Those with differing opinions not necessarily out to destroy country

November 5, 2013

It’s nice to know people are reading.

I don’t have the time or space to comment on all the letters, but the final paragraph of a letter from last week deserves attention. It reveals, I think, a problem with today’s politics, both nationally and locally.

Here’s the excerpt:

“With this in mind, it would be refreshing to hear the ‘liberal elite’ state their true intentions to create one-party rule in which government intrudes into every aspect of our lives, punishes success with oppressive taxes, rewards failure with government largess, and an environment in which the rules don’t apply to them. How many elections could you win then, Mr. Flood?”

I flatter myself that I have some idea about my true intentions, so here goes:

I do not favor one-party rule. One-party rule breeds arrogance, which leads to complacency and corruption. The shady land deals that took place under Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s administration are likely due, in part, to such arrogance.

I can’t prove cause-and-effect. But I do think such shenanigans are more likely to take place when one party - in this case, the Republicans - is able to field only long-shot candidates for statewide office.

(In Delaware, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the U.S. representative, both U.S. senators, the treasurer and the insurance commissioner are all Democrats. The only Republican statewide office-holder is the state auditor.)

We now have another case unfolding: State Treasurer Chip Flowers has been releasing preposterous and contradictory statements about his department’s travel expenses. (Credit for this story goes to Jonathan Starkey of the News Journal.)

It’s too early to see how this will play out, but it looks like another potential case of arrogance leading to, at best, sloppy financial recordkeeping - in the treasurer’s office, no less - and perhaps misuse of taxpayer money.

In a state where the two parties were more competitive, a Republican would have an excellent chance to win the next race for treasurer. That’s not necessarily the case in Delaware. And while the treasurer is not one of the leading statewide offices, it is where heavyweights U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and Gov. Jack Markell began their political careers.

I also, for the record, do not favor punishing success or rewarding failure.

I was part of a family business for 30 years. We knew what it meant to work to make a struggling business succeed. I want all business owners to succeed.

Now, I might be willing to pay more in taxes than the letter writer. For instance, I would be willing to pay a few cents more per gallon in gasoline taxes if it meant improving Route 1 and other local roads. I realize few would share that opinion, but deciding such issues is a question of good old-fashioned politics, not good vs. evil.

None of this, I realize, matters to the letter writer. Judging from his statement at the top, he’s able to read my mind and discern my “true intentions,” which apparently include destroying America as we know it.

This attitude is the bane and essence of modern politics: baseless assertions about the imagined evil intent of those with whom you disagree.

I might not agree with all the opinions of the letter writer, but I trust he’s a man of good will and not out to destroy America. Nor do I think the election of Mitt Romney would have meant the end of American civilization. Who knows? He might even have helped institute his successful Romneycare program nationwide.

The other striking thing about the letter is the contempt it shows for the American people: How many elections could the “liberal elite” win, the writer asks, if they revealed their true intentions?

Does the writer think people are stupid? Who’s the elitist here?

One of the basic facts of life and politics is that you can’t fool all the people all the time. Nor can you fool a majority of the people all the time. That’s why I believe in democracy.

Here’s why it matters. The Republican conservatives who believe the other side is not just wrong but evil are more likely to double-down on ideologically pure but woefully weak candidates like Christine O’Donnell.

Candidates like O’Donnell not only can’t win statewide, they can’t even be competitive, which would put some heat on the other side.

And Delaware politics will be the poorer for it.

  • Accomplished writers appear in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.

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