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Oglesby: What kind of change do we want?

POSTED: April 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A majority of Americans of all parties and persuasions want change this election year. Only problem is most of those who objectively think issues thoroughly through aren’t sure exactly what kind of change is possible, meaningful and really needed.

As promised last column, I hope this may help you define what change you seek and understand the reasons you seek it. That purpose holds whether or not you agree with what my research says is the real change most Georgians and all Americans really want.

"Get rid of Bush" is no reason. Our Constitution is doing that. Are you sure you want to get out of Iraq and do you understand the full implications of so doing? These are major goals of perhaps a majority that is declining with analytical thought. The rock solid within these two categories won’t be swayed, but I suspect will be set up for just the kind of further disillusionment I believe a majority want eliminated.

Despite many suffering through lost jobs and the mortgage mess, president nor Congress actually can do little about the overall economy. Free market forces correct themselves in due time.

Real life issues do exist. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all face looming bankruptcy. Immigration problems remain. Why is nothing done? All sides bear some blame. I strongly believe the real change Americans want is a functional political system eliminating disillusion and solving real issues.

Disillusion first. Wanting to please all and offend none, candidates word their promises in different ways to suit the audience making it appear they’re for what the particular audience wants. When they use the wiggle room their carefully worded sound bites created and do the opposite, the audiences are disillusioned and become cynical. You’ve heard too much "they promise one thing and do another." Americans want no more of that.

Ideologues of both extremes wield just enough pressure to prevent the would-be statesmen from working the political process. Social Security is one example. The Democratic-controlled Congress demanded that Bush propose a solution before it would do anything. Bush put forth a comprehensive proposal and invited full debate and improvement. Congress then demanded he take a key component completely off the table before it would begin the debate that never came. As a result, we’ve lost several years and trillions of dollars with the system’s bankruptcy racing progressively faster toward us.

On the other side of the aisle is immigration. Pragmatists of both parties crafted a real-life solution. Right wing ideologues applied sufficient pressure to scuttle even debate and negotiation on that starting point. There are numerous other examples, but these two show both sides contribute to the stalemate.

The real change I believe Americans want is straight talk, normal political give and take. Replace today’s "my way or no way" attitude with a willingness to let our elected representatives exercise the informed judgment they have and our system was created to expect. Put the country’s needs first.

This political battle, both within and between the parties, comes down to how truly realistic are the various promises. Do resources match promises? How much hedging is in the lofty rhetoric? Examining ourselves, are we letting soaring, inspiring, hopeful rhetoric overwhelm us, blinding us to reality?

Do we consider the bald fact that to get things done, legislation must be crafted so as to pass both houses and survive a presidential veto. Do the candidates have a record of getting that done? What philosophical course do we want our country to follow? Make no mistake, there are major differences in party philosophy, and any nominee is a sure bet to follow that party’s basic philosophy in general, even in principled compromise to get things done.

Do we remember that judicial nominees and bureaucratic appointees will be around far longer than presidents and most legislators? Presidents will nominate judges as close to their party’s basic philosophy as can be confirmed.

Do we want our government to be more involved in everything and provide more social services? If so, do we realize it will take more taxes and that tax increases do not stimulate economy but stifles it? Do we recognize that tax cuts historically produce more revenue, as President Kennedy proved?

If we favor bigger and more involved government, a Democrat is our choice. Which one? That’s for Democrats to select who can most effectively take us further down the socialistic road.

Do we want more limited government, providing only services that government can do best such as national defense, etc. and a philosophy of personal responsibility, charity, and strong national defense? The GOP nominee is decided. The next quest is the running mate. More on the Iraq issue next time.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. His column appears biweekly and on First published April 1, 2008.


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