It was only six years ago that two adults named Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took the stage at the University of Denver to respectfully argue the merits of big government versus small government. Unfortunately, at the time, most of us didn’t realize the beauty of what we were witnessing.
“If all Americans are getting opportunity, we’re all going to be better off. That doesn’t restrict people’s freedom. That enhances it.” This was the argument presented by Obama advocating for government intervention in the name of “fairness.”
Former Governor Romney responded, saying that “the role of government is not to become the economic player, picking winners and losers, telling people what kind of health treatment they can receive, taking over the health care system. The right answer is to say how do we make the private sector become more efficient and more effective?”
I’m a progressive-minded New York City public school teacher, but as a teacher of Social Studies, I loved hearing Romney’s defense of the conservative vision for government. I present philosophies of government to my middle-school students and allow them to discern which approach best meets the needs of the people.
The 2012 debate in Denver allowed me to present two clear ideologies to my students. Without my intervention, students were able to make thoughtful decisions about what they believed the role of government should be. Additionally, because of the rational arguments made by the two candidates, they had a strong understanding of the counter-philosophy and could articulate thoughtful, evidence-based rebuttals.
The 2016 presidential election season, and everything in politics that has followed has afforded me no opportunities to showcase the different visions once championed by liberals and conservatives to my students. The current occupant of the White House solely advocates for what benefits him personally, and everyone else falls into one of two camps: the camp that loves this new, unapologetic attack on the media and all who stand in Donald J. Trump’s way, and the camp that is horrified by it. Very little discourse on the cable news networks revolves around the content of what Obama and Romney once passionately and thoughtfully advocated for.
It’s a sad day for us as Americans. The two parties no longer offer us a vision for how government functions best; they simply defend the indefensible or spend all their time telling us how terrible the Commander in Chief is.
Didn’t these two parties once stand for something?
Senator Jeff Flake, don’t allow a cult of personality to take over your party without a fight. I need thoughtful conservatives like you to challenge the thinking of bleeding-heart liberals like me. Even if you lost this upcoming election because your party sold its ideological soul to avoid squaring off with Trump, you would go down as being on the right side of history. Wouldn’t that count for something?
Republicans, will you go quietly into the night as your party becomes the party of a man with no ideology? Democrats, will you allow yourselves to be nothing more than the anti-Trump party?
Certainly, there is legitimate concern that criminal actions were taken by the head of our nation’s Executive Branch and/or the people who report directly to him. I have great confidence, however, in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, and would prefer that he and his team, as a highly qualified non-partisan ensemble, continue their work alone. They are turning over every stone and ensuring that no detail goes overlooked. Democrats, unless his work is interfered with or unless he presents a damning report that Congress ignores, stay out! Now you are needed for other things: addressing income inequality, Puerto Rico’s recovery, and children being separated from their parents at the border.
Those who spend all day speaking about the president are not winning converts. At this point, the party that can articulate a people-centered vision that guides policy and action will go a long way towards securing seats in the upcoming mid-term elections.
Many Americans likely thought they were witnessing a “snoozer” of a debate back in 2012, but what we were actually experiencing was a dying art.
Let’s hope that the next time we have two educated and principled politicians respectfully jawing at each other over the role of government, we embrace it. Let us never allow a circus act to consume our time and energy again. The more politicians talk about Trump, the less they accomplish for those with the greatest needs. Let’s give our children, like my students, better leaders to emulate by being more demanding of our politicians.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.