By John F. Di Leo -
Sometimes this statement is used to ridiculously minimize a huge problem (cf. Joe E. Brown’s closing line to Jack Lemmon, in “Some Like It Hot.”), and sometimes it’s used to fairly state an undeniable fact: that there is certainly something imperfect about everyone.
No matter whether you’re selecting a spouse or friend in your personal life, or a vendor or employee in your business life, or selecting a school or tutor for your children’s education, you’re forced to make choices in life.
There are certainly some issues that are absolute deal-breakers – a too-dangerous location, an unaffordable product, etc. But most issues should be viewed on balance. Perhaps a potential mate isn’t a knockout, but is smart and funny and accomplished. Perhaps a school doesn’t have state-of-the-art science labs, but has a great reputation for math, English and history. Perhaps one house isn’t as roomy as others you’re considering, but is more convenient to both work and friends than the alternatives. Perhaps one job applicant doesn’t have as impressive a degree from as impressive a college as his competitor, but his superior experience outweighs that issue. Wouldn’t you rather hire a lawyer from John Marshall who wins all his cases, over a lawyer from Harvard who doesn’t!
As free citizens in a free country, we make such choices every day. We consider brands, price, reputation, and a myriad of other issues before we make a final decision. As we should. We hear the word “discrimination” attacked on a regular basis, but in fact, it has a good meaning too. Taken at its basic definition, “discrimination” just means making a decision based on the evaluation of the facts, rather than making a random choice, or simply delegating the decision to someone else, such as a peer group, a political party, a pop culture, or the mainstream media.
Discrimination sounds evil today, because people think of one of its common meanings – racial or ethnic discrimination – and forget that its core definition is a good one that doesn’t have to have anything to do with race or ethnicity.
As voters, we should “discriminate.” We should evaluate each candidate, based on all the issues that matter to us, and resist the candidates’ opponents – on either side – when they attempt to hijack the process, and try to convince us to base our decision on issues of secondary importance instead.
What are the issues today?
At this writing, the nation has fluctuated between recession and flat doldrums for about six years, ever since the 2006 elections resulted in the Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives. With massive unemployment, shrinking average savings, and diminished long-term prospects for the future, the economy, broadly stated, is the biggest issue for the vast majority of voters. Which candidates support what put us here, vs. which candidates support reforming the system and putting the nation back on the right track? This is the key question for most Americans as the general election approaches.
With cautionary tales appearing daily in the headlines from Europe, Africa, and Latin America, contrasted with a study of the events of the past, there is simply no question as to what caused our problems and what policies will solve them.
We all know that an overgrown government – overtaxing, overspending and overregulating the private sector – has created the conditions of mounting debt and perpetual unemployment that can only get worse if there is no course correction soon.
We know that what is needed is a reduction of the regulatory burden that drives companies overseas, a shrinkage of the huge government whose convoluted tax code and massive borrowing have beaten back the entrepreneur, favoring the importer over the manufacturer, favoring the outsourcer over the employer. And we know that every year we postpone entitlement reform – every year we kick those tough choices down the road – the bigger and more painful such shocks will have to be.
So for every voter concerned about the economy – which, frankly, should be all of them – the choice on Election Day should be easy: toss out the big government liberals; elect the small government conservatives.
There will be differences between these individuals. Some are younger, some are older, some are more experienced, some are novices. Some may be smoother in front of a camera while others are prone to gaffes. But the big difference – the main one – is whether a Congressman or Senator will vote for his or her house to be constructed as a Republican body or as a Democrat body.
Congressmen and Senators have very little power on their own; their most important vote is whether they vote for moderate conservative John Boehner or do-everything liberal Nancy Pelosi in the House, whether they vote for moderate conservative Mitch McConnell or do-nothing liberal Harry Reid in the Senate.
