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Volume 15, Issue 41 ~ October 11 - October 17, 2007

A Shot in the Foot

Politics as usual leaves us with fewer voices and fewer choices

The debate was perhaps most noteworthy for who wasn’t there.

–David Nitkin and Matthew Hay Brown in the Sun: Sept. 28, ‘07

Had I still been at the Sun and covered the Republicans’ presidential debate at of Maryland’s predominately black Morgan State University in Baltimore on Sept. 9, I would have written: Republicans shoot themselves in the foot once again.

GOP’s politicking is akin to Dick Cheney’s shooting, I would have added.

I would have been there to cover goings on for this paper, but unexpected foot surgery had me in the hospital that night.

The Republicans must have followed me, for the notables weren’t at the debate, either.

They figured the nationally televised debate would be a waste of time. Liberal Maryland will remain a follower of the donkey, so they could spend the time better in swing states.

Apparently the big candidates — Sen. John McCain; former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giulani; former Massachusetts guv Mitt Romney; former Tennessee governor Fred Thompson — haven’t been around long enough to know that voters can have long memories.

It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over

Must not have heard about Harry S Truman’s upset of all political upsets back in the late 1940s when he disposed of Republican presidential challenger Thomas Dewey, a sure winner. No one, except he himself gave Truman a chance. But when the California vote came in the next morning, he was reelected president of the United States — regardless of the erroneous and notorious headline in the Chicago Tribune.

Whomever, the GOP eventually chooses he will be almost as much an underdog as Truman. But it doesn’t look like any of the leading Republican candidates have the faith, savvy and determination of HST, who passed up no opportunity to make his campaign pitch.

That was back before candidates flew around the country in big airplanes; it was the era of trains and whistle stops at any village big enough to have a railroad station. Candidates addressed a standing audience from the platform of the last car. Truman’s famous Give ’em Hell Harry tour included hick towns where grass was growing up on the tracks.

Truman was a plain talker with a way of telling things like they were with an aura of sincerity. He won that election despite the defection of the always-Democratic South, which bolted over civil rights to form the Dixicrats.

I remember that campaign well. It was the first I covered, for Radio Station WSKI, Montpelier, Vt., and I was among those who wrote Truman off.

Wasn’t it baseball’s Yogi Berra who said It ain’t over ’til it’s over?

Into the Brine They Go

I’m not suggesting that any of the long shots who made the debate have a chance of winning — though they surely did pick up a few followers, part from gratitude and part because they had more time to cover their platforms.

They were: Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a Libertarian whose vote count might surprise many this year with his popular pitch for less government and more fiscal responsibility; Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Rep. Duncan Hunter of California; Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado; and Alan L. Keys, Maryland’s Harold Stassen.

As for McCain, Giuliani, Romney and Thompson, it’s not necessarily what they could have gained but what they might have lost. They lost exposure to voters at the debate and on television, which probably won’t have much if any impact at the polls. But by turning down an invitation to speak at a black college, they certainly risked losing some of the minority vote. Slap a guy in the face; he’ll remember.

Republicans of late have been slapping their own faces at the national level, the Maryland level and in between. The GOP has become a party that seems less interested in political issues and programs than in social issues such as abortion and gay rights and marriages.

The Republican hierarchy is stumbling over each other to see who can put the fatal shot in the Grand Old Party’s foot. What became of the party of a decade ago, moderate on government and financial issues, making headway on social issues and trying to make government less intrusive while putting emphasis on national security and military programs?

There’s so much in-fighting, petty and significant, in the party today it seems that it’s two parties under one umbrella involving such diverse issues as immigration, health care, education, Iraq, abortion, gay rights. The party’s plank is two-ended; if you walk either way, into the brine you go.

Big Is Not Always Better

Comparatively, the Democrats are mostly on the same track, especially on the war in Iraq and distrust of George W. Bush and his regime. But, alas, they make their hay by relentless attack with few in-detail solutions.

To my way of thinking, while we tout our two-party country, what we have in actuality is three of four big parties within a divided two-party monopoly, both so big and heavily financed they can’t stoop to whistle stop debate at a small black college in Baltimore. Sad, but true.

Our Constitution is the greatest. But sometimes I think France and Germany might have a superior legislative branch; they certainly have more parties to give citizens more choices and more voices; and not so big that they can ignore minorities in the true sense of the word. Big is not always better. Enough said.

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