Thursday, February 25, 2010

OPINION: Can Political Opposites Meet In The Middle?

Leftist Drivel
By Paul Krza

Lynne Cheney appeared in my dreams the other day. Really. And what was strange was that we got along, rather pleasantly.
Not many days later, in Albuquerque, I heard musicians from Kyrgyzstan, a virtually unknown part of the old Soviet Union, now a predominantly Muslim nation in central Asia, play on 4,000-year-old instruments (and whistle) their version of ... Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.”
Then I went to see New Mexico-image-laden “Crazy Heart,” a film about a down-and-out country singer that was, understandably, filled with country music. To say the least, I’m not a big country fan, but I absolutely loved the movie.
In my tidy little mind, this all seemed downright weird.
In my journalist days in Wyoming, I many times interviewed Lynne’s better-known significant other, Dick. I can’t recall meeting Lynne although I do remember her personality described as, well, like that “b” word detractors aim at another powerful woman, Hillary Clinton.
But in my dreams, it was bliss with Lynne. It made me wonder. Can differences really be bridged? Well, you wouldn’t expect Kyrgyzstanis to be channeling Sinatra, and falling for Jeff Bridges’ country twang was definitely out of my comfort zone. Might it be possible to meet political opposites somewhere in the middle?
Or is finding agreeable ground just a pipe dream? President Obama, to his supporters’ dismay, seems to be trying: More troops to Afghanistan, more nuke reactors, olive branches to the GOP. “You lie!” shouts Joe Wilson, a once-unknown, small-minded South Carolina Republican congressman. Sorry, he says. Apology accepted, the accommodating Obama replies.
Major obstacles abound on the reconciliation path. Name-calling is one huge barrier. “We all should anticipate that the other person, even if they disagree ... has the best of intentions,” suggests President Obama. “We don’t have to call them names ... to demonize them.”
In this day of bellicose blogs and blazing audio and video, name-calling is the name of the game. Republicans routinely run sinister campaigns against Democrats, darkly tagging them as “liberal,” “socialist,” or just plain “communists.” To that Rust-guy on talk radio, anybody opposing Republicans are derided as “these people,” suggesting awful sub-humans.
Undaunted, Obama presses on, for real compromise. Both sides should honestly give up something significant, for the common good, he argues.
Just a cheap political trick, GOP leaders say. Fellow-traveler teabaggers grumble: Obliterate Obama. Vaporize hope. On to 2012.
It gets even worse. Last week, hard-core rightists convened for their Conservative Political Action Conference. Ranter Glenn Beck netted the biggest applause, saying leftish progressives are a “cancer” on the country. I guess we know what that means. Oh -- he also said he “loved” only one politician: Dick Cheney, who thinks, like radio pal Rust, that bipartisanship is for losers. (Rust, by the way, urges Republicans to be not only the party of “no,” but “hell, no!”)
The talk of the day is that most folks don’t like either party, supposedly outright disgusted with everything “Washington.” But when majority rules, as it should, somebody won’t be happy. At any given time, I read recently, you can figure maybe 20-25 percent of the population doesn’t like anything that government does.
Democratic House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn says the only way to deal with people like Joe Wilson is by pushing back, not with olive branches. He ought to know: He’s also from South Carolina, his district right next to Wilson’s.
There’s a disturbing downside to polarization, and the unfortunate model lies in the Balkans. There, for nearly centuries, folks who looked physically the same but with political differences coexisted until virtually overnight, it was neighbor against neighbor. The guns came out, and people died.
When I see people with weapons showing up at teabag rallies, like they did recently in Alamogordo, it makes nervous. I get more worried when I hear the right seems to think only they are right, and only they are true defenders of freedom.
Sorry. That’s simply not true.
We can and should try to find common ground. But on key issues, “politics” means folks in power move the ball, until ousted by the outs. Alas, Barack mostly wastes his time, catering to Republicans. Get into the trenches, shove through programs and budgets, even if it takes parliamentary maneuvers to circumvent that ridiculous 60-vote Senate filibuster rule. Back in the day, with the GOP in control, a former Senate staffer recalls, tax breaks for the wealthy sailed through, almost in the dark of night.
Oh -- at the end of my dream, as Lynne was leaving, I said, “call me ...”, about to add, “...if you hear of any good stories.” She didn’t let me finish: “Don’t count on it,” she said, icily.
I woke up, moments later. We really were just strangers in the night.
Paul Krza is a former reporter and editor who worked hard to stay in the middle then. He’s now a freelance writer in Socorro. His views do not necessarily represent those of the Mountain Mail.

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