On November 6, any other issue – where a candidate personally stands on port dredging or red light cameras or prayer in schools – is largely a distraction. Not to say these are unimportant issues at all, just that as individual issues, each candidate will vote on them once or twice every few years, while the vote for a conservative or liberal majority in the legislature, or for a conservative or liberal president or governor, will have truly long-term meaning, affecting government’s direction throughout the entire term of office.
The American left knows – not suspects, not hopes, not dreams, but KNOWS – that the left cannot defeat the right today, at this point in American history, if voters make rational choices based on the big issues. So they attempt to deflect, to change the subject, to convince voters to forget about their priorities, and to instead vote on side issues, on personal differences, on irrelevancies.
Changing the Subject
The left has therefore spent their money in recent years on opposition research. They hunt for personal peccadillos, oddities, anything to drive a wedge between the average swing voter and their opponent.
In Illinois’s 8th district, in which freshman Congressman Joe Walsh has proven to be a solid and courageous independent conservative vote in Congress, the left attacks him for having gone through a rancorous divorce. In Illinois’ 2004 Senate race, when the popular conservative Jack Ryan looked certain to win on the issues, the left attacked him for having grasped at straws to save his marriage and avoid a divorce. In 1995, moderate Oregon Senator Bob Packwood was forced out of office for allegations that he made passes at women when he was inebriated, even though he always took No for an answer!
Before we jump too fast into the chorus singing “Hallelujah for Maintaining High Standards,” we should consider what the left has tolerated from their own side. They championed Bill Clinton, a man guilty of far more repellant passes than Bob Packwood ever made… they view Barney Frank as a hero, a man who allowed his lover to run a prostitution ring out of their Washington home… they refuse to ask Jesse Jackson Jr. to step down, despite having apparently lost complete control of his faculties months ago.
The errors of conservative politicians, in almost every example, pale in comparison to the violation of these liberal politicians… but the right has standards, and the left does not. So when the left says “Jump!”, the right almost instinctively says “How High?” in response. The right jettisons its own for their imperfections, while the left promotes their own worst offenders in celebration of the very same flaws that they would attack in their opponents.
It’s all about changing the subject. There’s an old saying: “If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the facts are against you, argue the law. And if they’re both against you, just argue!”
The left has mastered the technique of changing the subject. The economy is everybody’s top issue, and the Republicans are universally agreed to be better for the economy. So they prowl – seat by seat, district by district – looking for something to blow out of proportion.
In Meredith Willson’s classic comic musical, “The Music Man,” a huckster tries to sell musical instruments and uniforms to a town that has no need of either; it has no band! So he invents an issue – the perceived dangers of having a pool table in the community – and all of a sudden, the most important thing to the townsfolk is how on earth to deal with the “problem” of this new pool table. Even though the townsfolk could easily have gone on, just the same as ever, without ever noticing or caring about the pool table.
The modern Democratic strategist has learned a great deal from “Professor” Harold Hill. From beginning to end, their hero’s specialty is distracting the mayor, the city fathers, the townsfolk themselves, by clever uses of diversions. Unfortunately for America, however, the modern Democratic strategist is playing with real human lives. When Harold Hill succeeds, he just gets applause from an audience; when Democrat strategists succeed, they convince their audiences to cast votes that are utterly detrimental to their own interests and the interests of this nation.
The Politics of the Abortion Issue
November 2012 is not a “social issues election.” There have certainly been many elections in American history in which social issues outweighed the economy, but this is definitely not one of them.
Still, to discuss the current kerfuffle, we must consider some of the basics of the abortion issue. In the broadest sense, the issue is a contest between the rights of the child and the rights of the mother. The pro-abortion position has to focus on the mother, on their theory that the effect of pregnancy and childbirth upon the mother outranks the rights of the child. The pro-life position, while having compassion for the discomfort of the mother, is that the basic Constitutional right of the innocent child to live, must come first.
The pro-abortion position must concentrate on the mother rather than the child (the mother votes today; if they have it their way, the child will never have a chance). So they carve up the debate into subsets, first into arbitrary “trimesters” (which have no real medical meaning other than for convenience)… then into viability and non-viability (which are actually a measurement of man’s technology, not of the baby’s rights)… and then finally, to allow for what are known as “the hard cases.” What if the child might be handicapped? What if the pregnancy was the result of rape? Or what if it was the result of incest?
