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October 20, 2004

Ideological Divide Wider Than The Nation

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The 2000 Presidential election divided this country in ways heretofore unimaginable. Craig Crawford, an MSNBC political analyst, suggested that some of the current animosity stems from the nature of the events that led to President Bush assuming office in 2001.

James Carville, the Ragin' Cajun, blames George W. Bush and his "henchmen" (his word, not mine) in the Congress, the State of Florida, and the U.S. Supreme Court for stealing Al Gore's presidency.

Likewise, Republicans joyously celebrated the Swift Boat Vets ad campaign attacking John Kerry's Vietnam service.

Democrat's have been trying to pin the Swiftees on the Bush campaign, but it appears that these guys are motivated purely by the statements of Senator Kerry upon his return to the states after his service in the Vietnam War.

I've lost track of the opinions of the various pundits who populate the cable news shows. It's really not too tough to guess, though. While Fox News likes President Bush, just about everyone else leans towards Senator Kerry.

What troubles me most is the divisive nature of the discourse on both sides. Acknowledging the importance of a thorough discussion of policy alternatives and opinions, in the end one of these two guys will have to try to lead this country during a very turbulent moment in history.

Back to Mr. Carville and his election-theft argument. The Clinton regime detritus have made this a four-year recital, that Al Gore should have been president, and that George W. Bush lacked the electoral authority to lead this nation.

Pulpit-pounders Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson make this a frequent part of their Sunday church-speaking tour. Mr. Jackson throws in the extra juicy reference to disenfranchised voters, which to me means people who'd rather blame someone else than accept personal responsibility.

Rev. Sharpton's hypocrisy is always on prominent display. He has lofted a lack of personal accountability to new heights, and this past week's media circus cast this hypocrite in bronze.

Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson toured predominantly African-American churches with Senator Kerry. At one stop, both men worked the crowd while a pastor exhorted the crowd to vote for Mr. Kerry. That's right, you ACLU advocates, he urged the faithful to go and vote for John Kerry during a church service! Imagine the unmitigated gall!

Not a 10 Commandment statue, not even an oblique reference. I'm talking a full-fledged, passionate call from the pulpit of a church to vote for one candidate over the other. Where is the outcry, the righteous indignation that surely would have accompanied a similar call had it come from another church in support of the incumbent president?

My fear about division extends to the GOP as well. I've heard pundits and GOP campaign workers talk about John Kerry as a coward, a legislative do-nothing, and a bottom-feeding lothario.

John Kerry volunteered for service in Vietnam. Further, he served in a unit that was almost guaranteed to face enemy fire. He was injured, and his injuries were determined by the Defense Department to justify the award of not one, but three Purple Hearts for injuries sustained during combat operations.

Veterans who served alongside him and those he attacked with his words before a Congressional panel deserve the opportunity to challenge him on his statements and actions. Some campaign hack, who used college deferments to avoid service, does not deserve that chance. Mr. Kerry decided to make his record an issue to show his tougher side, so he'll have to face the music from those he accused of war crimes and atrocities.

Senator Kerry may not have been the United States Senate's most prolific bill drafter, but he has participated in some important legislative initiatives, and the voters of Massachusetts seem to be very happy with his output, such as it is.

Again, I don't mind hearing senators, who served with Mr. Kerry, poking fun at his amazing lack of legislative productivity. I just hate to hear some campaign worker from the other side criticize something they've never done themselves. It is considerably easier to dream about all the bills you'd get through a legislative body than it is to actually try and get one into law!

Regarding his relationships with women whose personal financial circumstances exceed his own, I'm not even aware of why that ought to matter to anyone. I find it beneath contempt that one would speculate about that, since it just shouldn't matter to anyone other than Senator Kerry and his mate.

Anti-Kerry forces have also employed religion as a way to define the electorate. I've heard a Catholic priest on cable news shows express the thought that a member of his faith would be committing a sin by casting a Kerry ballot, given the senator's support of abortion rights.

So back to what happens on November 2nd. We'll see a record voter turnout, based solely on the registration tidal wave sweeping the nation. Here in Frederick County, our very capable elections administrator, Stuart Harvey, is working his staff nights and weekends to keep up with the new registrants.

I wonder how many of these thousands of new voters come to this process motivated by the negativity of the presidential campaign. If anger is the motive, I wonder how those who sign up and vote will feel if their "guy" doesn't carry the day on November 2nd?

Have we gone so far in finger-pointing and sloganeering that we end up as a nation split along an ideological divide? If our country is divided roughly in half, with dense urban populations supporting one candidate, and the rest of country firmly supporting the other, you can easily see the leadership dilemma.

My personal experience in electioneering is that I was careful to avoid personal attacks against my opponent. Neither one of us was an incumbent, but with my municipal and county government experience, I was probably closer to that definition. Conventional wisdom suggests that my opponent might have used the negative campaign approach, but to her credit, she did not.

We both expressed our ideas and opinions on their own merit, leaving it up to voters to choose. After the election, we communicated several times on unrelated issues. When faced with the need to replace a district aide, my former opponent applied. Knowing her skills and capabilities, I hired her. She is serving my constituents with great distinction.

Can you imagine either of our two candidates for president working side-by-side on anything, even the most mundane legislative initiative? Can you picture a GOP campaign strategist sitting down with Joe Lockhart from the Kerry campaign to develop a mutual solution to some serious issue?

We have allowed this campaign to widen the ideological divide separating this great and powerful country, and on November 3rd, one of these two guys will have to begin to build a bridge.

I pity the construction crew!

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