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Republicans and Democrats Need More Political Self-Awareness

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One of the most famous lines in the English language is actually of Scottish derivation, via the poetry of Robert Burns. As transliterated: "Oh, would some Power the giftee give us, to see ourselves as others see us."

We would recommend that maxim to the cadres of the two major political parties, both of which had indulged — and perhaps over-indulged — in some positive thinking on their own behalf last week. (See "Politics," p. 8.)

Consider, for instance, the appearance of Vice President Mike Pence as keynote speaker at the state Republican Party's annual Statesmen's banquet in Nashville. He and other prominent Republicans had a high time blowing their own horn, and who can begrudge them on an occasion like that?

Mike Pence - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Mike Pence

The problem was that, here and there, the GOP speakers over-spoke themselves in a way that was seriously misleading, and, worse, self-deceptive. Could the Vice President actually believe, as he stated to a rapturous audience, that President Trump is "restoring our traditional alliances" and that "the world is responding to new American leadership"?

With all due respect to the president (and how much is due is up for debate), and without our attempting to judge the long-range effect of his foreign policy, such as it is, even his closest associates acknowledge that Trump is viewed with wary suspicion by those aforementioned allies for his ever-fluctuating policy declarations, and with outright scorn for his decision to take the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords.  

Senator Lamar Alexander, as chairman of the Senate Health Committee, is taking the lead in breaking away from the hitherto closed ranks of Republican Obamacare decriers to hold hearings and entertain bipartisan negotiations on health care. Good for him. But to the crowd in Nashville, Alexander boasted of his prior votes with the rest of the GOP pack to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act and vowed, "I'm not going to rest until the 350,000 Tennesseans who buy their insurance on the free market are able to go into that market and buy insurance that they choose to buy and can afford." There's nothing in that statement that an exponent of the ACA couldn't also endorse.

Meanwhile, the five candidates for the chairmanship of the newly restored Shelby County Democratic Party spoke to some worthy goals in two Memphis forums last week. But almost all of them, including eventual chairman-elect Corey Strong, laid what seems to us misguided emphasis on a need to create the most forbidding litmus test possible for participation in party affairs — one that would almost guarantee, say, that anyone who had ever cast a Republican vote need not apply.

Really? Might as well put a sign on party headquarters: "Converts Not Wanted/Take Your Nasty Votes Away."

All we are recommending, to the true believers in either party, is that they step aside from their accustomed bromides and bloviations and make an effort to examine their preconceived notions with a neutral eye. They might actually learn something.


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