Is this what Americans want more of?
The 2002 mid-term congressional elections reveal a huge disconnect between what the majority seemed to be voting for and what most people are in favor of. The election of Republican majorities in both houses of Congress sends a message to “stay the course,” when public opinion doesn’t really support that course. Consider the following obvious contradictions.
1. The economy is in the doldrums, the stock market is down 25 percent, unemployment is approaching 6 percent with 1.1 million layoffs in the last 10 months, and consumer confidence is at a nine-year low. Is this what Americans want more of?
2. This is largely fallout from corporate corruption aided and abetted by a combination of accounting conspiracy and a government committed to reducing controls over business activities. Sure, we’ve seen a show of a few scoundrels being paraded through congressional hearings, but there’s been precious little action to recover any of the stock market and pension-fund losses of those who have been swindled, or to restore any level of confidence in corporate behavior.
Instead, the president appointed Harvey Pitt as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and William Webster as head of a board to investigate accounting practices. Both had close ties to the accounting industry, to the point where Pitt was forced to resign. Is more putting the fox in charge of watching the hen coop what we want?
3. The present administration wants to make its lavish tax cuts to the wealthy permanent, paying for them by cutting the budget for services to help people and raiding Social Security to pay for his military goals. Is that what most of us really want?
4. The Bush administration is pushing hard to give $30 million of our tax money to selected religious organizations, who are free to use these funds to grant “sub-awards” to other religious groups. Are the American taxpayers in favor of this attempt to flout the Constitution which has served us so well?
5. Turning control of the Senate over to Republicans gives President Bush the opportunity to stack the Supreme Court with justices who would sanction the transfer of tax money to religious groups, and overturn Rowe V. Wade, rescinding a woman’s right to choose, in spite of the fact that this would go against the opinion of two-thirds of the American public.
6. Another issue on which there is a disconnect between the American people and the Bush administration is whether energy development should always take precedence over environmental values wherever there is a conflict between the two. Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe that there is a place for each and that the environment should not be sacrificed every time it comes up against drilling, mining or timbering interests. But the support which a Republican Congress will give to the Bush administration and its objective to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and throughout much of the public lands of the West (including the Roan Plateau northwest of Rifle, the San Rafael Swell in eastern Utah, and the Red Desert in southern Wyoming) goes against public opinion.
With Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton, a former lobbyist for the extraction industries, the Bush administration has taken steps to undermine environmental regulations and stifle public input on environmental safeguards for our public lands to give a freer hand to drilling, mining and timber interests, once again going against prevailing public opinion. And most recently the administration has removed the ban against snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park, a ban which 90 percent of the public responses supported. Do we really want still more of the same?
7. President Bush doggedly continues his pro-Israeli bias in Palestine, inflaming anti-American hatred throughout the Islamic world and literally asking for an escalation in acts of terror against us. Is this really a course we want to stay?
8. And finally we come to the extremely serious issue of going to war against Iraq. Although a majority support an attack on Iraq with United Nations participation, a larger majority is not in favor of a unilateral United States action against Iraq.
How then do you explain the vote for Republican candidates for Congress when public opinion does not favor many of the directions we are being taken by that party? I think there are three explanations, which when taken together tell us why the Nov. 5 election went the way it did.
First, a large number of independent voters were turned off by the barrage of negative TV campaign ads, and did not vote. Second, President Bush skillfully diverted public attention from our economic woes, and the resurgence of al-Qaida and our inability to win over the warlords in Afghanistan a year after our invasion and occupation of that country, by beating the drum for our going to war in Iraq. And third, the Democratic Party was unable to present a clear message to voters about what it stood for because for lack of leadership it didn’t know itself what it stood for.
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday.
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This will be my 500th column — my final column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.