Friday, June 2, 2017

American Revolution Reconsidered

When I was a graduate student at Oxford in the late 1960's, I wrote a novel called American Revolution. Dell bought it, and American International Productions bought a film script based on it. The film was never made and the novel was not published until I put it on Kindle.

Polarization of our country is very similar today to what it was in the 60s. The book is looking increasingly relevant to our current situation, and I am thinking of promoting it as a think piece and/or updating it to take into account recent events.

Regardless of your own political leanings, I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this novel and where I should go from here with it.


Monday, January 9, 2012

New Hampshire Speaks!

Well, I have been watching the news from New Hampshire almost nonstop since the very close finish in Iowa, and I guess it's time to make a few comments and a prediction.

It seems to me that Mitt Romney's magic word is "electability." While there isn't much enthusiasm about him in the Republican Party, people believe he can beat Barack Obama. And it seems to me that Ron Paul's key word is "consistency." You may not like his philosophy, but it is consistent and always goes back to his belief in the Constitution. However, his opponents and the media want to make his key word "non-electability." They point out that he is a bit quirky, and say that he can't beat Obama. And then, there is Jon Huntsman. His defining word is "civility." He says, rightly, that people are tried of the polarization and partisan squabbling, and they want someone who can get beyond it. This is especially true of the Independents, and there are a lot of them in New Hampshire.

I could go on, but I focused on these candidates because I think they will finish 1-2-3, with Huntsman a surprisingly strong third. I think it might be something like Romney 33 percent, Paul 21 percent, and Huntsman 20 percent. And Huntsman will do well, again, because of the Independents.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

1860 and 1960

Not long ago, it occurred to me that the years 1860 and 1960 had something in common other than being 100 years apart. The year 1860, of course, was the year before the American Civil War began, and it was also the year Abraham Lincoln was elected. The year 1960 was the year that John F. Kennedy was elected, and while open Civil War did not break out in 1961, a quiet war has in fact been going on ever since.

Like all good ideas, someone else had this one as well, sort of. Adam Goodheart of the New York Times is now blogging about 1860 and 2010, and comparing the two, with a lot more knowledge of the Civil War than I have. Anyway, having acknowledged that, let me move on to my own analysis.

As soon as Lincoln was elected, war was inevitable. Everyone knew that he was an anti-slavery candidate, but even more than that, he was anti-secession. Lincoln was determined to preserve the Union, and he did, at the cost of many lives, including his own.

John Kennedy also aroused strong passions. He was clearly a break with the past, being quite liberal and also the first Catholic to be elected president. He committed his administration to ridding he country of the last vestiges of slavery in the form of segregation, and made great progress in doing so. His time in office was, as we know, cut short, and there is no way of knowing what he might have accomplished with a full four-year term.

For the past 50 years, since we lost President Kennedy, the nation has been struggling with its identity. The lines are not neatly drawn along state boundaries, but along ideological fault lines. And now we have a new president who identifies strongly with Lincoln and was endorsed by the Kennedy family. He came into office promising to bring the nation together, but instead, our polarization has heightened enormously.

Unity seems ever more elusive in these times.

My life's work is unity, so this is disappointing to me. The question is, how do we get to greater unity when we are in the midst of such disunity?

Looking back at 1860, it seems that the issue of slavery had been papered over with compromise after compromise, starting with the Constitution in 1787. As it turned out, this was an issue where compromise was, ultimately, impossible. There may be similar issues today, where compromise is not the answer, but neither is overwhelming your opponents.

The good news is that most of the polarization is actually within the Democratic and Republican Parties. As Independents become more dominant, they are playing a balancing role, making corrections in the direction the country is taking, without too much regard to party or ideology.

I think that's what the Independents will try to do today, and tomorrow we will begin to see how well they have played their new role.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why So Angry?

I don't know any more than the next person about what will happen tomorrow in the elections. I have a feeling that the Republicans might score a huge victory and take over both the House and the Senate, but that's not based on anything concrete.

I have been thinking, though, about why people are so angry with the Administration, and I do have some ideas about that. In fact, I've already written about it in this blog. If I had to pick one thing, it would not be the economy or the heavy spending that's been going on, although those are important. No, I think it is the healthcare bill that is the root of the deep anger people, especially Independents, are feeling. As I wrote in an earlier blog, when the bluest state in the Union voted for Scott Brown, it was a clear message to Congress and the Administration that, while people might accept healthcare reform, they did not want a bill that no one had read and could not explain.

Brown had called himself "41," saying he would be the 41st vote against the bill. Everyone thought President Obama would back off and rethink his approach, perhaps coming back with a better plan later on. Instead, he "doubled down," and his allies in Congress forced the bill through.

