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April 28, 2005

Painters with Broad Brushes

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

I love to draw and paint, unfortunately, my level of talent doesn't' justify a more serious commitment to the fine arts.

One thing I've learned in my amateur attempts to produce beauty on canvas is that broad brush strokes result in unintended consequences.

This applies to politics as well as painting. Partisan political pundits who lack an expansive vocabulary or an ability to enter into a debate on ideas often resort to name-calling.

We've seen plenty of it locally, in city, county, state, and federal elections. The most egregious example I've seen lately came last weekend from the head of the national Democratic Party, former Vermont governor and failed presidential candidate, Howard Dean.

Last week Chairman Dean told an audience of loyal Democrats that they needed to re-double their voter registration efforts; not to bring progressive forward-thinking Democrats into office, but to remove crooked, intolerant Republicans.

These were his words, not mine. Chairman Dean suggested in his remarks that Republicans are more concerned about putting more money in their own pockets than they are in the best interests of Americans.

He draws a broad comparison between Rep. Tom DeLay (R., TX), the House majority leader, and all Republicans serving in office or seeking office. He uses DeLay's personal choices as indicative of how all Republicans think and act.

Only a fool - or ideologically blinded ignoramus - would buy this line. That would be like asserting that all Democrats have sex with subordinate employees because one high profile Democrat did so.

I don't judge people by their party affiliation. I can't even understand how anyone, Republican or Democrat, uses only party affiliation as a determinant of fitness for public service.

Now I know full well that both Republicans and Democrats use this direct standard in determining which candidates they'll support. Issues like life, guns, taxes, and decency create comfortable differences for voters, and political parties are able to exploit those differences.

My own party is involved in a pathetic effort to categorize right now. Republicans who are attacking Democrats over the use of the senatorial filibuster are claiming that anyone who disagrees with President Bush is not a godly person.

What?! Because I disagree with you on a policy matter, that means I can't be a godly person? Who decided that? I'm certain God didn't, so does that mean that the person who now speaks for Him is ungodly?

Some people need to be told for whom to vote. They either don't have the time or inclination to study candidates and positions to find their choice; they depend on party affiliation to do that for them.

I understand the importance of that concept, especially now that I'm a partisan elected official. One of the responsibilities of getting elected is that the party expects me to work to get more Republicans elected.

Here's how I determine that. I look for the best candidate, the most qualified, and the person who can best explain their policies, and whose policies most closely align with my own.

Yes, I am focused on Republicans while campaigning. Again, that's my job as an elected Republican. On the other hand, I won't support or vote for someone who I find completely objectionable either.

When I vote, though, I carefully, thoughtfully, and yes, even prayerfully, consider people who are running for office. I owe it to our Founding Fathers to take this solemn constitutional responsibility more seriously than to just go in and vote based on party.

What I find most upsetting about Governor Dean's remarks is that he REALLY believes it. It isn't just rhetoric. I have no doubt that at his core, Howard Dean truly believes that Republican elected officials, from town councils to Congress, are focused on lining their own pockets rather than providing services.

One more thought. Maybe there's more to Mr. Dean's statements about Republicans. Maybe Mr. Dean sees it as part of his responsibility to draw as much fire away from other nationally prominent Democrats.

I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but how about this? Howard Dean will use his DNC chair to say outrageous and offensive things about Republicans and Republican causes. That way, when Hillary Clinton begins her presidential campaign in a few years, she'll appear moderate to conservative by comparison to Governor Dean's ranting.

Okay, I know, maybe it's a little far fetched. I guess it makes me feel better that there might be a strategic reason to explain the politics of personal division and attack.

Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, and Cezanne all painted world-famous works of art with bold and daring brush strokes. Every drop of paint, no matter how random it might appear, was placed on the canvas for a specific purpose, to achieve a desired outcome.

Maybe our national political leadership is similarly guided, but I see Howard Dean like the poor kids in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, carelessly slapping whitewash on the board fence, with little thought as to where else the paint is going.

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