My friend Robert over at Blue Heron Blast has written a thoughtful essay about the dysfunction in US politics. Good timing, because I was considering writing something similar focused on guns, “triggered” by the latest mass shooting tragedies. He’s inspired me to get a little more ambitious about my essay, so here goes.
I have a hard time understanding how anyone can embrace the Republican party these days. Notice I said “Republican”, not “conservative”. There are plenty of old-school conservative values that I respect and even agree with, but the modern Republican party has long since abandoned those values. For example, personal freedoms, a healthy skepticism about big government, respect for the law and law enforcement, fiscal conservatism, respect for freedom of religion. Each of those feel positive as a sound bite, but the Republican party has mutated each of them into something unrecognizable and generally hateful.
I began by thinking about guns and why we have more mass shootings than the rest of the world combined. And more guns. Guns and gun control are one of the most divisive issues we face, but only one of them. Here’s my list of the toughest, most divisive issues and why I generally lean liberal.
Guns. People have (mis)interpreted the Second Amendment to mean that everyone has the Constitutional right to carry any gun they want, anywhere, any time. That’s just dumb, IMHO. What we have today doesn’t remotely resemble “a well-regulated militia…”. What we have is emotionally stunted and mentally ill people able to buy weapons designed for mass human casualty. Bullet sprayers, not hunting rifles or skeet guns. Unregulated. And using them with impunity on helpless citizens. There are so many ways we could improve on this situation, but we’re stuck on the childish belief that “…it’s my sacred right to own and carry whatever weapon I want, anytime, anywhere…”. How about my right to go out into the public and not get gunned down by the latest man-child who bought a gun last week? Something has to give here folks. We have to be rational about gun ownership, gun regulation and doing something that will benefit the majority of US citizens, as opposed to pandering to a minority of zealots. There *is* a middle ground possible, and we need to find it fast.
Abortion. This one is a third rail because it can’t be logically debated. Once someone says “I believe that…”, you’ve lost the opportunity for a logical discussion. Belief is the realm of religion and fantasy, and can’t be argued logically. I prefer to deal in what I know. I don’t know when a fetus has a soul (or if there really is a soul); I don’t know when the unborn child has the full agency of a born human. But I do know that a female human has rights and has agency. I know that female should have the right to decide what to do with regard to her body. That’s all I know for sure, so I’m on the side of “right to choose”.
Wealth and income taxes. As a person who has done well financially, yes, I hate taxes. But it makes sense to me to pay something for the common good. For roads, bridges, thoughtful regulation of things like pollution and air travel. Things that make modern civilization possible, and the things that sustain a society that allowed me to be successful in the first place. And it makes sense to me that the more money you make and have, the more you should give back. I mean, who really needs a billion dollar net worth? If you take a luxury vacation to Aruba on your private jet 52 weeks a year, you still can’t spend a billion dollars. So what’s the point? Or, assuming you’ve amassed a few billion by being luckier and smarter than 99.9% of everyone else (and likely more ruthless), what’s wrong with giving a significant part of that back to the nation that allowed you to become so wealthy? Give your heirs a hundred million each and call it a good life. That seems to be Bill Gates’ plan (donate all his wealth back to society and charitable causes he wants to support), and I respect the hell out of him for it.
Immigrants and diversity. This just isn’t that hard, but we’re making it complicated. No, open borders don’t make sense to me. Immigration and citizenship should be controlled, but should be humane. Should be difficult, but rewarding. We’re a huge country with plenty of room and plenty of financial resources – we can afford to have a process for entry and assimilation that makes immigrants a strength for the country, not a threat. We used to understand this – that immigrants come here for a better life and that ultimately, they strengthen our society. Let’s get back to that. Entering the US and becoming a resident/citizen should be a long, structured, education-heavy process. One nation, one language, one currency, and one universally-applicable set of laws. As a nation we can afford to do it that way and we should.
Regulation and corporations. I think corporations should be free to make a shit-ton of money, right up to the point where their activities start to harm people. The premier case is pollution. Why should corporations be allowed to pollute our common ground, our land, air and water, just to save some money on responsible treatment of pollution? The answer is, they shouldn’t – hence the EPA. And the FDA. I don’t mind my tax dollars being spent on keeping the air and water clean via regulating corporations – in fact, I insist on it. The other big cases for regulation are corruption and tax avoidance. It doesn’t make sense for Amazon to operate in our society, to become the world’s largest corporation without having to pay taxes, to give something back. (Substitute Apple, Facebook, Walmart, Microsoft, Google, and Tesla for Amazon – same argument). I appreciate the fact that the shit they make and do makes my life (mostly) better. But that doesn’t give them a pass on paying something back to the system that allowed them to prosper. So…regulation and taxation, at practical levels.
Government. Especially, big government. Government that spends more than it takes in every year, eternally. I think this is another item that has a simple root cause and solution. The root cause is career politicians. The solution is term limits. Let people be part of government for a few years and then force them to get back out in society and live in the world they’ve helped create. Career politicians almost always become corrupt, and soon preservation of government power (and money) becomes their whole motivation. I can’t prove it, but I predict that government would become much more rational and optimally sized if we had term limits on Congress, on the Supreme Court, at both state and federal levels. This is a solution that will probably be hated by politicians in both parties, and that should tell us that it’s the right answer.
So that’s my short list of the big things that divide us, and the issues for which I generally align with Democrats. I know I may have some relatives who read this and have a strong reaction, and all I ask of them is to give these issues some actual thought and don’t demonize those who don’t think just like you.