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Posts tagged " elections "

Moral in the Eye of the Beholder

October 27th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

Sometimes, living in today’s world can make one dizzier than a sped up roller coaster. A few times recently, newspaper articles starkly contrasted with one  another.

A short while ago, Gene Klein wrote a thoughtful article for the Wall Street Journal explaining why 94 year old Oskar Gröning, who was a paper-pusher at Auschwitz, correctly received a prison sentence despite his age and the comparative non-violence of his position in the concentration camp. Mr. Klein ended his piece with these words, “It is necessary that Mr. Gröning be punished, not only because of the past, but also because of the future…Anyone who participates in genocide—no matter what their role, no matter how long ago, no matter how repentant–is forever responsible and forever accountable.

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The 3rd Great Awakening

December 30th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

How quickly time speeds by. It is already a year since I last fulfilled my responsibility as president of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians by soliciting your support. It’s time for me to do so again. Instead of just asking for your help, I would like to deliver to you something of value in exchange.

Here is a fun question worthy of dinner table conversation: The book of Exodus, chapter 17 verses 8-16, describes the warlike Amalekites attacking the newly emerging nation of Israel that was weakened by a few hundred years of brutal slavery. Israelite victory is clearly going to take a miracle. (more…)

Time for Literacy Tests

June 29th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

An air of confusion hangs over Alvin Greene’s victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary. The candidate for the U.S. Senate seemingly came out of nowhere to receive 59% of the vote. Allegations of dirty tricks have been made, but so far none have been substantiated.

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many did indeed vote for him based on criteria which surely would make our founding fathers cringe. Some of those interviewed admitted that they knew nothing of Mr. Greene, his opponent or how either man stands on issues. It was enough that his name was first on the ballot and appealed to them. 

 

Truthfully, the farce presented by this election may be more blatant than in others, but the core problem is in no way unique to this particular race or state. Over the past decades Americans have been urged to vote for all sorts of individuals based on their gender, race or well-known family name. Even in Supreme Court nominations, all sorts of demographic issues trump ability.  I venture that even the majority of those who consider themselves well-informed base their knowledge on television commercials and marketing material rather than actually analyzing a candidate’s past actions and words.

 

Literacy tests received a bad name and were outlawed in this country because they were too often used as a means to achieve a racist or anti-immigrant result. But is there anything truly wrong with asking those who vote to reveal some knowledge of the vote they are casting? Jay Leno gets a lot of laughs with “man on the street” interviews that show how appallingly ignorant people are. During the last presidential election he showed clips of people explaining why Sarah Palin was a good running mate for Barack Obama, being unable to identify a picture or name of any of the Supreme Court Justices and having no idea whether Iran was part of the United States or not. (Full disclosure: I don’t actually remember the specific clips I saw, but my examples are perfectly plausible).

 

But considering how abhorrent the idea of an election literacy or knowledge test would be to most Americans, perhaps we could start by implementing what I think would be a less controversial idea. Other than those it targets, could anyone be opposed to having our legislators take a basic exam on any legislation for which they are casting a vote? It would be perfectly reasonable to say that a failing grade should mean not being allowed to vote – and no grading on the curve. For one thing, legislation running thousands of pages would cease to be offered if you just might get a question on an obscure paragraph from page 1,316. Secondly, we might have a clue that a law is poorly written if half the legislators answer one way and half the other way on questions such as: “According to this piece of legislation XYZ will be illegal. Circle Yes or No.” 

 

This idea could be expanded to require all candidates for public office to take a basic economics exam. And I think the public would very much enjoy if the first session of Congress each term featured a televised quiz show starring our representatives answering questions pertinent to our Constitution and history.

 

Alvin Greene’s nomination disturbs South Carolina Democrats. But their pain could be the nation’s gain if it highlights how increasingly ignorant the American electorate is and spurs us to reclaim voting as a privilege rather than a right.

 

 

 

One Night of Fun?

January 26th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

Last Tuesday night was just plain fun. Endless pundits have analyzed Scott Brown’s victory but for me, while I am very concerned about the many issues confronting our nation, the bottom line was straightforward: David vs. Goliath.  An easily dismissed, good guy brought down an arrogant, inflated and heavy-handed party machine. Now comes the hard part.

I recently enjoyed a January 25th Wall Street Journal Marketplace section article which I believe might have captured the best advice I could offer the incoming Senator. The Marriott chain of hotels is adding some boutique hotels to their brand. While Marriott clearly has its concerns about losing a well crafted image by branching out, the owners of the boutique hotels have the opposite concern; will they lose their individuality? One quote in the article jumped out at me. A prospective hotelkeeper says, “The key for us is to maintain our appearance to the public that we are still an independent brand and not part of a chain that tends to get rooted in what I’ll call sameness.”

Now, there are some huge plusses in sameness. As a prospective hotel guest, I like knowing that my room will be predictably clean and pleasant. A large chain’s tried and tested web site is a plus. Being able to rely on quality control measures inspires confidence. At the same time, it is less exciting to stay at a hotel that looks exactly like the hotel one has stayed at in ten other cities. Large chains simply can’t offer the charm and personality of smaller hotels. During our family’s travels, one of the most enjoyable overnight experiences we have had was at a small bed and breakfast in Oregon. We also have had nightmare experiences at similarly unique places. If the boutique hotel owners and Marriott can craft a deal providing the guarantee of top notch service and accommodations without sacrificing the singular experience of a boutique hotel, both sides and the consumer will win.

Which brings me back to Scott Brown. Doesn’t he face the same challenge? Last Tuesday’s election was a repudiation of the president and the bait and switch game he played with the American public. When Barack Obama promised transparency during his election campaign, most Americans thought would apply his transparency promise to governing processes. As it turned out he meant transparency in national defense, putting American lives at risk by making security information public while his health care bill was being secretly crafted in closed sessions. It became clear over the last few months that his calls for bipartisanship meant embracing Hugo Chavez while shunning Republicans. His party deserved to lose and it did.

But the Republican Party did not necessarily win. Scott Brown won, conservative fiscal principles won and Americans won. The election held as strong a message for Republicans as for Democrats.

The November 2008 election which took place over a year ago was a wrenching one for me. As a child, my mother used to take me with her when she voted. I actually have no idea for whom she voted in any election, but she transmitted the message that voting is a solemn privilege and responsibility. In the last presidential election the choice was between two candidates, each of whom I thought would be disastrous for America, though in drastically different ways.

After much discussion with my husband and hours of deliberation, for the first time in my voting experience, I left the section for president and vice-president unmarked. This was the opposite of apathy; it was an intentional message. No matter what party I am registered with, I am an independent voter. Don’t take my vote for granted. I think a lot of other Americans might feel like me.

I see last Tuesday’s Massachusetts’ vote as giving the same message. Mr. Brown is a Republican and his challenge will be to be a team player while still retaining an identity as a man of integrity and principle. Unfortunately, almost by definition in politics, there will be times those two needs will clash. What will he do if the party asks him to campaign for a candidate whom he thinks will make a poor elected official? Or to trade his support for a bad bill in order to get someone else’s vote for a good one?  

Will the Republicans only rejoice in the Democrats well-deserved comeuppance? Or will they recognize that the entire game of politics and power is becoming repugnant to many Americans? The answer will affect Senator Brown. The choices he makes when party and principle clash will tell us if last Tuesday night was a step towards America’s salvation or just a fun evening.