Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who Are the Real Losers?

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 11, 2010

Many who have followed my columns might expect me to be despondent or depressed following last week’s “shellacking” of Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. True, there were disappointments like Tom Reed’s victory in the 29th Congressional District, and the amount of seats lost to Republicans in the House of Representatives as a whole. But unlike many on my side of the political spectrum, I’m not donning sackcloth and moping around the house.

First of all, the results weren’t a huge surprise. Historically, the party in power loses Congressional seats in times of economic crisis. Certainly, the public knows that the economic and financial decline in which the United States still finds itself mired began long before President Barack Obama occupied the White House. Still, fear and anger must find their targets and Obama and the Democrats fit the bill. Punishment was doled out in the form of ballots, and control shifted. Republicans claimed victory and retribution, and argued that the message of the people was heard loud and clear on Election Day.

But what was that message? Rush Limbaugh and other insist that it is a rejection of President Obama and his “dangerous agenda”. However, in 2008, 53 percent of Americans voted for Obama and the hope of change. That’s far too great a majority to account for “white guilt”, as Limbaugh would assert. It is hard to believe that people who voted for Obama’s campaign promises just two years ago would vote against those same policies in 2010. Any who voted for Obama but voted against Democrats this go around were likely disappointed that more was not done to further progressive issues. For instance, the arduous process of repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy angered some. I found the provisions of the health care reform that Democrats fought for to be inadequate. Unfortunately, expressing dissatisfaction at the ballot box in an election like this one does little to redress the shortcomings of which we complain most loudly.

There was also a factor that was undeniable in the lead up to, and in the days following, the recent elections. The Tea Party movement was an unmistakable influence upon the outcome. Not everyone who voted an incumbent out, or installed a GOP candidate in office, would describe himself or herself as a member of the Tea Party, but the movement’s message infected the media. It was trumpeted so loudly by the right wing that it was nearly inescapable and the same points were so oft repeated that it became hard even for normally centrist or left-leaning voters to resist its appeal.

The Tea Party ran its campaign on the same promise Obama did in 2008: change. This time change means a rollback of progressive values. Any advancement made by the Democratic President and the Congress (as insignificant as it has been) is targeted for repeal when the new dynamic in Washington is in place.

Of course, this agenda has no hope of success in the near term. The Senate (even with narrow margins) remains in Democratic control and the President is sure to veto any attempt to completely strip laws like health care reform from the books.

Republicans are really hanging their hopes on 2012. Senator Mitch McConnell has already made statements declaring that the best hope for undoing current policy is removing Obama from office. Fortunately, for McConnell and his crew, Republican wins in gubernatorial races will pave the way for state redistricting that will seriously impact the 2012 elections. Mitch McConnell’s cautioning is intended to dampen expectations, especially among the extreme right wing that conservative agendas will be advanced in the 112th Congress.

That doesn’t really matter. The GOP is happy to be the party of “NO” going forward. While Tea Party favorites like Michele Bachman (a Congresswoman from Minnesota who has her eye on a leadership position in the House) have threatened to shake things up in Congress, the current Republican elite will likely remain in power. McConnell and presumptive House Speaker John Boehner understand the way Capitol Hill operates and the limitations on their real control. Some have said this will bring conflict between the Tea Party establishment and those who are pragmatic about Washington politics, but I really don’t think it matters much to the average Tea Partier.

Many would be happy to see gridlock for the next two years. Limbaugh has devoted much of his broadcast time over the past couple of weeks to telling Republicans in Congress that he and his followers will not tolerate cooperation or compromise with the President or members from the other side of the aisle. Voters, he has said, do not want compromise. And apparently, in at least some cases, he’s right.

A Nevada Tea Partier, Ronald Hanvey, summed it up well. “I want gridlock. I don’t want any more laws.”

