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Trying to see 2020 glass as half-full

By Ron Ponder | Canton Repository | January 6, 2020

I am by nature an optimistic person. I see the proverbial glass as being half-full and believe situations always could be worse.

I have never brought in a new year not looking forward to it being better than the one that just left.

Until now.

And while I still feel 2020 will be a good year, there are some headwinds American society, and the world, must reckon with because of their dire nature and the threat they pose to all of us.

One of the biggest threats is the national political leadership in America. More than incivility, it’s downright anger and hate that exist in our political discourse — liberal Democrats vs. conservative Republicans and everyone else in between. Impeachment looms starkly in the background.

Beyond the boiler-plate language of the parties, there is a simmering battle for power. Not “power” to enact positive change for the populace, but power for the sake of the party having “the power.”

American society is a captive in a cultural whirlpool of inaction by our national political leaders, most paralyzed by fear or their own ineptitude. They are prime examples of the Peter Principle in motion, in addition to the law of diminishing returns toward progress.

While monster issues are stalking our society and are demanding to be solved, too many political leaders dawdle and respond with personal attacks, lies and corruption — or all three.

Immigration and separating kids from their parents, violence directed toward Jews in synagogues and blacks in churches (no, there are not good people on both sides in these instances!), voter suppression, climate denial, an assault on civility and science and even more lies being told has to be addressed by a heretofore unwitting populace.

I didn’t agree much with most of the policies of President Ronald Reagan, but I was never referred by him or his followers as “scum” for exercising my American right to do so.

It is not my intent to join the incessant, coarse dialogue of pro-Trump supporters or anti-Trumpers. But him being president has had a huge effect on political leadership and the direction of that leadership, especially in the Republican Party. It seems a party once dedicated to small deficits, small government, a Russia-sensitive foreign policy, a strong national defense and fiscal restraint has abandoned those traditional principles.

It seems now to have become a party of sycophants of the president, willing to risk careers and reputations in order to please him. How cowardly and un-American.

Troubling inaction

There are other reasons for my lack of optimism: new economic realities that many cannot contend with; a “We vs. Them” mentality that constantly searches for someone to blame; a general failure of government to get something done, especially to fend off the attacks on our democratic institutions.

But something else and something even more sinister is at play: an atmosphere of distrust promulgated by blatant and deliberate lies. Fake news is used as a foil in an attack upon untruthfulness everywhere, and when the senior counselor to the president admittedly points to “alternative facts” to try to prove a false point, you can see the extent of the problem.

And, when you couple these dangerous lies with many social media sites and a top-rated cable news channel waiting to mug the truth like a bandit on a darkened street, you can readily see the American standard has taken a massive self-inflicted wound in our country and around the world.

Everybody’s got a beef. Pastors, doctors, attorneys, teachers, social workers, liberals and conservatives, you and I all have some sort of beef with somebody or something. As a society, we have to find not only common ground, but also discuss our beefs with an eye toward solving the problem, not adding to our personal or political benefit or power.

Registered as a Republican

It’s no secret I am a registered Republican. I believe in fiscal restraint, a strong defense, diversity and opportunity for all, while supporting policies that will enhance life for the masses, not policies that enhance a certain “party.” With current national Republican leaders and their decision-making, however, how long I and other like-minded patriots can remain a Republican is increasingly questionable.

I also believe in America, our Constitution and our democratic institutions. Chief Justice John Roberts recently wrote ”… in our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital.”

Who is spreading those lies and rumors?

The national Republican leadership has demonstrated a wholesale abandonment of long-held principles and policies, primarily conservative, and have employed a lemming-like following of the president, right or wrong.

What happened to all of their strident voices from the right warning about federal deficits? Or warnings about Putin and Russia?

There has also been an abandonment of humanity and its values, like honesty, kindness, compassion and other tenets you hope to instill in your children and grandchildren. Those tenets define what America stands for.

Many positives in Stark County

I often have spoken and written about the many positives in Canton and Stark County: comparatively good political office-holders — county commissioners, mayors, council persons; and fortunately, everyday citizens. I firmly believe a better form of conservatism and a better form of liberalism will emerge so we can become a nation of problem-solvers again.

Stuart Stevens, a writer and GOP political consultant who is working with a political action committee that backs Republican Bill Weld for president, wrote in the Washington Post, ”… most Republicans would have said the party stood for some basic principles: fiscal sanity, free trade, strong on Russia and that character and personal responsibility count. Today it’s not that the Republican Party has forgotten these issues and values; instead, it actively opposes all of them.

“A party without a governing theory, a higher purpose or a clear moral direction is nothing more than a cartel,” he wrote, and is a “syndicate that exists only to advance itself. There is no organized, coherent purpose other than the acquisition and maintenance of power.”

Polls indicate a majority of Americans in the age group from 18 to 38 say they are the first generation to believe they will not be better off than their parents.

I hope they are wrong. I hope I am wrong about the negative impact current politics is having on our society, and that in spite of the many problems our collective glass is still more than half-full.

We just have to recommit to making it that way in 2020 and beyond

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