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June 15, 2007

Partisan Nonsense

Roy Meachum

Our courtrooms cannot claim objectivity. We have an adversarial system, borrowed from England, our colonial "mother country." Still, things could be worse. We might have adopted France's Napoleon Code used in my native Louisiana.

In every courtroom but ours and England's, prosecutors possess the full power of the state to help them get convictions. As it is, in criminal cases, indicted defendants have an uphill struggle, under setups that prevail around the world. Only under Common Law, peculiarly British, does the accused enter a judge's presence under the presumption of innocence.

Too bad the practice and formula do not apply to politics. A number of people, in all parties, presume labels which dictate how they should think. Their support for principles and people is entirely predicated by how they are registered on voter rolls.

Between Republicans and Democrats, the GOP demands loyalty at the polls more. In my long years as a journalist I have noticed they tend to march blindly behind their party's designated candidate. Their rivals usually live up to comedian Will Rogers' summing up: "I don't belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat."

Of course, political machines occupy a totally different niche. Overwhelmingly Democratic, to sway from their narrow paths is to invite public punishment or chastisement; and that can hurt, physically as well as financially. Every machine I've known - or know about - buys loyalty by rewarding its membership; appointments, jobs, quick access to officials - they are all the same. And all demand Faustian fealty to their bosses.

Whatever the reasons given for the machines' passing, they are really being done in by Americans' mobility; they worked best with immigrants and others confined to metropolitan ghettoes, where they once offered hope for climbing out and into a better life.

It would be highly simplistic, but not far beyond the truth, to say education liberated voters from bosses. In this sense, the GI Bill was the greatest force for promoting this nation to pay attention, forcing our focus on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

How lovely to believe those once-inner city dwellers, having hoisted themselves, became both suburban mortgage holders and Republicans. Unfortunately for that point of view was this week's news account of how the United States has become the very first nation with most of the people now living in metropolitan areas, specifically cities.

What happens to the GOP now?

Recently ejected Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich and his colleagues hoped, going in, that their triumph at the polls would bring Democrats and independents running their way. According to figures from Annapolis, the GOP failed to gain; during Mr. Ehrlich's four-year term, there actually seemed some leakage in the Republican strength. Go figure.

Party apologists quickly shift the blame to today's president; and it's true, George W. Bush's popularity, once strongly behind his position as leader of the free world, continues to peter out. Now he's reached lame duck status and that can generate panic in his followers' hearts. It is becoming harder for him to get his way with the U.S. Congress. Witness his losing - so far - the struggle to reform immigration laws.

Through this North Market Street window, it has become increasingly obvious that Mr. Bush, as ex-Governor Ehrlich, did himself in. Both treated their narrow victories as mandates; each recklessly set about installing their claques in "good" jobs, which meant displacing incumbents, primarily from the opposition party.

On the other hand, Democrats consistently dealt with the GOP administration as a temporary inconvenience, which must have created frustration at state executive levels. Instead of lying back and dealing with the conditions quietly, and with a touch of humor, Republicans twisted themselves inside-out. They wanted to show up their opponents as petty individuals incapable of thoughts on any but a partisan level; they ironically proved the exact same proposition about themselves.

My position? While I'm accurately described as liberal and a registered Democrat, I have with all my might supported Republican candidates; I refuse to be pinned to any cause. I fought the last Democratic governor as corrupted and dictatorial and backed his GOP contender, Ellen Sauerbrey. My local battles have always been for the individual, in the legislative delegation and in a number of elected officials, both Democratic and Republican.

My fierce opposition to state Sen. Alex Mooney derives not from politics but the hopeless moral mess he creates. In the same legislative district, I am proud of the job being done by Del. Rick Weldon.

When I say how much I regret partisanship, I deeply mean it and as the examples cited, I try to put my vote and words where my mouth is.

As readers know, my sympathy lies with those immigrants who have demonstrated how much they sincerely appreciate living here. You can imagine my frustration with the president. After six years of exalting his fellow Republicans and demeaning congressional Democrats, he is now engaged in a pitched battle with his favorites in the enemy's camp.

Unaffected by the White House's official position, I come down as hard as I can on the side of human beings who are refugees in the truest way. Mexico and its fellow Central American republics no longer suffer the conditions that brought out death squads.

But how can this country - the land of the free, etc. - sit idly by when generations of Latinos suffer devastating deprivations because their ancestors wound up in a desiccated environment. Thinking of all the babies that go to sleep hungry every night, how can this rich and powerful nation turn away? It's not our problem, some fat and sleek Americans can say.

As history has repeatedly demonstrated, however, as a part of humanity, we are our fellow human beings' keeper, just as Christian, Judaic and Islamic principles say.

Sentiments like that form the basis for the misguided who count me a liberal; they are wrong. I consider ethics and morality more important than mere politics, which could use a healthy share of those particular attributes.

When anyone, officially or privately, knowingly commits a wrong because that's what the party says, they should be remanded to Hell's deepest circle. They simply have lost their right to prosper, in this world or the next.

My great comfort? Eventually voters find out such politicians and send them home, as the saying goes. I would prefer the discovery come sooner rather than later.

In the meanwhile, please do what you can: Americans deserve much better than they're getting, now and in the past.

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