That is what I find saddest about the outcome of the recent election. The only change that has come to Washington in the post-Obama era is greater division and partisanship. A celebration of obstructionism is no victory. Neither is the rejection of the democratic ideals of cooperation that made our representative form of government unique and cherished in the world.

The real losers in the election on November 2nd weren’t the Democratic politicians. The real losers were you and me. We are losing the vision of our forefathers, of the United States as the shining example of democracy and liberty. We are losing the integrity of our republic.

We have allowed an extremist minority to shape the political landscape. We have forfeited our ideals to the political quagmire. We have given up on reforming Washington. Unless we stand up and vote for real democracy we have all lost.

Analyze This…

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 11, 2010

As I look forward to the fourth Thursday of November, AKA Thanksgiving Day, I know this year I will be saying, as I do every year, a special prayer of gratitude for our great nation and the blessings we enjoy as American citizens. I will also be looking back to that first Wednesday of this November with a grateful heart and a solemn realization of the fact that when we awoke that morning and tuned into news, there were no stories of violence, bloodshed or rioting in the streets. Truly, it is no small virtue of our uniquely American system of government that we can have these political revolutions and reversals while still maintaining the rule of law and order. Give yourselves a much-deserved pat on the back America!
Now, let us go forward and try to analyze the evidence and statistics of this election.

I am not going to fall into the trap that has captured so many other analysts who think they know “what the American people think”, as if the American voter is a monolith. I cannot say this election is a rejection of or acceptance of any one particular ideology by the American populace as a whole. I only know what one American thinks, (me) and no matter what the experts say, they don’t really know “what America thinks”. Exit polls are not an exact science and votes are cast in privacy.

Only two short years ago we were told America had just held a “historic” election. We witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama as our first black president who held the favorable opinion of over 60% of the American people and shared his party’s power in both legislative houses. It seemed the best possible scenario for change. And change did come. Deficits ballooned, legislators who were supposed to represent the voters enacted laws through trickery, bribery and closed-door dealing, town hall meetings became shouting matches between concerned citizens and obstinate officials, and disappointment clouded the once hopeful faces. The historic beginnings soon became politics as usual and politics at its worst.

Again, we are being told this election was “historic” and “unprecedented” and destined to “change the political landscape”. I find such talk humorous because every election is, and should be, noted in history books. Every day is technically unprecedented and each new officeholder is destined to bring change, no matter who they are and no matter the office they occupy.

However, in some respects this election is extremely noteworthy and I believe history books will justly note that 2010 was the year that changed the nation’s legislative process for decades to follow. I do not believe we can understate the impact of what has occurred, especially when we consider the fact that, as Keith mentioned in his column, the newly elected governors will determine some of the new congressional districts.

As we look at the state legislatures, and governor’s mansions across the nation, we see more and more of them now held by people who ran on strong conservative tickets. Over 675 state legislative seats now belong to Republican candidates and in 20 states, both houses carry Republican majorities. This bodes well for those of us who value our Constitutional right to defend ourselves, hold human life as sacred, believe in a limited federal government, ascribe to sound fiscal policies based upon free market forces and rest behind the security of a superior military.

While I agree with Keith when he says the chance of repealing Obamacare in this upcoming congressional term is between slim and none, I believe the newly elected representatives should send repeal bills to the Senate as often as possible and they should be accompanied with bold new alternatives and proposals that will use proven techniques and free market solutions to the challenge of health care for all.

However, I must disagree with Keith’s assertion that somehow “we lost” – just because he did not happen to agree with the majority rule aspect of our republican form of government. An “extremist minority” – no matter how well financed – cannot override the majority. Unless he has some evidence of a vast right wing conspiracy that somehow defrauded the election process, we must accept the fact that the people spoke their will on November 2, 2010 just as they spoke their will in November of 2008.

The integrity of our republic is still alive and well, and for that I will give sincere thanks.