As I also wrote earlier, history may show that this was the right thing to do. Maybe the Democrats will be seen as courageous people who sacrificed their own careers for principle. But in the here and now, they basically told the country, "We know what's best for you. We know you are against this bill, but we're going to pass it anyway."

I think it's interesting that President Obama's approval ratings, which are fairly low right now, started their downward trend around the time he signed the healthcare reform bill.

We'll know a lot more tomorrow.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Why "Common Sense 2.0?"

Prior to the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet that played a major role in articulating the reasons for the uprising against the British Empire. I don't claim to be an expert on the document itself, but the title has always intrigued me. As I look at the political landscape today, it seems to me that common sense is exactly what we lack. We have become so polarized that certain code words are thrown around without a lot of thought behind them, and people battle one another from rigid ideological perspectives.

When I was an undergraduate, one of the aspects of college I appreciated was the challenge to think for myself and to think things through rather than holding onto a particular point of view. I want to pursue that kind of approach in this blog, and I suspect I will make people on the right and the left angry with me, because I will probably step on a lot of ideological toes. Sorry about that, but it's unavoidable. I hope that if people read enough of my blogs, they will see that, overall, the perspective is balanced.

Also, I will reserve the right to change my mind. If someone posts a reasonable comment in response to something I've said, and I think I should correct my position, I will. That, to me, is just common sense.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dems in Denial or Profiles in Courage?

Dems in Denial or Profiles in Courage?

         In the first few days after Scott Brown’s stunning election to the United States Senate from Massachusetts, President Obama, his press secretary Robert Gibbs, and his adviser David Axelrod, appeared in various venues and said essentially the same thing: “The people are angry and frustrated and the same forces that brought this Administration into office elected Senator Brown.” They had a second key message, which was that “We haven’t communicated what we are doing effectively enough.”
            Since I’m a communications consultant, I wasn’t too surprised to hear this refrain. Any good communications adviser would tell a client to focus on a few key messages and be sure that everyone sings from the same songbook.
            However, the advice would also include the following: “Don’t say anything that doesn’t reflect reality.” That was what stumped me. Anyone who followed the Massachusetts Senatorial race would know that there was a major difference between the reasons behind Scott Brown’s election and Barack Obama’s election.
 In fact, Chris Wallace put it pretty clearly to Robert Gibbs shortly after the election when he said something like, “The people of Massachusetts said they didn’t want to keep increasing the national debt, they didn’t want the President’s healthcare plan, and they didn’t want to provide lawyers for terrorists.” Gibbs then asserted that people might have said that, but it wasn’t why they voted for Brown. Somehow, he managed to read the exit polling so that it seemed as if a vote for Brown were really a vote for President Obama!
The key voters, the Independents, clearly voted for Obama because the Bush Administration had been so incompetent in its management of foreign policy and the
economy, and they feared McCain would mean more of the same. In Massachusetts, however, once the Independents saw the alternative, especially in relation to big government and healthcare reform, they fled to the Brown camp in droves.
Another flaw in the argument of the Administration was the notion they had not communicated what they were trying to do effectively enough. Again, anyone who listened closely to the talk shows and other media outlets could tell you that people really did understand what the president wanted to do, and they simply didn’t like it. So they sent a message. They felt that the president and his team were in fact getting their ideas out very well, but they weren’t listening to the response from the country.
It now seems just as clear that the Administration is still not listening to what the majority of the citizens are telling them. They decided to pass the healthcare reform bill, no matter what, and by any means necessary. In the aftermath of the Brown victory, almost no one thought they would try to use reconciliaton (an odd word in this context) to push through a bill that the majority of the people did not want. However, they did so, regardless of the political cost.
The idea that a vote for Brown was really a vote for Obama morphed into the idea that “Sometimes, it takes courage to be in politics. You have to vote for what’s right, even if you lose the next election.”  That was Nancy Pelosi’s line as the final vote approached, and the Democrats again stayed on message, with President Obama repeating it as he traveled the country trying to seal the healthcare deal. The new approach echoes the late President John F. Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage, which features the stories of political figures who voted their consciences, often against the will of the people.
            History is full of examples of presidents who went against the majority opinion. Sometimes, history judged that they were right, sometimes that they were wrong. President Roosevelt certainly wanted the United States to be more actively involved in World War II at a time when most of the country was committed to neutrality. Most historians look favorably on his efforts to draw the nation into the war. On the other hand, President Nixon invaded Cambodia in 1970 at a time when people wanted to end our intervention in Southeast Asia, not widen it. Not only did Nixon’s action set off a storm of protest but he has also been found wanting by those who write the history books and blogs.
            So, will President Obama and the Democrats be seen as “Dems in Denial” or “Profiles in Courage” when it comes to healthcare? What do you think? What will history say?

American Revolution Reconsidered

When I was a graduate student at Oxford in the late 1960's, I wrote a novel called American Revolution. Dell bought it, and American Int...