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A "Constructive" Presidential Race?
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Laramie Boyd
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      One E.J. Dionne Jr., a Washington Post columnist, wonders if we'll ever have a "reasonable, and constructive" presidential campaign, rather than one that consists of dissent across "philosophical and political lines" on every issue. He begins by "defining goals everyone could rally around" that should be the focus of debates. These consist of getting the economy moving, bringing the rate of unemployment down, and a more balanced budget. Also included would be wanting "all Americans to share in prosperity", thus reversing "the trend toward widening inequality", and an educational system that prepares young people for "productive and rewarding lives." These are certainly goals that few would argue would not be of major concern to any candidate for the job of President of the United States. One goal that gets a huge amount of lip service but has never and may never be realized is that "all Americans share in prosperity." It simply makes for good compassionate rhetoric. Mr. Dionne, like all politicians, especially those running for president, fails to outline exactly how these goals could be accomplished, but they are lofty statements that most everyone in Washington has used at one time or another to garner support.
      But as part of his picture of what a constructive campaign would look like, the first thing Mr. Dionne does is to start criticizing perceived conservative points of view that he sees as opposing his ideas, a consistently used tactic in the political arena, which is "Don't say what you can and will do to solve a problem, just place the blame for failure to solve the problem on someone else by pointing out what you think they didn't accomplish." Mr. Dionne starts out by remarking that conservatives might disagree with his debate objectives as he stated them. He does this by bringing up the subject of reducing taxes, which is not one of his listed main goals. He begins supporting his views by saying "The evidence shows" without saying what the evidence is, "government needs more revenue", without mentioning what might be an option, which is less government. He challenges conservatives to decide and state whether it's cutting taxes or maintaining a more balanced budget that is of major concern to them. He accuses right wing sympathizers of really wanting a reduction in the size of government along with a tax reduction rather than to better balance the budget. Don't these ideas somehow blend together? The idea that less government would require less revenue, and therefore less taxes, seems to be outside Mr. Dionne's scope. His hope is to increase government revenue by higher taxes. Mr. Dionne "thinks we should spend more." He accuses the conservatives of masking their real goal of reducing the size of government with a stated goal of reducing taxes as though one would follow the other, which one could easily argue could happen.
      Mr. Dionne offers that "Conservatives seem to believe that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the poor will work harder if we give them less." I've never heard that point of view and it seems to me to be so generalized as to be meaningless. He states that "the evidence shows", without concrete support of what evidence that is, "that when inequality gets out of hand, it's a drag on the whole economy." He then asks conservatives to offer "evidence for why they are so certain that government austerity will make things better." His reasoning includes "It is perfectly obvious that rolling back government, both here and in Europe, has been exactly the wrong thing to do in a time of high unemployment." How is any of this perfectly obvious I wonder? What is supremely obvious is that the bigger the government, the more welfare programs, foreign aid, wars, immigration entitlements, pork barreling, waste and graft, and the spend, spend, spend complex, then the more revenue the government needs, and yes, more taxes, and taxes, and taxes.
      Is Mr. Dionne trying to rally for a more constructive presidential race, or using his statements as a cover in order to downplay the conservative point of view? Is his definition of constructive that of criticizing views rather than offering solutions? Is asking for evidence to support a point of view of someone you disagree with, but not offering any to support your own point of view, a good way to have constructive dialogue? I believe Mr. Dionne wants a presidential race to be constructive on his terms, using his definitions, especially that of "constructive". Wouldn't a general rule be that such an approach is no road that leads to a constructive campaign, unless of course, you include such an approach as the definition of constructive. Seems that Mr. Dionne is attempting to mask his goal of bad-mouthing the conservative platform by saying he would like a presidential race to be constructive, as that sounds so impressive. Campaigns that would be constructive should include both sides in a controversial situation being willing to compromise in some other way than simply disclaiming a different point of view by criticism and defamation of character and the usual mudslinging. But alas, on and on it goes, the hunt for some hidden downfall of the other candidate, searching for some impropriety, whether true or just hearsay, that might collect a few votes. When will the parties in a presidential campaign realize that the public is tired of this kind of vote getting?
The Big Burp