Who I like in 2010 Election and Why

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 28, 2010

Well, it’s that scary time of year again. You know what I’m talking about. The darkness falls early upon our leaf-strewn lawns and little people appear from every corner in masks and costumes asking for treats. No, I am not talking about Halloween, I am referring to that other “Autumn in America” tradition known as the Election Cycle. Each cycle seems to leave our national face a little dirtier and more wrinkled than the last as campaigns dig deeper and deeper into the muck of negative advertising.
With a commitment to clean the air a little, Keith and I have decided to give our choices for the various positions by listing what we perceive as the positive attributes of each candidate and to refrain from pointing out the negatives of their opponents.

New York State Governor
Carl Paladino will receive my vote for Governor of New York State for many reasons. First of all, I believe a successful businessman exhibits a drive and determination that transfers well to the executive branch of government. A chief executive must be able to make hard choices and delegate authority and I think Carl has demonstrated he has that capability.

Within Carl’s plan for an improved business climate in our state is his position on Welfare Reform. I found it very interesting and attractive. He proposes the development of what he calls The Dignity Corps. Modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, a successful program initiated during the Great Depression, the Dignity Corps would utilize underused minimum-security prisons as training centers where able-bodied welfare recipients can develop skills and gain the self assurance and pride that comes from gainful employment. Obviously, this proposal would face opposition from those invested in the status quo of welfare dependency, but we have to see that our state cannot sustain the current system. Difficult decisions like these are necessary if we are to see his promised 10% cut in taxes and 20% cut in state spending.

United States Senators
Jay Townsend is my choice for the six-year term of U.S. Senator, currently held by incumbent Chuck Schumer. Townsend is committed to sound fiscal policies that would slow down the growth of the federal government. Jay recognizes that the health care bill and the stimulus package approved by the U.S. Senate last year have been detrimental to our economy. The increased size and scope of the federal government has siphoned tax money from the states and Jay Townsend intends to fight for lower federal spending, limited federal regulation and lower federal taxes.

Joe DioGuardi has my vote for the unexpired two-year term in the U.S. Senate once held by Hilary Clinton and currently filled by Ms. Gillibrand. DioGuardi would bring the unique vantage point of a certified public accountant to the halls of the Senate. In fact, he outlines a five-point plan that would overhaul the current system by holding our federal government to the same accounting, reporting and budgeting standards that publicly traded corporations and businesses are held to by the Securities and Exchange Commission. His plan would include the publishing of accurate information about the finances of our federal government along with the amount of debt owed to foreign sources. He would also call for the chief financial officer to become a cabinet-level position who would take over some of the duties and responsibilities currently filled by the Treasury Department. This would increase efficiency and accountability.

United States House of Representatives
Tom Reed receives my support in both the special election and general election for the seat of the 29th Congressional District. Tom has proven his ability to create jobs as he has operated four different businesses and he recognizes the onerous burden of increased taxes and regulations that stifle economic growth. He voices support for the House Republican plan to lower the lowest tax rates from 15% to 10% and from 10% to 5%. This would encourage increased consumer spending and saving, which, in turn, would spur the economy and job creation. Reed recognizes that “the so called stimulus plan was a horrible mistake” and he claims that a common sense approach must be applied to our government the way families and businesses apply common sense solutions to their challenges. In other words, any future spending increase must be paid for by a reduction in spending in another area.

New York State Senate and Assembly
I will cast my votes for Tom O’Mara and Christopher Friend to represent me in our state government. O’Mara has seen first-hand the dysfunctional quality of our state legislature and is committed to the need for a new state Constitutional Convention to reform the workings of our state government.

Christopher Friend recognizes the overwhelming burden the state’s Medicaid system has placed upon our counties and he has witnessed certain improvements that have already been made in the system by Tom Santulli, and offers further suggestions such as requiring Medicaid recipients to use generic drugs and other cost saving proposals.

