Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Flight of the Democrats

It was with a twinge of sadness that I read a recent New Your Times article by Rick Lyman that chronicled the rise in U.S. citizens moving, permanently, to Canada.

It seemed to Mr. Lyman that a large contingent of American liberals were actively seeking Canadian citizenship and fleeing, what they feel, is a worsening of the American political and social scene. Quoting from the article:

"America is in no danger of emptying out. But even a small loss of residents, many of whom cite a deep sense of political despair, is a significant event in the life of a nation that thinks of itself as a place to escape to.

Firm numbers on potential émigrés are elusive.

"The number of U.S. citizens who are actually submitting Canadian immigration papers and making concrete plans is about three or four times higher than normal," said Linda Mark, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver.

Other immigration lawyers in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax said they had noticed a similar uptick, though most put the rise at closer to threefold.

[End Quote]

I have to admit I have some really mixed feelings about this, seemingly, unique watershed event. I deeply regret that some people see American as having drifted too far to one side of the political spectrum. Drifted so far, in fact, that they can no longer lives here as citizens. One young lady was quoted as saying "Under Bush, the U.S. seems to be leading the pack as the world spirals down." That truly saddens me. America should be a place for honest debate and discussion and, yes, even protest. For someone to feel so disenfranchised that they feel their only recourse is to leave the country is significant.

We have always been a country where healthy debate was welcomed. If your candidate does not get elected, you fight harder in the next election. You protest. You write letters and editorials (and, today, BLOGs). You contribute to the party of your choice. You go to meetings and you organize. You get more active locally for candidates closer to home. But to just pack your bags and leave? I believe this truly says something significant and worrisome. It's says something sbout the Democratic Party and the Republican Part. It says something about us all.

On the other hand, the conservative in me leaps for joy. I think "Fine! Leave! That will make our majority in the next election even greater. We won; get over it. Good riddance!"

But, I still keep having that nagging feeling that this is not the way it should be. The pendulum should not swing so far as to knock people off the edge. Should it?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Art of Listening

Do you hear the rumbling? Do you see the flashes of lightening and hear the rolling of thunder? Do you feel the tension of the coming war?

I am not talking about an invasion of Iran or the ongoing liberation of Iraq. I am talking about the "The War for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Ticket" or the "War of '08." I think it should be clear to everyone who has given this more than a passing thought that the clear frontrunner at this point in time is Hillary Roddam Clinton, the junior senator from New York, via Illinois, Arkansas, and Washington, D.C. The print media and the talking heads are dissecting her every word, phrase, and faint.

And, lately, there is much to dissect and examine. For example, she recently gave a speech in Boston in which she invoked the name of God more than a dozen times, according to the New York Times. What may have alarmed people even more was that she admitted, in the same Boston speech, that she had "always been a praying person." I am not sure exactly what that means. While she didn't specify to whom she is "a praying person," I am going to go out on a limb and assume it was prayer to a Supreme Being. The experts, and I use the term as loosely as possible, are suggesting she is reaching out in with a Biblical olive branch in an appeal to the - well, what do we call them in our politically-correct time today - "the Christian Right" or the "Evangelicals" or, as I have previously used, "People of Religion" (simply P.O.R.). If so, she is displaying an awareness that will bode well for a 2008 candidacy.

In the confirmation vote in the Senate for Dr. Condoleeza Rice, she did not join the yapping leftist lap dogs like Barbara Boxer and the increasingly piteous John Kerry, and voted for the confirmation. In her statement, she said:

"I'm hopeful that Dr. Rice's statements during the recent hearings in support of reaching out to allies, public diplomacy and building coalitions will be more than words, but instead describe a genuine effort to ensure that our country leads the world though its strong alliances, values and example."

I applaud Senator Clinton's sensibilities. For those who think it is an important issue, and I count myself among this group, she has also spoken out against gay couples being granted the right to enter into a marriage, at least in the traditional sense of the word. She recently was quoted in the New York Post as saying:

"Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage always has been, between a man and a woman."

Again, Bravo! She has her finger on the pulse of the majority of Americans, I think.

Admittedly, Senator Clinton has some strong criticisms and several temporally remote faux pas to address if she does, and I think she will, rise to the top of the Democratic ticket for 2008. I will not outline them here, as they have been written about, ad nauseam, elsewhere.

