'Independents' need to take a stand

Opinion: Columns

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Gregg Mumm

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The time has come, as the fall elections approach, for political "independents" to shed that self-identifying label.

"I'm an independent," non-affiliated voters will likely say proudly, and this surely reflects a need we all share to think that we take positions rationally, unencumbered by predilections and personality. While this notion of free will, exercised in the voting booth, has surely been in some measure delusional all along, it holds up to scrutiny even less now. To be roughly equally disposed presently to vote Republican or Democrat lacks, shall we say, political clarity.

The polarity between the two major parties is starker than at any other time in our memory, including 1964, when the Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater, but had in its ranks liberals and moderates who didn't question the legitimacy of — or seek, disguisedly, to dismantle — Social Security and the New Deal regulatory architecture, and who helped push through the 1964 Civil Rights Act that Goldwater opposed.

In their recent book, It's Even Worse than It Looks, the authors, scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, cite a National Journal article by Ronald Brownstein, stating that "for the first time in modern history" the "most conservative Democrat" in each house of Congress is "slightly more liberal than the most liberal Republican."

So is this a choice between two extremes, with both parties having drifted equally distant to the left and right respectively? Mann and Ornstein don't think so. They write that the Republican Party "has become … ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Princeton University economist Paul Krugman, author of the book End this Depression Now!, put it more succinctly in a recent BBC "Hardtalk" interview, calling the Republican Party "stark-raving mad."

But what about the Democrats? The conservative myth-makers would have us believe that the choice is between their traditional position and our President's extremism. When Newt Gringrich, Ph.D. in history and a former college professor, exited the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination he called President Obama "The most radical leftist president in American history."

The fact that the quote is Gingrich's goes a long way to discrediting it. It is utter demagogic nonsense. In his Inaugural Address, President Obama said the following: "Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched. But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."

This is what a liberal says, not a socialist. A "radical leftist" does not admiringly tout the wealth-generating, freedom-expanding capacity of capitalism and there is nothing that Obama has proposed that, in any fundamental sense, threatens the system of private property and private enterprise, or that seriously erodes the predominant value of conservatives — that being the "freedom" and "liberty" to amass personal wealth.

On a recent ABC Sunday talk show, conservative commentator George Will described the Democrats' agenda in much more measured terms than Gingrich's, calling it, dismissively, "capitalism without casualties." Will, ideologically, expects casualties. But "capitalism without casualties" is not radical. Rather, it is a moderate, centrist-liberal goal, fully within the spirit of FDR's "New Deal" and LBJ's "Great Society."

So, independents, there is a stark choice this November, created by the Republican Party's qualitative leap to the right. The choice is between a centrist-liberal point of view — represented by the Democratic Party, whose adherents have already made the grand theoretical compromise between socialism on the left and laissez-faire capitalism on the right — and the extreme right position of the present Republican Party.

How anyone even mildly engaged in our politics can remain "independent" in the face of these trends is beyond comprehension.

Gregg Mumm, a resident of Oak Park since 1992, describes himself as a Democrat/liberal.

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Posted: June 8th, 2012 4:47 PM

"Mankind will never see an end of trouble until..lovers of wisdom come to hold political power or the holders of power become lovers of wisdom" - Plato, The Republic. In the meantime - "Democrats are the only reason to vote for Republicans" - Will Rogers

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 7:28 AM

The VP with the most tie-breakers is Adams with 29. FDR's had 29. In recent vintage Cheney and Nixon had 8 with 7 for Bush SR. When has politics in the Senate been easy? It has always been designed to protect the minority viewpoint. Liberals used it extensively in the 1960s. It is common quote by Robert Byrd that the best decisions come with 65-75% of the Senate. That way there are still true believers on the other side but a strong majority ruled. Obama governs like he just wants 51.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 7:15 AM

@ Jim. Bush did not have my support for the reasons you list. However it is always intersting that when we try to hold a President to account a supporter will always point to other faults of a past President. It sounds so childish; using others faults that justify current faults. I do no let my kids get away with that why should I let my President. I would direct you to the Eisenhower link in my post below. Blame no one but yourself to acheive results is my moto. Thought Obama got that.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 1:54 AM

Jim Coughlin, all of your postings are now about how people are preventing this posting place in engaging and productive conversation. Jim, stop always saying the same thing. Move on with your thoughts and ways to make things better.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 1:14 AM

Trying to make your case with insults does not represent a reasoned thought process. We might have been able to have an interesting and informative discussion about the realities of the financial situation inherited by President Obama and how much, if any, is accountable to the previous adminstration. Now that's not going to happen. Too bad!


