BETWEEN THE LINES: The presidential campaign stretched out for 18 months, yet it seemed longer — a lot longer.
I’ve had my fill of annoying attack ads. At least we won’t have to see those fact-skewing, derogatory commercials — until local campaigns emerge less than a year from now.
I’m also fed up with constant robocalls. Why is it that political calls are exempt from “Do Not Call” lists? And don’t give me that free speech explanation. That’s just a flimsy excuse when self-serving representatives fashion expedient legislation to exempt themselves, yet block solicitations from private businesses.
One thing this election demonstrated was that the nation’s melting pot population is more diverse than ever — and must be given attention. While the Democratic Party got an overwhelming majority of the minority vote, it’s going to have to work hard to maintain that base and not just count on it as their base for years to come. On the other hand, though the Republican Party is far from being washed up, as long as the GOP adheres to its horse-and-buggy manifesto, it’s likely to remain losers for years to come.
Ever since integration spearheaded the civil rights era, the GOP has nourished a hardcore base of white southerners. However, as the country’s population gradually transformed, Republicans have overlooked the emerging minority, as centrist Democrats have embraced it.
Hard core conservatives, who exert significant influence with Republicans, may not like or recognize the nation’s changing cultural and ethnic mixture, but party leaders better wake up and see that their mostly white party has to find fresh ways to earn the respect of minorities that now comprise more than half the population and whose numbers are only going to climb in the future. Unless Republican Party leaders stop being manipulated by extremist factions, like the Tea Party and rigid neo-cons, and reexamine its right-leaning ideas, it could remain the underdog for years to come.
No one expects the GOP to radically transform into the party of diversity or patronize minorities, but while progressive Democrats have traditionally accommodated America’s constantly melting pot, Republicans can no longer rely on what is no longer the national majority as its base.
Can reasonable Republican leaders be so blind they don’t see the nation changing or will they just continue to validate their clichéd 20th century mentality?
Conservatives and Republicans must stop crowing, “We have to take our country back.” Who exactly do they want to take it back from? Actually, when you evaluate that line, it’s nothing but veiled racism. It simply means taking it back from minorities that have swelled into a majority coalition.
There’s a joke that goes something like: Surrounded by Indians, the Lone Ranger says, “This doesn’t look good, Tonto. We’re in trouble.” To which his Native American sidekick replies, “What do you mean ‘we’ white man?”
Nowadays, ‘we’ isn’t a majority of Caucasian Americans. It’s more closely associated with the Constitutional, “We, the people.” People who are white, black, brown and yellow. People who observe diverse religious affiliations — or none at all. People who are heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, transgendered and even asexual.
“We” is the unconditional characterization of the melting pot that has made our nation more unique than any other.
Republicans have to decide whether or not they’re going to distance themselves from far right fringe, like Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, several Fox commentators, Donald Trump, etc. They disgrace the party and that deters moderate fence sitters from moving to the right.
No one wants to silence extremists’ rights to utter whatever they hell they want, but respectable members of the GOP should not fear a backlash or appear reluctant to berate them when they make outrageous, nasty comments. When they remain silent, it’s an implicit stamp of approval.
Despite the consequences of Republican platform issues, the stakes are high for Barack Obama over the next four years. Despite his lame duck status, he must turn this country around or the legacy of the first black president in U.S. history will be worse than that of David Dinkins, New York City’s first black mayor.
The president supports an extension for the bulk of the Bush tax cuts, but wants to end them for households with annual incomes higher than $250,000. In addition, under Obama’s plan, the top federal income tax rate would rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.
What is now commonly referred to as the “fiscal cliff” is a blend of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect next year, if Congress does not act. Spending cuts roughly total $1 trillion over the next decade, including $500 billion from defense. Tax increases include the expiration of the payroll tax holiday and of the Bush-era income tax cuts.
Democrats, naturally, maintain that Obama’s reelection was an endorsement of that approach. However, if a deal cannot be reached to ensure that wealthy Americans pay their fair share or Democrats can’t negotiate entitlement program reforms to achieve economic growth — which Republicans favor — before December 31st, no victory will stop the economy from reaching the fiscal precipice.
It remains to be seen if Republicans and Democrats will reach a deal. But, the longer bipartisanship is deferred, the worse it will be not only for the nation, but for those politicians too pig-headed to recognize the problems and priorities staring them in the face. Congressional elections are two years away and if cooperation eludes another legislative session, voters may decide to make some changes when they vote next time.
Most importantly, the federal government must be an active and constructive partner in promoting prosperity, opportunity and American greatness. Consequently, for the good of the nation, our political leaders must formulate a joint strategy to outline a practical course to put an end to the current impasse that is sapping America’s inner strength and distorting our national motto — E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one.
Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.
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