Focus on the issues, not on blame games - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Focus on the issues, not on blame games

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Posted: Friday, October 15, 2010 11:00 am

The New York Times reports that in the Ohio congressional campaign, incumbent Democrat Zack Space in a TV ad accused his Republican opponent Bob Gibbs, of supporting exporting jobs because he supports free trade.

"As they say in China, xie xie Mr. Gibbs!" the ad says at the end.

How disingenuous. Otherwise how do you explain why the rest of the world is expanding trade and quickly recovering from the global recession but by free-trade agreements. Anger points might play to frustration but simplistic taglines, like quicksand, only make the hike so much more hazardous.

The run-up to these elections had above-average, over-the-top anger, micro-aggressions, scorn and meanness. There's hardly been any debate but complaint-making, blaming or defending against some really questionable accusations.

Those theatrics don't help the public with political reality. Political bullying is not about answers. It is about subordinating the opponent. That kind of meanness has made as much sense as that Freedom Fries rampage in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to express anti-French sentiment.

Bullying and blaming may bring a moment's relief as exaggerated behavior but it doesn't help solve any problems. In fact, it sets things back because, to work well, citizen participation requires an informed, mature perspective, which crystallizes whether to keep or throw out the team in office.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., showed such a perspective in House debate about health care a year ago. The issue, he said, was whether it is acceptable for 44,780 Americans who die every year not having health care and for 1 million to go broke trying to pay their health-care bills. That crystallized the political decision to be made. Not French fries.

Clear, frank, focused debate is what makes politics you can believe in. Bullying and blaming, well, that's bottom fishing in a mature democracy.

In 2008, voters dramatically cast their ballots for change.

Quickly, they got reactionary pushback. The warriors who were elected to make the change were as spirited as Afghanistan villagers waiting to see which side was going to win before deciding what side to choose.

That year, middle-class Latino families faced mounting obstacles, according to the Institute on Asset & Social Policy at Brandeis University. Their index of five factors -- education, assets, housing, budget and healthcare -- showed proportionately fewer Latino middle-class families (18 percent) were secure in their middle-class status, compared to 26 percent of African-American families. This contrasted sharply with the overall middle class, where 31 percent were secure.

Now, two years into the new administration, the biggest political issue may be the three interrelated insecurities: national, economic and international competitiveness. But hardly anything is coming out from the right wing worthy of engagement, unless austerity counts.

Mostly, we face a challenge of perspective. For example, we have 9.5 percent unemployment. But a humming economy is one at 5 percent. We are down by 4.5 percent (a number we can do something about, and not 9.5 percent, which is daunting).

The time is at hand to connect those dots and others. One dot, from 30 years ago, shows the United States was home to 30 percent of all college students. Austerity and lack of reforms got us the dot that now shows today's proportion is 14 percent and falling.

That connection tells us why there's trembling over how the nation is becoming a world economic follower instead of leader. Previous innovation, jobs, professions and international competitiveness did not come from isolationist austerity, nor from Mama Grizzlies bravado. Lack of imagination, reform-phobia and talking-big-and-doing-little dug the hole deeper.

For that reason, it's not a bad time for moderates to differentiate and say xie xie to the blamers. If they are not part of the solution, they are obstructing solutions to the problems.

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at

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