The Occupy movement is a childish tantrum that is taking on Brownshirt overtones, says John Andrews in the November round of Head On TV debates. Wrong, replies Susan Barnes–Gelt: it’s an authentic protest widely echoing that famous movie line, “Mad as hell.” John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over the off–year election results, the presidential race, and the decline of newspapers. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for November:
1. THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT
Susan: In Paddy Chayefsky’s movie, Network, Peter Finch’s character yells, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” galvanizing the nation. That’s the Occupy Movement, a diverse group fed up with the narcissism and double–speak of the status quo. Elites ignore this message at their own risk.
John: America offers more freedom, more opportunity, more generosity, more openness, more participation, more creativity, more tolerance, and more upward mobility than any other nation on earth, and it offers those things to everyone, excluding no one. The Occupy protesters aren’t making a political statement, they’re throwing a childish tantrum.
Susan: The Constitutional government of the United States includes lofty principles and practices. On the other hand, when a handful of influence peddlers, plutocrats and special interests combine with mean–spirited, jingoistic extremists to create public policy, the people should speak out and leadership better listen.
John: The extremists in this picture are not our democratically–elected policymakers. They are the radical leftists and street thugs of Occupy Wall Street and all its copycats. This growing menace is similar to the Brownshirts who destabilized Germany in the early ‘30s, and equally purposeful. ACORN organized it to help Obama.
2. ON & ON IN RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
John: In starting the presidential campaign way, way early, Republicans are bleeding their finances and bruising each other in a way that can only delight the Democrats. At least the eventual nominee will be battle–hardened—and our side is going to need that, because Obama will have to go negative to win.
Susan: Battle hardened is one way to assess the current melee among Repub’s. I’d say the nominee will be in intensive care, on life support. $20+Mil in flip/flop ads against Romney will deplete his oxygen. And the rest of the field? Even IV miracle infusions won’t work.
John: After such a four disappointing years, Obama can’t run again on hope and change. His only chance this time is fear and loathing. Democrats will try to scare us away from Republican policies and disgust us with dirt on the GOP nominee. 2012 will be ugly, but I predict Barack is done.
Susan: Nothing can’t beat an incumbent. The only Republican with a shot at beating Obama is John Huntsman. He’s a smart, reasonable and moderate guy. Good for Dems that your party is lost in la la land, and will nominate a wing nut or flip flopper instead.
3. DOES NEWSPAPERS’ DECLINE DAMAGE DEMOCRACY?
John: Thomas Jefferson said a free society could get along better without government than without newspapers. The lifeblood of liberty is open debate, unfettered information, not politicians and laws and spending. These days the latter are madly increasing while newspapers are dying. Can democratic institutions survive in a Facebook nation?
Susan: A more pointed question is whether local and state government will survive without quality local coverage? Daily oversight of city halls, school boards and the state capitol are critical to public awareness. Spin machines and biased blogs have picked up where journalism’s failed. That’s a problem.
John: The Rocky is gone and the Denver Post gets thinner all the time. CU closed its journalism school. Commercial TV does some hard reporting, but a lot of frothy infotainment. Public channels like CPT provide good analysis but little firsthand coverage. What becomes of the media’s watchdog function to restrain government?
Susan: Sadly the local daily newspaper is going the way of the pay phone. Until the industry figures out how to attract and monetize the web, every interest from greedy corporations, K–Street lobbyists and corrupt elected’s will further inflame public distrust.
4. WHAT VOTERS SAID ON TAXES
Susan: With the exception of a couple local open space and public amenity approvals, tax proposals tanked this November. Even liberal Denver said NO! to statewide proposal to fund public education. Voters don’t trust government and won’t pay higher taxes unless they’re 100% sure the money is well spent. BIG trouble ahead for the Regional Transportation District.
John: Thank goodness for TABOR with its requirement for the spending lobby to ask permission before digging deeper into our pockets. So many families with paychecks gone or shrinking in this endless Obama recession are not about to approve a price increase from government. Raise taxes next year for light rail? No way.
Susan: RTD will need a complete overhaul—from senior management on down and out. Voters might support a transit initiative if they believed RTD’s board, leadership and consultants were credible. Taxpayers have lost faith in their institutions. Political and civic leaders better pay attention.
John: Voters sent a message that the political class in Denver and Washington should pay attention to. “Do it for the children,” a tax–increase pitch that seldom fails, fell flat. In defeating Prop 103 by almost 2 to 1, Coloradans told the legislature and Congress, “It’s the spending, stupid.”
5. WHAT VOTERS SAID ON SCHOOL BOARDS
Susan: In Denver, only school board incumbent Arturo Jiminez eked out a win over a slate of three reform candidates. Backed by big dollars from a few individuals, the election was more heat than light. Replacing Teresa Peña with Happy Haynes is a trade up and a new board chair could hold promise.
John: Teachers are great, but teacher unions are a negative force, and voters are realizing that. The union in Denver failed to recall Nate Easley earlier and now failed to take over the school board. In Douglas County they lost a referendum on vouchers. Only in Jeffco did the union diehards prevail.
Susan: Ah that it were so simple. Fixing public ed will take more than demonizing unions and deifying vouchers. Accountability from top to bottom is part of the answer. Longer school years and days, better–trained teachers, engaged families and improved instructional materials are important too.
John: Eighty percent of the people tell pollsters America is in decline. One symptom is the generation–long slump in learning performance while dollars per student were doubling. Selfish unions, distant bureaucrats, and leftist ideology have ruined our public schools. If you want proof, see the documentary film, “Waiting for Superman.”