We have lost the ability to solve problems in Washington DC and we won’t regain that ability until we replace partisan politics with reasoned debate. I like a good political fight as much as the next guy but we can’t fight 100% of the time and eventually we must debate the issues, use facts and reach a consensus. This is true with both small and large issues and it is what has fostered the growth of the United States of America for over 200 years.
Fierce debate has been the norm in America and although it takes us a while to reach our conclusions, i.e. Civil Rights for African Americans, we eventually end up on the right side of the issue and pick a path that leads to growth. Nothing captures the American debate process better than when Winston Churchill once stated that:
“Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”
Intense debate and slow action are what characterize American politics but the current intellectual level of debate in DC is no different that the amateur debates you see on Twitter and Facebook – moving quickly to personal attacks, ignoring the facts and spewing talking points. We can and must do better.
My ground rules for entering into a debate with someone is to assume that both parties have the best of intent and realize that our differing points of view arise from either different world views or different data that is leading us to these opposing opinions. In a perfect world, the two parties, through conversations and sharing data, arrive at a solution that both parties agree benefits the organization (be that a business, country or any entity).
I have found that debate falls down when one of the following situations occur – 1) one of the parties doesn’t have the best of intent (they are arguing for the sake of arguing and are not interested in reaching a solution) or 2) one of the parties refuses to acknowledge factual information. Personal attacks are another situation that quickly breaks the debate down but generally someone will resort to personal attacks after one of the other situations has occurred. Once any of the above happens, I usually give the person another shot at redeeming themselves but if they continue, I end the conversation and tell them that I have refused to take them seriously anymore.
Sadly, it appears that both of these conversation killing situations are present in political discourse in the United States and this explains the caustic political climate present in both Washington DC and Main Street USA.
It is understandable that quick consensus will not be reached on large, complicated issues such as Climate Change or the latest Liberal talking point of Income Inequality but recently we have seen debate break down on simple issues. A current example of this failure to communicate is evident in the Left’s accusation that Newt Gingrich is a racist because of comments he made regarding a student work program.
Gingrich gave a speech in early December in Des Moines Iowa where he laid out a plan to instill a work ethic in poor children by replacing the high paying union jobs in public schools with part time work for the children and he claimed that the children would not only learn the power of a work ethic but earn money. You can read the full story from ABC news here and judge for yourself what Gingrich said but a portion of the ABC news article is pasted below:
“Gingrich said that successful people he knows started work early by doing small jobs like babysitting and shoveling snow.
“You have a very poor neighborhood. You have students that are required to go to school. They have no money, no habit of work,” Gingrich said. “What if you paid them in the afternoon to work in the clerical office or as the assistant librarian? And let me get into the janitor thing. What if they became assistant janitors, and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?”
Gingrich talked about a program around while he was in Congress called “Earning While Learning,” which paid students to read books. He said it was the same concept of students gaining money for doing academic work that he would like to see students to invest in.
“They wanted the money. The kids were showing up saying, ‘I demand you let me read. You can’t keep me from this program,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said there would be a lot of details to work out, but the general principle was “exactly the right direction for America’s future.
“If we are all endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness, that has to apply to the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest counties, and I am prepared to find something that works, that breaks us out of the cycles we have now to find a way for poor children to work and earn honest money,” Gingrich said.”
I agree with this program and I got my first job at age 13 keeping score at an adult amateur baseball league during the summer and followed that up at age 16 by starting to work at Wal-Mart through high school. I continued to be employed part time throughout my years in college and while I enjoyed earning a paycheck, the intangibles I received from those jobs led to my successes later in life.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Who would disagree with instilling work ethics and giving poor children money? The Liberal crowd disagreed because they said Gingrich was a racist.
Fox News’ Juan Williams questioned Gingrich in the Myrtle Beach debate and that exchange, in part, led to Gingrich’s surge in South Carolina and his eventual big win in that Primary. Here was the initial question from Williams and you can detect the racist accusations:
“Speaker Gingrich, you said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools,” Williams asked. “Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?”
But Williams wasn’t alone in calling Gingrich racist for these remarks. The always race bating Representative Sheila Jackson Lee implied that Gingrich was using ‘code words’ to spew racism (emphasis mine):
“These are code words. It’s inappropriate,” Jackson Lee told MSNBC’s Martin Bashir Friday. “Let me say that the code words, as far as I’m concerned words that generate and signify race.”
“[With Gingrich] It is ‘I will use race to divide. I will call the president the food stamp president,’” she said. “Telling us that a janitor who makes $37,000 would be in a better position to give his job up so that the children of the poor in New York…can pick up a broom and work.”
To say children in New York should “pick up a broom and work…is a code word to, if you will, portray poor children and poor school districts that they have seen no one work legitimately,” she said. “That they don‘t have a work ethic and these janitors are overpaid unionized workers who don’t have family and are not making $37,000 a year”
“I think Mr. Gingrich should be ashamed of himself and we should not want to win at any cost. Let’s bring the country together. Let’s not destroy Mr. Obama. Let’s talk about helping the American people,” she said.”
I don’t see any “code words” here and it appears that Jackson Lee is using her world view, which obviously states all Republicans are racist, to read into these statements that support her cause. Only Liberals are using “race to divide” and it appears that Jackson Lee is more concerned that we “not destroy Mr. Obama” than helping poor families escape the slavery that government assistance perpetuates. Welfare spending and poverty rates are correlated as I’ve shown in this post and the Liberals, who garner a large percentage of African American votes , have done nothing to help remove poor families from government handouts in the form of Welfare and Unemployment Insurance.
Even President Carter entered into the race bating with the following statement on CNN’s Piers Morgan show (emphasis mine):
“I think [Gingrich] has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well and that Gingrich knows quite well, that appeals to some people in Georgia, particularly the right wing,” Carter said in an interview on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” set to air Wednesday.
“Really?” Morgan asked. “And you think he’s doing it deliberately?”
“He knows well the words that you use, like welfare mamas and so forth, that have been appealing in the past in those days when we cherished segregation of the races,” Carter said. “He’s appealing for that in South Carolina.”
“That’s a pretty serious charge to level at Newt Gingrich, that he’s being racist,” Morgan said.
“I wouldn’t say he’s racist, but he knows the subtle words to use to appeal to a racist group,” Carter explained. “When you emphasize, over and over and over, welfare and food stamps and ‘why don’t the black people get jobs‘ and ’if I’m president, I’ll make sure they turn toward a work ethic, rather than an ethic of welfare and food stamps,’ that’s appealing to the wrong element in South Carolina.”
Gingrich’s speech never mentioned race (certainly not “welfare mamas” or “why don’t’ the black people get jobs”) but instead focused on poor families and providing them tools to exit from government assistance and make a living on their own. How is this racist? The objections of Williams, Jackson Lee and Carter are examples where people refuse to debate the topic on just the facts and are intent on constructing straw man arguments that avoid the real issues. When people reach this point, it is pointless to argue with them and Gingrich did a great job in the debate of not taking the race bating.
Unfortunately this is but one example that demonstrates how America has lost the ability to communicate. Gingrich’s statements were based on sound American and Capitalistic principles and if those are now called ‘racist’ then we don’t have a prayer of rescuing our country from its rapid descent into Socialism. We must return to a climate of sensible debate on the issues and this change must start from the top but we will need a leader that is far different from the one currently occupying the White House.