenic chambers for countries. The world is dynamic, and as a country we must be dynamic in it. There is no going backward to get ahead. This is not a board game.

Social mores are changing. The global economy is changing. World security is changing. We need a president who understands and appreciates those changes and can articulate a core conviction about how to guide us forward through them.

That man simply isn’t Mitt Romney.

I have no personal gripe with Romney. I don’t believe him to be an evil man. Quite the opposite: he appears to be a loving husband and father. Besides, evil requires conviction, which Romney lacks. But he is a dangerous man. Unprincipled ambition always is. Infinite malleability is its own vice because it’s infinitely corruptible by others of ignoble intentions.

Not only has he at some point in his political life been on both sides of more issues than I have energy to list here, he has made clear during the primaries that he is willing to shift to the far right on far too many issues to be the right president for modern America.

He has signaled that war with Iran would be on the table. He has said that he would seek to take financing away from Planned Parenthood. He embraced the Paul Ryan budget. He has called Arizona’s draconian immigration law a “model” for the country. He has said that he would “propose and promote” a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

He said this week that he might eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development and trim down the Department of Education.

He has said that he “favored justices like Roberts and Alito, Scalia and Thomas” for the Supreme Court and found the nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the court, “troubling.” He has said that he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

Romney’s willingness to shift so far right would set us too far back.

We need a president who understands the winds of change, not one who simply twists in them.

 

© 2012, agentleman.

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Written by agentleman

April 19th, 2012 at 11:24 am

kammer@mailxu.com
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