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August 17, 2007

What's in a Name?

George Wenschhof

Anger, fear, and hate fuel much of the political discussions that take place today. Labeling an opponent - or an issue - with a moniker that has a preconceived definition has become commonplace as a method in garnering support for a position or a candidate. The art and adroitness of conciliation has been shoved aside with "it's my way or the highway" type of mentality.

Both the Republican and Democratic Parties spend a great deal of time and money attacking each other's positions on the issues. It often appears the denigration of the other party takes precedence over developing a consensus and promoting a party's agenda. As a result, the subsequent labeling with a purposeful smear of a Democrat as "liberal" and the Republican as a "conservative" has become a cornerstone in politics today.

The outcome of this approach is that more people are turned off by the "ugliness and gridlock" of politics. They feel it doesn't matter whom they elect to represent them for it will still be the same "politics as usual."

Political winds change as domestic, economic, and foreign policy events unfold. Political parties and political action committees jump at the opportunity to highlight the negatives or the positives of these events. They are quick to accept credit for positive outcomes and to place blame on others for any negative outcomes.

After the horrific terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, when patriotism was soaring and Americans joined against a common foe, President George W. Bush and his administration failed miserably at unifying the country.

Instead of reaching out and using this opportunity to bring Americans together on a myriad of issues, Karl Rove, the president's close friend, advisor, and architect of his two close election victories, continued to divide the country with a political strategy of hate-filled rhetoric directed toward Democrats.

"These times they are a changing" is a refrain from a popular song in the late 1960s and is apropos to what we as a nation are currently experiencing as we head to the presidential election next year.

As a country, we are not experiencing the same turbulent times of the 60s, yet change is indeed in the air. The candidate who captures and represents this feeling will be our next president.

Americans continue to experience frustration with Iraq, illegal immigration, health care, national security, the rising costs of energy, and the outsourcing of American jobs overseas.

Another major area of irritation is the money spent on campaigns today. The growth of political action committees, lobbyists, and the money they spend influencing politicians is disturbing to most Americans.

As blame and name-calling abounds, and with Democrats gaining a majority in the House and basically a tie in the Senate, the gridlock in Washington continues with no consensus reached and no substantive action taken on any of these important issues.

This has led extremists from both Republican and Democratic parties to criticize their representatives as failing to be "conservative or liberal" enough, when, in fact, their representative's political affiliation has contributed to the very gridlock in the Washington they dislike, especially so now that we are in the midst of the 2008 presidential election campaign.

Americans want principled leaders who can bring people together to solve the issues we are facing. Americans have always been strong and resourceful when faced with a well-defined problem and presented with a reasonable solution. They are very capable of uniting to obtain solutions to the issues we face.

One such move would be meaningful campaign finance reform. A move toward publicly-funded campaigns would be a welcomed change from the constant barrage of fund raising emails, letters, and phone calls voters receive.

It continues to be a travesty that the United States is the only developed country without a national health care plan. Too many Americans are without health care and with the best doctors, hospitals and medicine in the world, we can and must do better.

As arguably, a country with the most powerful military in the world, we have a responsibility to develop and conduct a foreign policy that elicits admiration and respect from other countries while maintaining the safety and liberties of our citizens.

Resolving the status and disposition of more than 12 million illegal immigrants in our country must be a priority of the incoming administration. We can not let hate and discrimination fuel the thinking process as solutions are discussed. We can and must do better than build a multi-billion dollar fence across our border with Mexico.

As energy costs continue to rise, we must educate businesses and the public on energy saving techniques, increase research and development and encourage the use of mass transit.

Our country has needed an exit strategy from Iraq from the day of the invasion. It is time one is developed and implemented that will also include an agreement with neighboring countries in the region to assist in the stabilization of Iraq.

We can do better than allow the loss of American jobs to foreign countries with no labor, environment, or product safety protections. This practice must come to an end.

As the presidential election inches closer, the question unanswered is: will it continue to be politics as usual with continued anger laced and name-labeling rhetoric, or will consensus building focused on results prevail?

As a voter, make sure you demand reasonable, fair and effective representation focused on results. The process of change begins with you.

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