Well, those are my choices. Obviously, your choices may differ, but I urge you to put forth your own effort to use the sources available to you and to make deliberate, positive selections. I encourage you to visit the very helpful website published by The League of Women Voters in which you can find information about the ballot in your area and the candidates:


by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 28, 2010

As in every U.S. election cycle, there is no shortage of speculation or commentary surrounding this fall’s line-up of political races. Republicans are claiming premature victory in reclaiming a majority control of the House of Representatives and even of the Senate. Democrats are feverishly ramping up fundraisers, advertising and e-mail campaigns in an effort to stem any shifting of tides. Pundits and media personalities are falling over each other to offer their own predictions.

Amid the shouts and din of pre-election rhetoric, my brother Gordon and I offer our analysis. The old standard that if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone you shouldn’t say anything at all makes this a difficult piece for me. That’s not because I am a negative person. It is just that the political climate has so deteriorated into the muck and the mudslinging (and that there is so much anger among groups like the Tea Partiers) that it is difficult to find things that a candidate stands for among the things he or she stands against. I will do my best.

New York State Governor
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has a history of working for the people of our nation and our state. He has applied and engrained work ethic to social problems in public service on a regional and national level. Among issues he has tackled are human rights, civil rights, homelessness, crime and corruption.

Cuomo understands that the still lagging economy is an important issue to New Yorkers just as it is important to the rest of the nation. He has plans to make New York the jobs capital of the United States. Key in his strategy is offering a $3,000 tax credit to companies for each unemployed New Yorker they hire. The strategy also includes organizing around regional industry clusters, reducing the cost of doing business in the state and increasing small business’ access to capital. Offering incentives to private sector businesses who keep jobs local makes more sense than sending the unemployed to prisons (even if they are called “training centers”).

United States Senators
Charles Schumer has been fighting for New Yorkers as a U.S. Senator since 1998. He has been the state’s Senior Senator since 2000. His record and experience make him a known quantity as a voice in Congress. During his career he has stood up for education, energy, the environment, health care, jobs and security. He will continue to do that work as Senior Senator. His commitment to health care reform, for instance, is evident in the prescription drug legislation he has helped author, his work to make healthcare insurance and services more accessible for all, and his support of hospitals and health industry professionals. He is also working to create jobs and lower tax burdens for New Yorkers.

Kirsten Gillibrand has filled the Senator’s seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, since January of 2009. She is committed to Democratic values and has worked to ensure that affordable health care is available to all, and that economic recovery comes to New York and to the nation. One priority that is important to Kirsten, as a parent of young children, is education. Gillibrand values public education and believes that quality education is not only worth funding well, it is vital to the future of our children and the future of our nation. Economic growth is impossible without access to quality education. Kirsten Gillibrand stands for public schools in an election year where some candidates are pushing for eliminating public education.
United States House of Representatives

I believe so much that Matt Zeller is the choice for the 29th District that I’ll be voting for him twice. He has served our country in Afghanistan and is ready to fight for New York and our nation in Washington. Zeller has plans to bring jobs to New York and take a practical approach to energy concerns (two issues that are, in some ways, interconnected). Matt believes that investing in jobs and technology is not a horrible mistake. Instead of rushing into a natural gas mining operation that could irreparably damage our environment and our drinking water (and imperil us all), he believes in investigating the process thoroughly and putting people to work advancing alternate forms of energy. These are plans that strengthen the economy and address national security, while safeguarding our resources.

New York State Senate and Assembly
I support Pamela Mackesey in the State Senate. She’s committed to building jobs, lowering the tax burden and reforming Albany. She recognizes that our state government is oversized and out of control. This fact should win her support among Democrats and Republicans alike.

I support Jason Jordan for Assembly in New York’s 136th District. He represents fresh leadership and promises to work to provide living wages, improve education and reclaim jobs that have been outsourced overseas.

As expected, my brother and I come down on either side of a predictable line. I may seem like a party hack but, on principle, I reject the idea of endorsing any one candidate over another. I encourage you to investigate the issues that are important to you before you enter the polling place on November 2, and find out who best represents your values.