I’ve have a problem with any belief that professes to be the One True Way because it always polarizes people, as well as marginalizing most of us. Be clear that a belief is just that: what one believes. It is not necessarily universal reality or The Truth. That’s “The Truth” as differentiated from the total spectrum of truth, most of which cannot be observed by just one individual. None of us has universal insight nor even line of sight to everything. That makes knowing The Truth impossible. We are humbly limited to what we can observe and learn from others and then we profess our beliefs from that.
That’s a tough sell. We humans dearly love simple, binary choices. Up-down. Left-right. Good-bad. That avoids having those messy “yeah, but’s” to deal with and is always a clean cut. Decision made. Next.
But our national challenges aren’t so simple that they allow us simple answers. If they were, many would have been solved by now. Instead, they are complex and interlaced with one another. It takes intelligence and a fierce desire to learn, to read and to listen to others with special insight in order to make thoughtful, best decisions for America. One of the difficulties of this complexity is that it doesn’t lend itself neatly to slick bumper sticker slogans that win elections. Come to think of it, that could be massaged into a pretty good bummer sticker slogan for thoughtful people.
Ronald Reagan was exceptionally good at making complex challenges appear to have pleasingly simple solutions. All that “tax and spend” sloganeering and his supply side economics got him elected twice, then Bush 41 once. The problem for Bush, of course, was that we read his lips about no new taxes, but then he had to raise taxes because Reagan’s supply side nonsense was starting to unravel.
But Reagan’s best was his question: “Ask yourself: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” That was such a neatly constructed attack on the unfolding of a complex set of problems, including debt left over from the Viet Nam war, that it fooled a nation. Do we want to be fooled by election year sloganeering again?
We just might want to be. After all, those slogans appeal to our love of simplicity and the bloody fangs of political attack excite us with primal adrenalin. How much more exciting and motivating could any appeal be?
Sarah Palin, with her brainless clarity of The Truth, has offered us her red fanged attack with no substance and a pack of lies, this from a woman whom the Republicans want to place one melanoma from the Oval Office. Let’s see, The Truth, all attack and no substance – that sounds vaguely familiar. It connects with the misinformation and blatant lies of the last 8 years that have delivered over 4,000 caskets to Arlington National Cemetery. It has doubled our national debt to 9 trillion dollars. To put that into a visual, that is enough to make a string of dollar bills go around the world at the equator 36,000 bills deep. And still, the Republicans have the best slogans, however misleading they might be, while the shades of gray Democrats put voters to sleep. That makes Republicans better at getting elected. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily deliver what’s best for America. So, I propose a different plan.
Let’s use Republican slogans to help elect Democrats. Let’s ask Americans if they’re better off now than they were eight years ago. The 160,000 workers who lost their jobs in September will probably say no. So will the nearly three-quarters of a million other workers who were laid off just this year.
The Republicans are fond of tarring Democrats with the “Tax and Spend” label. Okay, let’s switch that just a little to “Spend and Debt” Republicans. Our great-grandchildren who will still be paying for Bush’s follies will thank us for that gesture.
Somehow thinking-enabled Americans have to tap into the emotions of voters. That’s how elections are won, especially in the instant gratification, sound bite world of today. So how about “Let’s Make America Safer For a Change,” or “Obama for America, Because Failure Is Not An Option” or, since the neo-con Republicans haven’t conserved any of our American fundamentals, not even the Constitution, try “Democrats, Because Conserving America For Your Kids Is Good.” Make up your own bumper sticker, because that’s what wins elections. And forget about thoughtful nuance. Just go for the jugular.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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