This isn’t, as it turns out, the essay I planned on writing today. I started with the assumption that the piece would be a typical polemic in support of Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate vying with Ed Markey for the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by John Kerry's appointment as Secretary of State. Gomez looks, on paper, like my kind of guy—a moderate Republican with values I share—and, despite the tinged cynicism I can never avoid these days, he seems like someone I would want to see sitting in Washington.
He’s got all the right credentials as far as I’m concerned—without all those far-right credentials. A look on his website tells us that:
- He believes Washington has a spending problem, and that politicians “continue to kick the can down the road”
- He supports same-sex marriage in one simple, non-obfuscatory, no-way-to-be-confused statement
- He acknowledges climate change, but without oversimplifying the economic implications
- He’s in favor of better healthcare, and favors a states’-rights approach
- He agrees that immigration reform is necessary, and wants to offer a path to legal status
- He supports entitlement reform
He’s not perfect, mind you. I’ve found him uncivil on multiple occasions and the way he backpedaled from his involvement with OPSEC smacks of the typical dishonesty that makes us all cynical about politicians. So it’s not that he somehow walks upon the dirty waters that most politicians routinely bathe in, but if you believe (as I do) that multiple views are important (i.e., that an all-Democrat or all-Republican solution is not only impossible but harmful), then what’s not to like about Gomez? He may be the closest thing to the GOP’er we really need these days. Not perfect, but at least sane.
Ahh… and there’s the issue, isn’t it? Sanity. When, I ask you, did we so convolute our dialog that mere acts of sanity were redefined as “moderate” behavior?
Let’s take a look at those credentials again so we can talk, instead, about what we really should be talking about:
First, I believe we have sadly misused the term moderate. Take, for example, Gomez’s position on global warming. He says, and here I quote, that “Climate change is real,” and that “We need a serious energy agenda that promotes private sector innovation in both the United States and in other countries around the world.” This isn’t a moderate position. This is a sane position. It shouldn’t, by itself, serve as a reason to elect anyone. That would be like voting for someone because they “believe” in gravity. Sanity should be a prerequisite, not a checkmark in the “plus” column.
The same holds true for Gomez’s stand on the 2nd Amendment, in which he says that “The President and the Congress must act now to forge consensus and compromise to close the gun show loophole.” Again: that’s not about moderation, but sanity. The very name of the problem includes a problem: loophole. How many loopholes can you think of that were designed and built with everyone’s best interest in mind? I’m coming up with a number pretty near zero….
But how can we expect sanity from our elected officials when we refuse it ourselves?
Yesterday, prior to beginning this piece, I posted on Facebook my intention to write something about Gomez, intimating that I might actually like the guy. Without going so far as to take exact quotes from the Facebook entries (which, I’ve learned, can lead not only to insults, but to threats of lawsuits and of physical harm), allow me to provide the gist of what I saw by responding to some of it.
A number of people suggested that Gomez can’t be anything other than a lockstep Republican, just another vote for everything far right. That position ignores the very real internecine warfare within the GOP and argues that the GOP can never change, both presumptions belied by history. Our current GOP is a result of such internecine warfare and represents a change itself—away from the eponymous Eisenhower Republicans and towards something far further right. Why then, can’t we believe (and assist) in a swing the other way?
On a similar note, to say that any vote for a Republican person is just a vote for the party’s platform forgets that the platform is written by just those people—and those who elected them. If you want the platform to change, you change the people who have the ideas that go into the platform.
I would also point out that suggesting that you “can’t trust a Republican,” or that Gomez has “hitched his wagon to the clown car train,” suggests a narrow-minded view of the world that just continues to reinforce the our guy/their guy, white hat/black hat pseudo reality that I find more frightening every day.
Oh. And two more things: “Republican” is spelled with a “c,” not a “kkk," and comparing Gomez to Hitler shows a severe lack of creativity (not to mention that it confirms Godwin’s Law).
Not all of the responses were like that—some were better and some were worse. But there were just so many like these that once again I find myself asking whether we’re having the right conversation—and whether we even want to. It seems no longer about whether this body politic is moderate or not, liberal or not, conservative or not. The question is whether we are sane or not, and it’s starting to feel more and more like the answer is “no.” I make that assertion by watching and listening to those who believe, so strongly, that the “other” side is the insane side. That’s the clue right there. If you think in those terms—if you demonize the “other”—then you aren’t acting by any definition of “sane” that I know of.
So where the hell can we go these days for just a little bit of sanity….? Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said that “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” I’m trying to tie that knot, but admit that I’m at a loss. I invite your comments and recommendations…. Just please… please… avoid any Hitler references….
 Quick note: the left got all over him for referring to Markey, his opponent, as “pond scum,” but stayed eerily silent when he called Tea Party Republican Trent Franks “a moron.” Seems like just another example of my guy/your guy thinking…. I’m just sayin’….