Friday, October 27, 2006

The Great Debate

I attended "The Great Debate," co-sponsored by KQKE-AM "The Quake," our local Air America affiliate, and KNEW-AM, a local talk-radio station on the conservative side of the political spectrum. Each side put forth four panelists, with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown as the moderator. There were some statements made by some of the right-wingers that made me cringe, that made me angry, or that made me laugh at the panelists, but I'd like to focus on some of the common ground I found. After all, I haven't completely abandoned my conservative upbringing!

Read more...The panelists for the left were Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow, and Johnny Steele; on the right, Jack Armstrong, Joe Getty, Jerry Doyle, and Rusty Humphries.

Both sides agreed that redistricting is urgently needed across the country. Three of the conservative panelists talked about having supported Prop 77, Governor Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure. The Third Path opposed Prop 77, but not because of any attachment to the fucked-up system we have now. I felt that Prop 77 was, first of all, slanted in a partisan manner, and secondly, insufficiently vetted by public hearings. California has some ludicrously gerrymandered districts, as do most states — with a few notable exceptions, like Iowa. Florida's 16th District has been in the news lately for other reasons, but it's either one of those districts that is only contiguous at low tide, or it's pretty damned close. Districts are drawn primarily on the basis of party affiliation in order to give the incumbents an easy ride to re-election year after year after year.

Both sides also agreed that the problem with people like Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, and William Jefferson isn't their party affiliation, but the fact that they're [alleged] crooks. More to the point, most members of Congress are more concerned with clinging to their own power than serving the public. Surprisingly, two of the conservative panelists spoke out strongly in favor of the Democratic surge in the 2006 elections, because it will punish the Republican Party for its betrayal of the principles of conservatism and of good government. One of the panelists, Jerry Doyle, whom you will recognize if you watched Babylon Five, ran for Congress in 2000 as a Republican, in what he describes as an effort to bring the party back to its core beliefs. As long as we have gerrymandered districts and a public that talks about dissatisfaction but yet keeps re-electing incumbents, we will continue to have bad government. As long as we allow ourselves to be distracted by peripheral issues, the politicians will avoid taking real stands on substantive issues.

Both sides agreed that the initiative system in California makes a mockery of the democratic process, because we have a system in which special interests are able to write initiatives which effectively bribe key allies and then saturate the airwaves with advertising to all but buy the election, knowing that they can sneak in a provision that will return their investment many times over. Since initiatives are straight yes-or-no votes, there's no opportunity to fine-tune a proposal and understand its ramifications.

Both sides agreed that the Republicans have a shameful track record on immigration, and that the Bush Administration has opposed any meaningful action — specifically aggressive fines against employers who hire illegal workers — out of loyalty to its large corporate backers. Both sides agreed that the massive deficit spending by the Republican Congress has been beyond irresponsible.

And then I returned home just in time for Real Time with Bill Maher, to round out my evening of politics.

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