Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Political speech

I vote religiously (in both ways - in every election and in ways that reflect my faith).   I think it is an important thing to do as a  civic responsibility and as a steward of the future. 

This coming election strikes me as being especially important.  While things have certainly been worse, the country feels as if it is sitting on the knife edge.  The two candidates, especially since Romney chose Paul Ryan as his VP, have radically different agendas and understandings of the direction we should go.  If a Romney/Ryan ticket won the election and if the Tea Party was able to get a few more votes in congress, we could see a radically different country than the one I love in a very short number of years.  Add the possibility of the next president getting to choose as many as three members of the Supreme Court and this becomes a very important election in which everyone should vote.

There are multiple streams in this election cycle that deeply sadden me. 

The political discourse has become polarized to the point that there is little real discussion of the substantive issues.  Clear facts are dismissed out of hand.  Political leaders on the Republican side have stated that their primary goal is not to do right by the people but to ensure that Obama does not win again.  I am struck by the quick name-calling against Obama - Socialist, Marxist, Terrorist, America Hater... which feels more intense to me than I have experienced before.  My gut says that the degree of animus can only be based in racism but that is another post.

Both sides are throwing around inaccurate statements, although it seems to me that the Republicans are a bit more loose with the truth.  Still, both sides have trafficked in inaccuracies and at times, down right lies.  I know politicians "stretch the truth," but again, it feels worse to me than I have experienced before.

The money being spent... could do sooooo much good elsewhere.  Think how many teachers could be hired with the money spent on each one of those attack ads.  The amount of money being spent by billionaires is just obscene.   That the SCOTUS equated that with free speech boggles the mind.

Now, this year I am doing something I have never done before - I am making a campaign contribution.  I can't give $1 million like Bill Maher did or even less like Sheldon Adelson who has pledged as much as $100 million to defeat Obama and reportedly has already given over $50 million.

I believe in freedom of speech and have no problem with Mr. Adelson supporting whatever candidate he likes.  Here's my question... why is his speech allowed to be so much "louder" than mine?  If we put this analogy back to its origins, we see how silly the situation has become.  Back in the day, free speech was just that.  I could get my soapbox and go out to the corner and speak.  I could shout... but only so loud.  The physicality of it enabled a real exchange.  The woman who disagreed with me could get her soapbox as well and we could have a lively debate or at least any audience could hear both sides of the issue.  This just isn't possible when Mr. Adelson is able to speak at a volume 1,000,000 times louder than me.    Limiting the amount he can give to a candidate does not limit his free speech, it only limits the volume and ensures that mine can still be heard.

A friend of mine was a part of a Black Muslim group back in the 70's that had a saying, "He who talks loudest gets over."  This year the SCOTUS has institutionalized that saying... and that is not a good thing for the state of political discourse or for our country.

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