Posted: June 7th, 2012 11:18 PM

Coughlin The more you post, the stupider you look. Not sure where you get your info but you are FLAT OUT WRONG and I have attached the CBO link that proves it. Bush funded the war costs thru apprpriations bills and not as part of his budget as he did not know how much would be needed. HISTORICAL NUMBERS ARE ACTUAL SPENDING, NOT BUDGET NUMBERS. Actual numbers for past years are inclusive of supplemental appropriations http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/85xx/doc8565/AppendixB.8.1.shtml The CB

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 9:24 PM

Interesting observation on the need to make our elected officials accountable. I'll direct the same question I previously posted and ask if you think it was appropriate for President Bush to keep the costs of the wars,drug plan and tax cuts off the books and that his successor should have done the same? Was VP Cheney wrong on Meet The Press when he stated that "deficits don't matter"? I understand that you are not a supporter of the current adminstration but think you might agree that a significant number of current problems existed prior to President Obama being sworn in to office. Partisanship is fine but sometimes we should be able to share an objective view. I would like to learn more from you about past presidents who proved an ability "to get people to work together and accomplice something-even when they don't want to...." I'm not aware of any who also experienced the obstructionism that been demonstrated by the Senate minority regarding a historically unprecendented use of the filibuster rule. The need for 60 votes has blocked countless funding plans, appointments and created a disfunctional process.

OPRF Achievement   

Posted: June 7th, 2012 8:55 PM

@Jim - President Obama FAILS by HIS own Standard! That says it all. Don't blame anyone - except the President. Remember, "the buck stops here" It has not worked & will not work with President Obama - because he is right out of the Chicago & Illinois Way of Politics. Arrogance. True mark of a leader is 2 get people 2 work together and accomplice something - even when they do not want 2 or do n't think they can. Then when it is done, the Leader gives them credit for success Pres Obama can't!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 8:00 PM

OPRF Guy, will you agree that President Bush should have put on the books the costs of two wars, an unfunded prescription drug plan and his tax cuts? You don't think President Obama should have followed his predecessor's example or Dick Cheney's view that "deficit's don't matter"? I understand that in some circles it is an acceptable position to tag the current adminstration with being fully responsible for all of the country's economic troubles but is that really being fair and balanced?

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 5:14 PM

@Tom your question...yes concede something and force a decision. BTW...he choose to push back the release of the plan to after the election...he choose not to make the plan binding. He left Durbin at the alter. He played politics with this countries most pressing issue and lost. He let the GOP win because he looked out of touch. I voted for him and prayed for his success. He has failed for what he has not done, could of done and should have done. He created the miserey he is in.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 5:07 PM

@ Tom. in 1988 the Fed collected 18.4% of GDP and spent 21.3% for a 2.9% deficit. In 2012 we will collect 15.4% of GDP and spend 24.3% for a deficit of 8.7%. Obama had the same opportunity to get a deal like Regan got with Tip O'Neil in 1987. He passed because he wanted more...after 1988 we saw amazing job growth for 4 years because the deal made. Bush senior made a tax deal in 1990 that helped the country but lost the election. Clinton signed a much need Welfare reform. Obama????

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 4:59 PM

OPRF guy - First your timeline is off. The Erskin Simpson report was not issued until December 2010. By that time, the Democratic House was a lame duck and the GOP could filibuster the Senate. Too, when issued both Ryan and Cantor said that they would not permit the increased revenue portions of the plan. I ask again, what could Obama do? Concede on entitlements and then hope that the GOP would come around on revenue? That would not happen as subsequently proven.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 4:41 PM

@ Tom...Your article is two years past the time of Bowles. The President had an opportunity and the political muscle to get things done. Insetad of working with Durbin and Conrad in the Senate he choose to align with the most Liberal part of the House. Before the 2010 election he had the ability to move forward. Before Scott Brown he had the opportunity to move forward. Each time he choose to stay Left and not negotiate. Each decision leads to a different circumstance which he created.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 3:24 PM

You might also want to tell St. Ronnie about your view on government revenue. He was the one who coined the phrase "revenue enhancers" as a euphemism to obscure the 1982 tax hikes, which were the largest in history at the the time. Further proof, I guess that even Ron Reagan would have no home in today's teabagger GOP.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 3:15 PM

Just another republican who refuses to live in a reality based universe. I feel kind of sorry for you. Looking forward to your indictment in the John Doe proceeding.

Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 2:54 PM

Tom, Tom...a few points: 1) govts don't create or generate revenue. They tax. Period. 2) Teabag is a gay slur, FYI. 3) Mr Norquist is the left's 2012 version of Haliburton. There always is a bogieman 4) referencing the NY Times & Paul Krugman in one article & comments has rendered this entire discussion useless. Peace be with you, my friend.

Tom from River Forest   

Posted: June 7th, 2012 12:13 PM

OPRF Guy - Grover Norquist and the teabag nutjobs wouldn't permit any compromise that increased revenue. Here is some background https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/us/politics/in-a-budget-plans-defeat-lessons-on-the-difficulty-of-compromise.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 12:00 PM

@Tom. Imagine Clinton in December of 2010. He would call the leaders in and say we have a deal in the Senate...what will it take for the House to come on board? Ryan propsed that the entitlement cuts be sooner and more solid and wanted a plan that keept spending to 21%. The President could have offered triggers if debt did not come down. He could have bargined hard and won in the Senate forcing a House vote. Last summer's vote was a stunt. Obama choose to leave the field and complain.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 10:10 AM

OPRF Guy - The Bowles Simpson plan was put up for a vote in the House this spring. It was voted down. My point was that the GOP in the House was never going to support it because it raised revenue. Both Cantor and Ryan are on the record as saying that they would never endorse any budget that increases revenue. Where does that give Obama room to maneuver? Is this another instance where bipartisanship is doing what the GOP wants?

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 10:08 AM

Cont..Obama then choose to fall in with Shanowsky and jilted Durbin, Conrad, Spratt and Rivlin all Dems who supported it. Why? This vote was 30 days after the 2010 election. The country had spoken and gave the GOP the House. Instead of working with them...he dug in and droped the plan. Then started bashing Ryan yet he offered no other plan. In my mind he stopped being President and became the leader of the Liberals.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 9:59 AM

@Tom your last comment shows how Obama missed the oportunity to lead. You are right that Ryan is extreme yet the Bowles plan got Tom Coburn and Dick Durbins vote. The plan was voted down by House Dems (Shanowsky) and House GOP (Ryan). Limbaugh hated it...Olberman hated it. That sounds to me like a perfect opportunity to forge a comprimise and lead on a tough issue. Obama then choose to scold Ryan in public even though Ryan's objections showed some possible movement. cont..

Tom from River Forest   

Posted: June 7th, 2012 9:20 AM

Econ 101 (or googling for that matter) must not have been your best class. While Bowles/Simpson did cut the top marginal rate, it still increased total revenue by $1.2 trillion in a decade. Under Ryan's budget, revenue drops by $4.6 trillion over that same period, the vast majority going the top bracket.


Posted: June 6th, 2012 11:38 PM

Tom from RF- Try using Google before you post more BS. Bowles Simpson LOWERED marginal rates across the board and called for eliminating many common deductions so as to BROADEN the tax base. Same thing Ryan's plan does. Krugman was AGAINST it as was the Daily Kos, claiming it was tax cuts for the rich. Pelosi called it DOA. Also, The left tried to make Walker a LESS THAN ONE TERM governor, so quit harping on mcconell's quote and look up James Carvil's similar quote hoping Bush would fail.

OPRF Acheivement   

Posted: June 6th, 2012 10:56 PM

@Tom - President Obama FAILS by HIS own Standard! That says it all. Don't blame anyone - except the President. Remember, "the buck stops here" It has not worked & will not work with President Obama - because he is right out of the Chicago & Illinois Way of Politics. Arrogance. True mark of a leader is 2 get people 2 work together and accomplice something - even when they do not want 2 or do n't think they can. Then when it is done, the Leader gives them credit for success Pres Obama can't!

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 7:50 PM

I see, the time has come for independents to become liberal. Quite the drivel...Luke below was correct. Anyone who sites Paul Krugman as a "legitimate" source is immediately disqualified from the arena of ideas.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 7:17 PM

@all...When we all argue about TARP and this or that we sound like crying little children. Myself included. When I read history of Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower or Teddy it seems like these people took real responsibility for everything. Read the link below about Eisenhower. Both sides of our politics are to blame for today's mood. I had faith in Obama that he would know real ledership and would not let PREDICTABLE partenship derail him. He has failed by his own standard.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 7:11 PM

@Tom...McConnel is the MINORITY Leader. Please point to a President that has been affected by a minority party so much?

