SmartAssy

Archive for the ‘Let’s Get Political’ Category

What I Learned from My Fling with the Republican Party

In Let's Get Political on May 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

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I have a complicated relationship with politics.

This is not exactly an uncommon pronouncement for a young person such as myself.  Many peoples’ views evolve as they are exposed to new ideas, especially during college. After all, universities are “liberal bastions,” as Rick Santorum smartly (but NOT intellectually) pointed out last year.

It just so happens that my political ideals are not a product of life-of-the-mind, ivory tower brainwashing. There have been a few tweaks here and there, but I fundamentally believe what I believed the day I moved into my freshman year dorm. My tried-and-true political philosophy? I care what happens to other people. Everything pretty much takes shape from there.

My complicated relationship with politics instead stems from a malleable personal code of ethics. To be clear, I’m not completely devoid of a moral compass. I don’t cheat or steal, and my lies are more white than pathological. However, I’m not above Benedict Arnold-ing a bit on my beliefs in favor of personal advancement. Maybe this paragraph seems at odds with the Mother Theresa overtones of the last, but I see no reason why “bleeding heart” and “opportunistic” should be mutually exclusive characteristics.

In my case, opportunism led me to work for the Republican Caucus, and my bleeding heart is better for it.

It all started sophomore year of college, when I figured it would be a good idea to have something besides “Work Experience: Panera Bread Associate” on my resume. I had always been slightly more interested in politics than your average young adult, so I decided to look for an internship in this area. My alma mater is located in the state capital, and there is no shortage of opportunities for the politically-minded co-ed.

As I sifted through job postings on the university career services website, I stumbled upon perfection: a legislative internship at the Statehouse…working for the Republican Caucus. Tar and feather me, but this last bit seemed too minor a detail to pass on something that sounded so legit. Had there been a Dem equivalent, I obviously would have gone for that first, but those asses (get it?) were only offering campaign internships. I just don’t have the constitution for literature drops and phone trees.

Though I did score a legislative internship, I can’t really pat myself on the back too much because the Republicans were in the minority at that time, meaning they needed all the unpaid help they could get. But I was excited nonetheless. After a few months of replying to constituent mail, they figured out I was a decent writer and shuffled me into their communications department.

Over the next two years, I mastered the art of making collective bargaining reform sound uncontroversial, learned what collective bargaining is, and used the term “fiscal responsibility” enough to last the staunchest Tea Partier a lifetime. There were moments when I felt sick for writing in support of ideals I oppose. But more importantly, in my estimation, I came to see that political issues are not black and white. You can’t just stamp a party-line solution on them and be done.

While coming to this realization, I also became work confidants with Liam, my cubicle neighbor. He would share the office gossip, and I would lament the guns-in-bars bill or the unnecessary controversy surrounding the individual mandate. As one of the few Jews he’d ever met, I taught him the story of Hanukkah. He taught me that I could be friends with a social conservative.

I won’t pretend that every caucus employee was reasonable. But, at least within communications, I was surrounded by rational, well-spoken individuals who could write a mean editorial, and I came to respect each of them. My liberal convictions were not altered during the course of my job. What changed was my perception of and receptiveness to opposing views.

I still make cracks about Rick Santorum, but I don’t belittle the Republican Party as a whole. “Republican” is not a one-size-fits-all category. I’m not Michael Moore, and not every conservative is Ann Coulter. How can we expect our Congress to find common ground if we can’t do it ourselves? Our legislative bodies are supposed to be representative of the people, and if we are fiercely polarized, then it’s no surprise the sequester is a reality. I’m oversimplifying by leaps and bounds here, but I think the stakes are high enough to warrant a little compromise from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Politcally,

Leah Morris

 

[Original Image Source: republican-for-life-t-shirt-choiceshirts-2.jpg]

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In Defense of Rich White Men

In Let's Get Political on April 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm

This week, I came across a blog post criticizing everyone who changed their Facebook profile pictures to the Human Rights Campaign logo. The blogger took issue with the fact that the HRC is run by “rich white men” who aim to keep the privileged privileged and do nothing to advocate for those oppressed groups who are truly in need of representation. The post was, on the whole, well written and compelling. I am not well acquainted with the organizational structure or activities of the HRC, but I definitely want to research them after reading this article.

So kudos on that point, blogger. Whether you wanted to inspire with this post or just vent your frustrations, you made me question a powerful organization I never gave a lot of thought to before. But that’s where my compliments run dry. The moment you used the phrase “rich white men” in a pejorative sense, you lost my respect and undermined your own argument. You implied that a group’s class, race, and gender should count as evidence that they are out of touch and oppressive.

To be sure, I don’t think that rich white men need me advocating on their behalf. As far as I know, their rights have not been stripped in the United States, there is no systemic prejudice against them lurking in our laws, and they are not targeted by law enforcement on a daily basis. Accordingly, I usually wouldn’t waste my breath defending them when there are, as this blogger indicated, so many genuinely marginalized groups here in America and all over the world. But I believe that demonizing any subset of people solely based on the aforementioned factors of gender, race, and class is, at best, counterproductive and polarizing, at worst, outright dangerous, and most certainly a disservice to society as a whole.

I understand that the phrase “rich white men” conjures up images of greed, institutionalized oppression, and most recently, the ills of Wall Street. It is also my understanding that the word “Jew” has, throughout much of history, been associated with similar imagery: that of undeserved wealth, usury, and God knows what other unflattering portrayals. Is it unfair and absurd for me to lump this blogger in with the likes of the Nazis and the Spanish Inquisition? Absolutely. Is that what I’m doing? No.

My point is that us-versus-them complexes have never been healthy, have never advanced civilization, but yet, in so many forms, have been embraced by an insanely diverse collection of people throughout human existence. And I think it’d be great if this could stop, not for the sake of rich white men, but for the sake of those groups truly affected by stereotyping and discrimination.

Simply,

LM