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Friday, June 24, 2011

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Campaign 2012 -- Let The Games Begin, Conclusion

As I tuned in to last week’s first GOP debate of the 2012 presidential campaign, I couldn’t help but engage myself in deep cynical thinking about how much the political process in America is illusion designed to misdirect the casual observer. After all, as the old adage goes, nothing that happens in politics is by accident. As I watched, I observed how much of this chase for the White House (and Congress) is just theater intended to ensure the self-interests of the political class, and to manipulate both our thinking and our perceptions as voting Americans for the sake of the monied and connected few. With regards to this reality, I am often left wondering if any Republican, Democrat, Tea Partier, or wannabe political aspirant actually believes what comes out of their mouths at any given moment as they seek public office.
As an illustration, in a Washington Post article dated June 19th, reporters Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam reveal a tactic used by those seeking high-profile political office known as the “money blurt.” The tactic works like this:

An up-and-coming [or established] politician blurts out something incendiary, provocative or otherwise controversial. The remark bounces around the blogs and talk shows and becomes a sensation. And in the midst of it all, the politician’s fundraisers are manning the phones and raking in the donations (see: "Michele Bachmann, others raise millions for political campaigns with ‘money blurts’")

In some ways, this practice illustrates how those seeking public office often give the poor dumb voter the impression that he has his/her best political interests at heart, while jockeying for position in a field of candidates usually engaged in chasing the same objectives.
Even worse are politicians so wedded to a particular ideology (such as Christianity, conservatism, or even liberalism) that they become inflexible in both thinking and beliefs, deluding themselves into thinking that this intransigence represents "convictions" shared by those who's perceptions they color with their words as they seek a public office as our representatives.
The next GOP candidate seeking the Republican nomination for president exemplifies this dynamic in spades.

Michele Bachmann

Bachmann, The first woman to represent the state of Minnesota in Congress, is another Tea Party favorite as well as an arch-conservative many times the magnitude of most of the men seeking the Republican nomination. For example on the issue of abortion, the staunchly anti-abortion (as well as staunchly Christian) candidate called on fellow candidate Mitt Romney to sign a “Pro-Life Pledge “and vow to protect life from conception to natural death.” Up till now, the GOP’s frontrunner has refused, preferring to focus on the economy as his platform issue. Her campaign’s response that “any Presidential candidate seeking our party's nomination should sign the SBA Pledge and vow to protect life from conception to natural death” reveals her ideological “convictions” as well as her political shrewdness. Granted her stance on abortion is no doubt genuine, her attempt to paint another party candidate into a corner on the issue is a transparent attempt not to create a unified ideological front on the issue, but to take a bit out of Romney’s front runner status. To this, I am reminded of Plato’s assertion that anyone who wants to be in charge shouldn’t be.
Bachmann also believes that the theory of “intelligent design” should be taught in public school science classes, supporting her stance that that evolution is a theory that has never been proven, one way or the other (forgetting that, of course, intelligent design can easily be labeled packaged pretty much the same way). Not only does such a stance laugh in the face of the doctrine of [the] Separation of Church and State, but as a lawyer, her stance puts her in a position of promoting her religious beliefs over a clear legal obligation to uphold a Constitutional principle…the same Constitution she professes to defend.