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 7:08 PM

@Tom..3 GOP Senators voted for the Bowles/Simpson along with Durbin. He backed away after Liberal House Dems forced his hand. The President had 2 years to do what he wanted with no need of GOP votes. HIS stated goal was to bring together the parties and within 14 days of taking office his famous "I won" statement was made. On DDay maybe we should all remember Eisenhower. Here is a great piece about him and his DDay letter. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/04/us/04iht-letter04.html


Posted: June 6th, 2012 6:02 PM

I'd like you to point to a time when we left future generations with a 16T $ debt?

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 4:45 PM

OPRF Guy - As soon as ErskineBowles came out, the GOP leadership said that they would agree to the entitlement cuts but the tax increases were DOA. How does Obama work with that? That nutball in Indiana spoke for the entire GOP when he defined bipartisanship as the democrats doing what the GOP wants. And I defy you to point to any majority leader who has ever stymied a president's agenda like McConnell.

Joe Coffey  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 4:16 PM

I did give credit, rj, but you have not: TARP (which I bet you opposed). What do you credit the president for doing, other than continuing Republic policies? Anything? If we cut spending on the poor (entitlements), do the poor disappear? No, but, luckily, we will have guns to shoot them with if they walk through our neighborhood. Is it possible to fight two wars and lower taxes (and give seniors drugs)? The Republic party sure thinks so.


Posted: June 6th, 2012 3:13 PM

@Joe- The obstruction is in the Senate. House has passed various bills and budgets only to be dead on arrival thanks to Reid -no budget there for 3 years. BinLaden success thanks to Bush policies-w/o them he'd still be alive. Give credit where credit is due.

Democrat by default from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 3:05 PM

I am a total debt-averse fiscal conservative. However as a gay man voting Republican hasn't been an option for a long time due to their social policies. That includes any state offices.(Yes, I still hold a grudge for the unconscionable Keyes candidacy.) Not that Republicans have any claim fiscal responsibility. Cutting taxes and financing the shortfall with debt is akin to living off your credit card. The last fiscally responsible Republican was Bush1, who was the last Republican I voted

Rise of the Center from Omaha  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 2:59 PM

If you look at the democrats & see centrist, you don't know the meaning of centrist. Republicans are farther off the deep end than the dems, but dems went off the deep end years ago as well, & show how little they respect centrists w their continued attacks on Blue Dogs & the few remaining moderates in their party. If dems want centrists on their side, they need reach out to us and fill their elected ranks with us. Otherwise it's just more partisan vomit. Solomon Kleinsmith Rise of the Center

Joe Coffey  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 2:36 PM

Bush did TARP in his second term, which he gets credit for. That was an emergency. Was he that magnanimous in his first term? The obstruction in this Congress is extraordinary. You can flip your comment on the president and taking credit by telling the Republic party that a program is not automatically bad just because the president supports it. Where is the undiluted credit for things that the president did (bin Laden e.g.)? They would have W on Rushmore if he accomplished that mission.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 1:16 PM

@ Joe...Every Senate leader makes it his job to remove the president, it is an american tradition. Has for not having to take credit...if Obama started with Bowles/Simpson and then trashed the tax code, followed by a more measured approach to HC reform with tort reform thrown in he would be in a much better place. Dems called Bush a "War Criminal" yet he worked to get TARP done against his party. Obama set the expectation of bi-partenship knowing full well what the mood in DC was.

Joe Coffey  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 1:04 PM

What things could have been accomplished if the president didnt care about who got credit? Sen. Mitch McConell said his job was to block the president at every turn. Give me a small break. The Republic party and its followers are running out the clock until November. They are holding the economy hostage unless they get their way.

OPRF Guy  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 11:34 AM

Your article is clearly the problem with America. I am an independant and hold government officials to account for their actions. I could care less about their social views, but care what they do not what they say. The extremes seem to quarel with how you get to a solution not actual solutions. Mr. Obama has not succeeded on his promise of bringning two Americas together. The President would do well to remeber that you can acheive anything has long has you do not care who gets the credit.

Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 9:18 AM

Mr Mumm...I'm sorry, but using Paul Krugman as a source to comment on R's immediately ruins your credibility. Krugman calling anyone or anything "stark-raving mad" is classic "pot calling the kettle black" stuff. Mr. Krugman, while he may be smart, is one of the least wise people in the public square. Sorry, invoke him and discussion is over.

Mares from River Forest  

Posted: June 6th, 2012 12:21 AM

@ Gregg. Alf Landon predicted back in 1936 what would happen with these social programs and how the money would be used. Thanks FDR, not. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/8128

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