By DON VOWELL
Let’s entertain a fantasy. Let’s keep 2014 election campaigning limited to issues. There are enough things to fix that we should not accept the dumbhead partisan attacks as legitimate campaigning. The trouble with politicians is that they treat everything politically. We need some statesmen.
There was a wonderful piece by David Sirota over the weekend that addressed this problem. He talked about pending Colorado legislative proposals to gain some local control over “fracking,” a procedure used to extract natural gas from shale. A public health study showed some evidence that it creates health problems, including birth defects. Of all the political comments he quoted, none of them mentioned health problems or the hurt done to a family by birth defects. Each of them callously crowed, according to their party loyalty, about how this would damage the opposition in the next election. That is what legislation is about these days. Any possible harm done to citizens of Colorado is a secondary issue, if an issue at all.
We’ll get it here in Oregon. We have two Republican senatorial candidates who hope to win the primary election by showing that their dislike of “Obamacare” exceeds that of their opponent. Why? If either managed to win Jeff Merkley’s seat would they march off to Washington hoping to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Tell us.
Again, this shouldn’t be about red state/blue state. The ACA was a cumbersome attempt to improve access to health care for millions of Americans. The most expensive per capita health care system in the world was not reaching nearly fifty million people. Surely we don’t consider that “the good old days.” In 2006 Massachusetts mandated health care for all citizens. Since then the death rate for those under 65 decreased by three percent. If we applied that rate nationally it would amount to 17,000 lives.
Rather than debate legislation that could save 17,000 lives we are asked to consider Benghazi as an election issue. Bad things happen in the world’s badly governed places. They are not caused by partisan politics and won’t be prevented by partisan politics. The twin towers were destroyed in New York, despite some warnings that terrorists were considering the use of planes as weapons of war. That doesn’t make it George W. Bush’s fault. It was solely the work of terrorists.
Other pundits gravely assure us that this election will be about the economy, regardless of these circus sideshows. It’s not clear to me whether the economic meltdown of 2007-08 was the fault of Republicans or George W. Bush, but it is clear that our collective memory has failed us if we long to return to those policies. It’s not even clear to me how to assess the economy. The Dow is near an historic high, we have reduced foreign entanglements some, unemployment levels are too slowly shrinking to “normal” levels, yet I share the general public dissatisfaction with the way things are going. Middle class America suffers from stagnant wages and increasing cost of living.
The problem you’ll not hear about in any “Campaign 2014” is the never-ending movement of America’s wealth to the already wealthy. It’s not such a surprise given that laws are made by men of wealth. If every piece of legislation is viewed as a campaign issue then that legislation is likely to be tailored to those who finance campaigns. Maybe we are nearing the time when red states and blue states agree that legislation should benefit citizens, not election outcomes.
(Don Vowell lives in Keizer. He gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)