Come on, they shout, think how difficult all these will be on the mother. Anything at all to avoid considering how difficult death will be on the child.
So pro-life politicians, against their own better judgment, must accept the distinctions in order to answer each charge.
The principal answer has to be this: it’s not the child’s fault if he’s handicapped; it’s not the child’s fault if his biological father was a criminal. Society cannot punish the innocent child for his guilty father’s crime. Punish the rapist; let the innocent child have a chance at life.
But in addition, there are two practical political reasons why not to allow these exceptions:
First, if only a rape or incest claim will get someone an abortion, then lots of people who didn’t get pregnant that way will claim that they did, to qualify for the loophole. The desire of some to get a legal abortion will lead them to tie up the criminal justice system with nonexistent accusations borne of fear and desperation if not malice, and the abortions will occur anyway, just at greater cost.
Second, if we allow these exceptions, we are violating one of the great tenets of jurisprudence: Hard cases make bad law. If something is an extreme rarity, then it should not drive our policy. It’s an imperfect world; if you insist on perfection, you’ll fall farther from the mark than if you had accepted the reasonable. And we know that pregnancies resulting from rape or incest are an incredibly small minority of pregnancies. Except as a political football, the question of allowing abortion as a consequence of rape is simply too small a statistic – a sad, even tragic statistic, yes, but still too small a statistic – to justifiably drive the conversation.
Congressman Todd Akin and the Distraction, both Legitimate and Illegitimate
In an entrapment interview for his first U.S. Senate campaign, Congressman Todd Akin attempted to diminish the impact of this distraction by pointing out that real rapes – legitimate rapes as opposed to “morning-after regrets” and the loophole-attempt mentioned above – are a very rare cause of pregnancy. Not that it doesn’t happen – of course it does – just that they are a very rare cause of pregnancy, and therefore a very rare catalyst for abortion. This is of course perfectly true. For those few in that situation, it’s awful… but it’s not a significant percentage of pregnancies.
Clumsily, the candidate also volunteered a theory for a reason why it’s so low a statistic: perhaps the human body, traumatized by the horror of the act, shuts down, making conception more difficult. Psychologically, this may seem sensible; biologically, however, it is utterly without merit, and it would be impossible to prove either way scientifically anyway. So, even if he’s right, he can never hope to redeem himself. It was a moment of colossal foolishness to volunteer the theory in an interview. The candidate desperately wishes he had never gone down that path. The man has hundreds of specialties; this isn’t one of them. He should have shut up.
But there we have it. Two items in rapid succession, enough for the leftist punditry to pounce on.
They know that by “legitimate rape” he was describing the whole set of actual sex crimes: violent rape by an unknown attacker, statutory rape (of a minor), date-rape… all are crimes, all are terrible, all are evil. He used the word “legitimate” correctly, meaning “real,” or “properly identified”… but the left has twisted his statement to ridiculously imply that he believes some rapes are acceptable, proper, lawful. A completely different use of the word than he intended, as is obvious to anyone with sense. But because the word could be taken a couple of different ways, the media ran with the deception.
And on top of that, they could ridicule his biological naivite in thinking, perhaps hoping, that the human body has instinctive defenses that might kick in with adrenalin or terror. Wrong, very probably… rather foolish even. But it has no bearing at all on the issue.
Representative Akin’s positions are that society must not punish the child for the sin of his father… that criminality such as rape should be punished with stiff jail time… that society should protect young women in difficult circumstances like these, not by facilitating an abortion that they’ll likely regret for the rest of their lives, but by locking up known criminals (most rapes are committed, after all, by repeat offenders, released too soon from incarceration), and by promoting a more prosperous economy and a more traditional American culture, one in which fewer pregnancies occur out of wedlock, and fewer parents-to-be fear for their prospects. The vast majority of his constituents agree with him completely on these matters.