May God forgive me, but I have very high hopes for Senator Clinton. I am a conservative by birthright and by choice. I am a practicing medical doctor by occupation. But, I have some rather non-doctrinal beliefs when it comes to some political issues. I firmly believe - and I may be expelled from the American Medical Association for saying so - that our health care system needs to be fixed. It is definitely broken. I see Medicare patients all day long who wonder how they are going to pay for the medicines their debilities require. I see Americans all day long that have absolutely no health insurance and, here's the sad part - refuse medical tests they need simply because they cannot afford them. These are not Medicaid prospects, just lower-middle class people who simply cannot afford insurance. I know doctors who make way too much money for way too little delivery of care.We need a solution. I am not convinced that solution is government intervention since they have clearly botched Medicare and Medicaid. But something needs to be done. I am also for gun control, in some form. I am also for pro-choice for victims of rape, incest, and for fetuses with clearly definable, severe and life-threatening congenital defects. We need more qualified and better paid teachers in our schools. We need better trained and better paid first-line emergency responders (police, firemen, etc.)

But, despite what many considers anti-conservative beliefs, I usually vote Republican. I think as long as the Democratic Party puts forth its "best and brightest" personified by candidates such as Al Gore and John Kerry, I will continue to vote Republican.

I am, however, acutely aware that this country populace is fractured. Severely fractured. I have never my 54 years seen a country so divided. I don't like what I see. The country seems to be as two plow horses, hitched to the same plow and pulling in opposite directions. George Bush, who I unashamedly voted for - twice - is, by his nature - not a uniting President. Perhaps that is always true of war time Presidents. He will never bring the Great Divide that is the American public together. Ever.

I think that is OK with President Bush. I believe George Bush does what he believes in his heart to be right for this country and, if you like it, fine. If you don't like it, that's fine also. That's George Bush. He's a love me or hate me kind of guy. Maybe that's what we need in these terrorist and perilous times. Only history will decide that issue.

Also, I don't see any rising stars in the Republican party, either. Jeb Bush (Florida) or Mark Sanford (South Carolina)? Bush is too polarizing and Sanford too unknown. John McCain? Better choice, good man but probably not viable in 2008. How about a "I (Heart) New York) ticket of Rudy Guiliani and George Pataki? Again, good men, but both would be out of their depth. Far right fringe candidates, such as the re-invented Pat Buchanan, need not apply.

So, in lieu of a strong Republican ticket, I really think the Democratic party will have an excellent chance to win the Presidency in 2008, if - and it is a very large if - they can move more toward the center on the heartland issues. I - with my pie-in-the-sky optimism - also hope the Democrats and the Republicans can at least discuss issues or growing importance to our country without name calling, race baiting, and hating to share the very air each other breathes.

Despite the long shadow of her past misdeeds (individually and through association with a certain ex-President), and at great risk to my personal safety, I am going to also hope Senator Clinton continues to move more centrist in her views on the "Heartland issues." I am, in turn, willing to compromise with my usual voting preference. I think HRC could be a unifying candidate in 2008 and, further, I think we will need one then, even more than now.

It is not only past time for our country to have a female President, it is high time we started looking at our differences and start working to narrow them. We cannot survive as a country or as a people with our current divisive stands. There is nothing that can defeat this country - economically, culturally, or militarily - except ourselves. If we continue this path of two countries - and that is really what we have become - we will remain too busy caterwauling in each others' direction to address the economic challenges posed by China and India, the cultural challenges posed by growing elitism and poverty, or the military challenges posed by terrorism.

Folks, it is time we all started moving toward each other rather than away. There needs to be dialogue not talking heads screaming at each other on the radio or TV. As a lifelong, firmly right-of-center Republican, I am ready to work some issues out. I hope there are enough P.O.R.'s (see above) like me that are willing to start listening to and stop screaming at the other party.

I know, from long experience, that feelings people have - on the right and the left - regarding highly emotional issues are never going to be changed by rhetoric or logic. I will never logically win over a pro-choice advocate on the issue of abortion. I will never, short of brainwashing worthy of the Manchurian Candidate, ever convince a peace-at-any-cost proponent that the Iraq invasion was the right war at the right time. But that is alright. There are things we can make compromises on. We need to start doing that and stop focusing on what we disagree on or, worse, think we disagree on.

Liberals and conservatives are not, innately, bad people. They really aren't. Michael Moore is not the anti-Christ and, conversely, Bill O'Reilly is not Satan incarnate. We are Americans, first and foremost. We need to start talking about problems and taking baby steps toward finding solutions we can all live with. I hope there are more who see the growing problem and are really ready to try and do something about it. If not, we are in for some even more troubling times ahead. Like pack dogs, our enemies can smell weakness. And with our continued division we will appear weak. Let's not wait for the next 9/11 tragedy to wake up and realize we are all in this together. Same ship, same ocean. If we sink this ship, we are all going down. Not just conservatives and not just liberals.

I will be listening to more from Senator Clinton and other Democratic party leaders. I hope more conservatives will do the same. I hope the Democratic party will also be listening to America's majority, as well. I can't remember who said it, but one of the wisest phrases I know, paraphrasing, is "I have never learned anything from speaking; I have learned much from listening." We should all take those sage words of advice.