On the economy, Bachmann’s hard right-wing views find her criticizing even her own fellow Republican Party members—far beyond what one could consider campaign politics. In 2003 as a state senator, she disparaged an economic initiative of fellow Republican 2012 presidential candidate and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, comparing his administration’s “tax Free Zones” meant to spur economic growth to Marxist principles.
In her public appearances, she portrays herself as being rabidly against tax increases of any kind (although in 2005, she opposed Minnesota Governor Pawlenty’s proposal for a state surcharge of 75 cents per pack on the wholesale cost of cigarettes, calling it a “tax increase.” She later reversed her position and voted in favor of the cigarette surcharge). She is against minimum wage increases, and in favor of increases in exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas domestically. She is also in favor of pursing alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar (although it is unknown if she would support government economic subsidies for the latter…my guess is no).
She has called for phasing out both Social Security and Medicare, expressing that “we have to do is wean everybody else off” (http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/bachmann-wean-everybody-off-social-security-and-medicare.php).
On social issues, Bachmann is consistent in her hard right-wing. Bachmann supports both a federal and state Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage (admittedly, marriage should be recognized as a union only between a woman and a man, but based on reasons of common sense stated in part 2 of this posting and not via legal codification).
She is against abortion, except in the cases of rape or incest.
She has vehemently attacked the Obama Administration-sponsored Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act/health care reform bill, calling it “unconstitutional” (although it’s a certainty that most people who go without or cannot afford health care coverage would not agree that their Constitutional “rights” are of more paramount importance than their ability to receive health care). She has outlined her own ideas for changing the health care system, including: enabling consumers to purchase insurance across state lines; increasing the use of health savings accounts; and allow everyone to “take full deductibility of all medical expenses,” including insurance premiums; and tort reform.
On climate control, Bachmann has called global warming, a "hoax," saying that carbon dioxide is "not harmful" because it is a naturally occurring by-product of the life-cycle on earth. Personally, I have always wanted to know how those doubting the empirical evidence of global warming and climate change can reconcile their belief in an all-powerful invisible God whom they can't perceive by way of the senses, but deny what's going on right in front of their eyes (Read/Listen here for example).
On allowing would-be insurance buyers to purchase across state lines, one has to wonder how this would truly far this would to lower costs for the consumer. Increasing savings accounts sounds like a good idea on the surface, but is really a non-factor considering most service-sector jobs barely pay enough for a subsistence living, yet alone allowing for affording a luxury like health insurance; many consumers still struggle to afford even the deductibles and with more. And with more state governments demanding that their public employees contribute more to their benefits package, savings accounts just aren’t a practical solution for many. However, tort reform and deductibility of medical expense/premiums are viable solutions. Obviously, she is of the mindset that market-based solutions for socioeconomic problems are the only solutions (or the only ones which should be offered in a market-based economy), which is surprising for someone with her education background (she possess a Masters in Laws). But outside of these traditionally conservative options—by addressing costs rather than universal access—with regards to health care, she has not offered anything novel (or even substantive) in the way of a substitute beyond the rhetoric the current option’s unconstitutionality, and its effect of being a “job killer.”
Bachmann has also called for the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, created under the late Republican President Richard Nixon, also calling it a “job killer” (apparently, labeling policies which don’t agree with her excessively conservative views “job killers” is enough to sway segments of the voting electorate who are susceptible to such manipulations of ideology).
Adolph Hitler once said that if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it will eventually become the truth, and that in the end, truth will not matter. The practice is all the more effective if you are able to find supporters from the gate. This is what I am reminded of in Michele Bachmann’s candidacy. She is quite vocal in her assertions that anyone [else] who doesn’t view social and political policies from her own perspective as being “out-of-touch with mainstream” views, but these loud protestations only mask the fact that her own views fit that particular bill more than others.
Adolph Hitler once said that if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it will eventually become the truth, and that in the end, truth will not matter. The practice is all the more effective if you are able to find supporters from the gate. This is what I am reminded of in Michele Bachmann’s candidacy. She is quite vocal in her assertions that anyone [else] who doesn’t view social and political policies from her own perspective as being “out-of-touch with mainstream” views, but these loud protestations only mask the fact that her own views fit that particular bill more than others.
A lawyer by profession, Bachmann is quite an elegant and polished speaker. She knows how best to persuade a group of people trying decide for themselves what is right. But most of America’s voting electorate lack the time (or patience) to look into the substance of issues for themselves, and shrewd politicians know this. They are able to take advantage of our propensity to listen to what others have to say on a particular issue, rather than self-research. And if the message is elegant and persuasive enough—fact checking and intentional distortions notwithstanding—expect even the most marginal candidate for office to have a level of legitimacy.
Although clearly competent, her views on how best to govern the country simply do not have the best interests of all Americans at heart. In fact, her view of America seems to reflect the views of a select few whose social, economic, and ideological interests would benefit. And although this is not the case with Obama’s Administration, it appears that at least his attempts to craft policies which the majority can benefit from are more in line with the country’s promise.

Note: Beyond The Political Spectrum will continue throughout the 2012 presidential campaign to look at other contenders for both the Democratic and Republican nominations

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