Was he clumsy in the interview? Of course. Should he have stopped when he left his own areas of expertise? Certainly. But it’s a tempest in a teapot, one that has no bearing on the election except as a dangerous distraction.
The Real Issues of 2012 and Beyond
Todd Akin has been in Congress for a dozen years, and in those years, he has amassed a rock-rib conservative voting record. His lifetime ACU rating is 97.24%, clocking in last year at just under 92%. A splendid voting record that terrifies the left.
The incumbent Senator, on the other hand, is not nearly as stellar. Claire McCaskill has portrayed herself as a reasonable moderate to the voters of her state, even as she has appeared on television as the face of many of this administration’s most outrageous excesses, such as Obamacare and the various stimulus programs. Her lifetime ACU rating in the Senate is a miserable 14.6%; her 2011 ranking was a perfect 0%. This is no moderate; she’s a solid leftist in the mold of Obama, Biden, Reid, and Pelosi. That’s not the kind of representation that the voters of Missouri want in Washington.
And here is what the left fears: A strong conservative Republican in a borderline conservative state will hammer hard on the real issues in this campaign – the overspending, the crippling taxes, the overgrown bureaucracy, the budget-busting entitlement culture, the mushrooming debt. And he will be able to talk about every McCaskill vote on the wrong side of every issue that matters.
If they can weaken his campaign – either by driving him to quit, or by making him afraid to do interviews, or by drying up his funding by shaming the donors from supporting him – then they can reelect this left-wing extremist incumbent, and guarantee her lockstep liberal vote for another six years. Harry Reid and Barack Obama can’t do all the damage on their own; they need plenty of Claire McCaskills in the Senate and House, doing their bidding. Getting a California/New York/ Massachusetts voting record out of a nice heartland state like Missouri for yet another term is just unexpected gravy for them.
This is the modern Democratic Party. It’s gone beyond the politics of personal destruction; it’s now the politics of disproportion. They concentrate on the gaffe, the error, the oddity… praying – to whoever or whatever it is that the atheist party prays to – that they’ll convince the voters to join them in discarding the important issues in favor of the red herrings.
No candidate is perfect. Joe Biden is a veritable gaffe machine; he says things both more moronic and more offensive than anything Todd Akin has ever said. But the right doesn’t attack him for his gaffes, other than jokingly. The right knows that the threat posed by Joe Biden is his support of destructive leftist policies, not the occasional misstatement caught by a nearby microphone.
The Republican party needs to learn to confront these issues better. Apologize for the error, correct the record, but then hit back hard, demonstrating that the attempted distraction is in fact a disqualifying action by the other side.
This country is turning into Greece. There are regulations driving employers overseas at a time when unemployment is at record levels… taxes and government spending driving businesses into bankruptcy and homeowners into foreclosure… and the Left is obsessed with a Senate candidate’s misunderstanding of biology?
Who would vote for a candidate, or a party, so oblivious to our nation’s condition that they would try to make the campaign be about that instead of about the economy? Missouri’s unemployment rate rose again this month. Missouri home values continue to drop. Regular gasoline is $3.70 per gallon in St Louis. Parents of college students can’t get a raise, and when their kids are graduated they can’t get a job.
These are the issues that matter, and Todd Akin wants to concentrate on them.
Claire McCaskill is part of the reason for all these disasters, so her side wants to concentrate on Akin’s clumsy biology flub.
The Democrats are watching carefully. Their politics of distraction have helped inferior candidates defeat far superior Republicans many times before, and there’s only one way to defeat their tactic:
Turn it back on them. Don’t accept the red herring. Ask why they aren’t concentrating on the issues that really matter to the public.
Just like vote fraud, just like loaded debate formats, just like so many other structural issues that work against the right… as long as the Republican party allows their devious tactic to work, they’re bound to keep on using it.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Customs broker and international trade lecturer. A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has now been a recovering politician for over fifteen years.
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