Your Letters: Give a sound trouncing on Election Day
I am 74 years old and a lifelong Republican. Party affiliation was an easy choice for me as a young adult in the 1950s and 60s. In those days, it was the Democrats who were out of touch with reality. The Democrats of that era thought that we could be successful nation builders in far-away places - that there was no limit to the increases in wages and benefits that unions could demand - that all of our problems could be solved in Washington, D.C., and that balancing the federal budget was not important.
Our defeat in Vietnam, the failure of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society Administration and the double digit inflation resulting from Johnson's reckless fiscal policies led to Republican victories in five of the next six presidential elections.
One thing that politicians understand is electoral defeat. The Democrats responded to the Johnson calamity by becoming more pragmatic and more centrist.
The Republican Party, on the other hand, has apparently been hijacked by wealthy people who don't want to pay taxes. They somehow expect us to believe that we can balance our budget by lowering taxes, an argument so preposterous as to raise doubts that they really believe their own rhetoric. They avoid meaningful debate by labeling opposition proposals as simply "job killing." They also pay lip service to moral issues.
Good government is a prerequisite for a functional society. Good government is not free. Taxes are necessary, and so are regulations. The Tea Party-fueled gridlock in Congress makes our government only semi-functional, and that's bad for all of us. The Tea Party has infiltrated Congress with people who are seemingly more intent on winning ideological battles than solving the nation's problems. We need to realize that, while the Democrats may be our rivals, they are not our enemies. We're all Americans, and we're all in this together.
It looks to me like the GOP stalls Mr. Obama's economic stimulus proposals not because it is thought that they will fail, but because here is fear they will succeed. After all, a stagnant economy in early November will enhance Mr. Romney's chances of winning the White House.
My late father, a conservative Republican, observed late in his life that our nation prospered because the constant tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives resulted in the enactment of centrist legislation. That was in the good old days, when lawmakers of all persuasions understood that no one could get 100 percent of his agenda, and that compromise was necessary.
Compromise has become a dirty word with today's conservatives. Being uncompromising is a virtue in Tea Party circles. The truth is that when you say that you will never compromise, you are saying that you are infallible - that there is no chance that you could be wrong. Arrogance of that sort does not result in any Divine favors.
I voted for George W. Bush twice, and I'm sorry about that. Through his ineptitude, Mr. Bush taught me something. He taught me that a candidate's ability to make good decisions is far more important than is his party's platform. I put that lesson to use in 2008. When John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, he flunked the decision-making test. Thus, for the first time in 12 presidential elections, I voted for a Democrat.
My thinking, as a young Republican, was influenced by two great men from opposite wings of our party. One was Minnesota Gov. Elmer L. Andersen, while the other was 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
The moderate Mr. Andersen, dealing with a hostile legislature, made a profound statement: "The question is not whether it's liberal or conservative, the question is whether it will work." "Is it liberal" is a terrible litmus test. "Is it conservative?" is a terrible litmus test. "Will it work?" is the best litmus test.
I still remember Election Day 1964. President Lyndon Johnson emerged from his voting booth in Texas and showed his ballot to the reporters. Of course, he had voted for Democrats in every race. In Arizona, Mr. Goldwater, the conservative hero of the day, would not show his ballot to anyone. He went on to say that he never voted a straight ticket. I have heeded that advice. In every general election since then, I have tried to find at least one Democrat whom I could vote for (I haven't always succeeded).
Our economy is fueled by consumer spending. Today's Republicans appear to have forgotten the lessons learned from Herbert Hoover and the ensuing Great Depression. They still seem to believe in trickle-down economics. They insist on tax breaks for the wealthy so-called "job creators," a group that, in stressful times when job creation is really needed, seems more inclined to sit on money than to expand payrolls.
Our annual deficits and huge national debt threaten our entire system. We need to balance the budget and pay down the debt. We can't do that without increasing taxes. Will additional taxation put a damper on the economy? Very likely. However, it is better to endure a stagnant economy for a season than to experience a complete collapse when the chickens come home to roost. It is insane for a lawmaker to sign a "no new taxes" pledge.
Since our Congress is currently held hostage by an anti-tax coalition, it is doubtful that it will enact legislation to prevent the automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that will kick in in a few months. Economists warn that this will cause the economy to recede by 1.5 percent in the first year. That might be OK. It is better to have a mild recession now than to experience the European-style disaster that we are heading for if we fail to get our house in order.
Blame for the Congressional gridlock is not bipartisan. It is almost entirely the fault of the Republicans who insist on having everything their way. This is not to say that our Republican lawmakers are bad people. It is to say that their hands are tied. Deviate even once from the GOP's reactionary agenda, and expect defeat in the next election year, not at the hands of a Democrat in the general election, but by some Tea party nut in the Republican primary.
Even in this era, there are some fellow Republicans whom I respect and admire. Former Sen. Norm Coleman is one. Another is Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. State Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont is also on the list.
As mayor of St. Paul, Coleman showed that he could bring people together and get things done without destroying the budget. As a result of his ability to unite, rather than polarize, that city has a major hockey team that plays in a state-of-the-art facility.
McDonnell chose pragmatism over ideology, rare for a modern day Republican. He noted that, with interest rates low and unemployment high, it was an ideal time to borrow money and put people to work upgrading the state's infrastructure (which kind of sounds like what Obama wants to do nationwide). This was in sharp contrast to other GOP governors who were stuck in the cutback mentality.
Rosen led the push for a new Vikings Stadium. She understands that one can be conservative without being tight-fisted 100 percent of the time. There is, after all, a difference between a foolish expenditure and a wise investment.
I might be the only Republican in America who is OK with the Affordable Health Care Act. Eleven years ago, my wife had a medical incident. The situation resolved itself, and she recovered without any treatment. Because that incident is part of her medical history, the private insurers won't touch her. I'm conservative enough to understand that government should provide only those things that the private sector either cannot or will not provide Affordable health insurance for everyone clearly falls into that category.
When I vote for a legislative candidate, I expect that person to go to St. Paul to represent my district, rather than dance to the tune of the Taxpayers League. When I vote for a Congressional candidate, I expect that person to get to Washington to represent my district, rather than become part of the Tea Party Caucus.
For me, being a Republican takes a back seat to being an American. Therefore, I have decided to oppose any Tea Party candidate and any "no new taxes" candidate. That means that I will vote for a lot of Democrats this year. This is not to say that I am switching parties; it is strictly a temporary thing. As I said earlier, one thing that politicians understand is electoral defeat. The only way to restore some sanity to the current GOP is to give it a sound trouncing on Election Day.