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Thoughts and Ideas
by Max Smith
2004-10-01

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When State Sen. Barack Obama won the Democratic Party's March 2004 primary election to run for U.S. Senate, a vast majority of people in this blue state seemed to understand important issues of our time well enough to vote the correct way. Since then it has been a joy to see Obama rise to national prominance, especially at the Democratic Convention. Meanwhile, Obama has had the valor and discretion not to laugh at the elephant party's three-ring circus; Jack Ryan's sex scandal, Mike Ditka's decision to punt rather than run, and the GOP's main attraction, a clown from Maryland named Keyes.

Obama tried to minimize the differences between liberal-progressive blue states and conservative red states in an appeal to national unity. A Kerry-Edwards victory could make unity more possible. Liberal-progressives with new ideas appeal to the best values in society to improve the quality of life. President Franklin Roosevelt produced millions of jobs and made the banks more secure. The Kennedy-Johnson Administration created a social climate of inclusion that made the work of civil-rights activists for racial desegregation easier.

Social conservatives of today's GOP appeal to people who value strength because they speak with the conviction of absolute certainty. Never mind if what they say is wrong, saying it forcefully makes believers of people who are in awe of a show of strength. On Sept. 1 Keyes said Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter Mary (and indeed every lesbian and gay person) is a 'selfish hedonist.' Never mind if it is the gay daughter or son who is the most giving, understanding and supportive person of a family, due to our ability to see things from an outsider's perspective. The real selfish hedonists are the rich Republicans who demanded and got from Bush huge tax cuts. They said the tax cuts for the wealthy would stimulate investments in new technology and create jobs. What they did was to keep that money and buy for themselves bigger mansions, newer yachts, and more luxuries of all kinds. George W. Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover, in office from 1929 to 1933, to let the U.S. economy lose more jobs than it gained.

On Sept. 8 Keyes said Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Never mind that the Roman Empire imposed the death penalty when Christ became a rebel against the money changers and against economic injustice. Both Keyes and W favor the death penalty. Keyes is consistent with Rev. Jerry Falwell and others in the GOP who limit discussion of morality to issues related to sexuality. Never mind that Christ says nothing in the Bible about same-gender attraction. Is there economic justice in W's spending over $200 billion to wage elective war in Iraq while doing next to nothing to help hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees living in squalor and hunger in the Darfur region of Sudan? Is the GOP moral to campaign and not talk about U.S.-built landmines planted worldwide, the continuing deployment of U.S. submarines armed with nuclear warhead-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, homelessness, global warming, the under-funding of effective responses to the HIV epidemic, and not to count as unemployed those too discouraged to actively look for jobs?

On Sept. 13 Keyes, who says he's 'pro-life,' spoke of how good it is that a ban on private ownership of several types of assault weapons, signed into law by President Clinton, expired. Why? Those high-powered automatic machine guns, under the 2nd Amendment, ought to be only in the hands of an 'organized militia,' police or military enlistees. Is a hunter a sportsman when he can shoot down a herd of deer from 1,000 feet away with one pull of the trigger? Talk about weapons of mass destruction!

As election day nears I hope to hear progressives speak affirmatively and not defensively. I wish the term 'liberal' would stand for future social progress for all. Trouble is that it is human nature to be more comfortable with what we know and have experienced already than to be secure in pursuit of new ideas. That is why tradition is so powerful, even if it includes racism, homophobia and sexism.

Liberal-progressives need to assert the power of imagination and idealism to overcome weak resignation to the evils we deplore. It is a constant uphill fight, which needs to be continued election year or not. It was said after the Nazi holocaust that all that was necessary for evil to triumph was for the good people to remain silent. On Nov. 2, your voice is your vote. Correct those who claim George W. Bush is up for re-election. He was selected by his father's appointees on the Supreme Court, not elected. Vote like the whole world depends on a regime change in D.C., because it does.


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