Thursday, January 03, 2008

Let's do this election right

A few years back, a common cliche among people of my age and class (boomers) was to announce their political independence with the statement, "I'm a social liberal, but a fiscal conservative." The idea was that we were dripping with compassion for the less privileged, but were also concerned about the deficit. The cruder subtext was that we cared, but not enough to actually pay for anything. In voting this was supposed to mean we supported Democrats for their compassionate social policies and Republicans for their practical fiscal policies.

Now after seven years of Republican rule--six of them with control of all the levers of power--we find ourselves with the dollar at lows not seen in a generation, oil at an all time high, the largest national debt in history, and revenue shortfalls as far as the eye can see. Yesterday, trading on Wall Street was the worst in 25 years. The last time we had a balanced budget was when we had a Democrat in the White House.

Sticking with cliches (switching from political cliches to journalistic ones), my next paragraph should be one that strikes an ironic balance by pointing out how Democrats have dropped the ball on social policy and Republicans are the defenders of the helpless. A pox on both their houses. The more things change... Blah, blah, blah. But that's not the case this year. While Republicans suck on fiscal policies at the moment, they suck even more on social policy. We are at war, and they won't provide adequate care for returning vets. The regulatory structure for food safety is undermanned and overwhelmed. The government's response for disasters is disastrous. The number of uninsured goes up every year. After years of decline, the rate of teenage pregnancy is rising again. With the slump in the building industry, we will be sure to face a spike in unemployment next summer and nothing has been done to prepare for it.

The cliches of a golden balance don't always reflect real life and this is one of those times. Another cliche might have it that as the Republicans have declined, the Democrats have risen to the challenge of being all things to all people. It hasn't happened. The Democrats have remained the same mixed bag of nuts that they always were. But instead of two equally mediocre parties, we now have one mediocre party and one really bad one. If there was ever a throw the scoundrels out moment this is it. Maybe a few years in the wilderness will restore to the Republican Party whatever virtues they once had. There is no reason for anyone who cares about fiscal policy or social policy to vote for a Republican for anything this year.

When you get your chance to caucus or primary, get out there; vote early, vote often, and vote Democrat.

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