My time in D.C. with the CCU and Centennial Institute Washington Week clan began with not the greatest of surprises – after driving 1,670 miles from Denver my car’s fuel pump failed just twenty miles short of our destination. Sparing you further details of the dilemma; I had a very interesting discussion with the driver of the tow truck, Kevin. Kevin made it very clear that he backed Obama for re-election. After unsuccessfully prying into his reasoning for such a stance, I began to lose hope for the discussion. Then Kevin introduced the idea of term limits for Congress. Kevin was highly in favor of a possible limit of service on the Hill for both chambers. This proposition is not foreign at CCU, Centennial Institute, or conservative dialogue in general, and provided a needed common ground between Kevin and myself on our short ride to the garage. This conversation would not be the last time that term limits would be raised during this trip.
On Friday, former Colorado Congressman and Senator, Hank Brown led CCU students on a tour of the Capitol. Senator Brown has extensive knowledge of the Capitol’s art, history, and symbolism. As a former Senator, Hank Brown provided CCU students a nearly unlimited access tour of both chambers. One very special place we found ourselves in was the House Appropriations Committee room. In this room, a portion of the fresco is composed of a painting of the Roman Senator and leader Cincinnatus being called from his plough to defend Rome. Senator Brown told us the significance of this lies not in the fact the Cincinnatus heard the call of duty and went to save Rome, but that he returned to his farm and denied the dictatorship of Rome after completing his service. This historical event was repeated in the life and service of George Washington. Both men loved their country, they left their home to serve and defend but returned when their service was no longer required, turning down dictatorial power.
These two men, Washington more commonly, are cited by those who argue for a Congressional term limit. We have seen a handful of men go to congress and serve valiantly at their posts as Senators of Congressman then return to their homes and occupations, imploring others to do the same. But are these self-imposing term limiters to be compared to Cincinnatus and Washington? To know this we must know the enemy in all three cases. In Cincinnatus’s time the enemy was the attacking Aequi forces. During Washington the threat was the British Empire. But today the greatest fight in front of a conservative congressman or woman is the fight to stop & reverse government growth and defend constitutional government. And while universally imposed term limits would theoretically aid that pursuit, Conservatives are not raising the memory of Cincinnatus or Washington when they leave the government in the hands of the entrenched spenders while patting themselves on the back for showing restraint. I applaud the honorable service of these Senators and Representatives, though I feel this is one area where leading by example hurts our cause. These strong conservative members should fight to the end of the battle; until term limits are instated, then leave their posts with dignity.
('76 Contributors) People seem resigned to America as a nation of fragmented political groups. We are separated—red state, blue state; Republican and Democrat, liberal against conservative; and so on. Americans have different viewpoints, and there is no way we can agree on issues, so goes the argument. Our once distinguishing motto, E Pluribus Unum,—out of many, one—seems to many outdated and unattainable.
Of course, people are not going to agree on matters ranging from birth control and religion in public places to our health care system and foreign policy. However, we ought to be able to agree upon a set of principles that are central to democratic thinking. Otherwise, our republic is in jeopardy.
Americans need to understand the United States as an idea sustained through debate. This debate is about the tension between core American values. To participate productively, citizens must develop and cultivate a democratic mind capable of debating two conflicting values while noting the essential merit of both. It doesn’t matter if a person is Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, capitalist or socialists, religious or non-believer, white, black, brown, or yellow.
The mark of an enlightened citizen is the ability to reconcile four sets of values: 1) law versus ethics, 2) private wealth versus common wealth, 3) freedom versus equality, and 4) unity versus diversity. These value pairs or tensions are inherently antagonistic, yet together hold the promise for a good society. Let’s briefly explain each value tension.
We describe the United States as a nation of laws and believe in the rule of law with the duty of citizens to abide by laws. At the same time, many American heroes have been lawbreakers. George Washington led a rebellion against his sovereign government; he was a traitor. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and violated a Supreme Court ruling to maintain the union of American states. Rosa Parks broke the law on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to advocate for civil rights. The list goes on. How will American citizens balance the law with ethics and advance the cause of liberty and justice in the twenty-first century?
America’s quest for private wealth has been a driving force behind the nation’s economic development. Yet, investment in the public infrastructure—schools and universities, streets and highways, electric grids, gas utilities, and even parks, hospitals, libraries, and museums—benefit private businesses. Maintaining the common wealth enhances private wealth, but without thriving industries, tax revenues would not be available to adequately support public goods and services. How will we revitalize the nation’s aging infrastructure of old bridges, frayed electrical systems, deteriorating schools, and inadequate levees and also build the new technological infrastructure that the 21st century demands?
The balance between freedom and equality is an essential fabric of American democracy. When conventional wisdom favors freedom, resources and money flow into the hands of the few. Left unattended the imbalance of wealth and power undermines democracy. In contrast, when government acts aggressively to redistribute wealth in the name of compassion and economic justice, personal liberty suffers.
With a growing disparity in wealth and income among its citizens, made greater by recent economic policies, are we at the dawn of a new “gilded age” in America with power shifting from the many to the few?
One of the finest achievements of the United States has been to create a stable, political culture made up of different languages, religious traditions, and races. But unity has been a persistent struggle. Typically, new immigrants to America over the years have faced discrimination, distrust, and abuse while occupying the bottom of the nation’s job chain. Economic diversity has always been evident, but the power of opportunity has been a unifying impulse for all. We have been a place for many religious denominations. And we have reveled in our regionalism as northerners, southerners, midwesterns, westerners and more while fiercely maintaining a loyal nationality.
Nowadays, we find people clustered into like-minded groups, as a result of the power of media combined with the decline in civic education. People of different persuasions increasingly sort themselves in isolated communities, viewing slanted cable TV, and listening to divisive talk radio. Can we retain the rich balance between unity and diversity that has been so important to us as a nation?
Taken to their logical ends, freedom leads to anarchy, equality to collectivism, diversity to tribalism, unity to totalitarianism, common wealth to communism, private wealth to plutocracy, law to fascism, and ethics to nihilism. Together, in a dynamic civil debate, they represent the ethos and aims of the United States.
Students would take a much greater interest in history and civics were it approached from the proposition that “representative democracy is developed and sustained through debate.” And citizens could more effectively address national issues viewing them through a prism of the value tensions.
This essay was jointly written by Richard D. Van Scotter, H. Michael Hartoonian, and William E. White. They are the authors of a new digital history and civics program for high school students developed by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia.
(Denver Post, Feb. 7) “Both ends of the political spectrum are disgusting,” said reader Bill Hoppe in an email after my Jan. 24 column on bipartisan irresponsibility. “It becomes increasingly difficult to believe in our legislature at any level.”
Deborah Kelly’s letter to the editor, published here on Jan. 31, was equally despairing: “I can’t afford health insurance, and after the Supreme Court decision regarding campaign financing, now I can’t afford to vote either.”
As we watch the messy process of self-government in a free society, disgust and discouragement may tempt us all. While the reaction is only human, the answer is not to drop out. Rather the American way is to pick an entry point and plunge into the process for our own good. Its openness is a marvel, too little understood.
Deborah should consider that she can’t afford not to vote. And maybe with her ability to turn a phrase, she could help fellow dissidents argue down the political ads big business and big labor can now run. Bill should realize that the responsible center is wherever he is. As for “believing in” our legislators, why? They aren’t deities, just people. Motivating them is possible for that very reason, though.
We the people employ every public official in the land. Through our votes we can hire and fire them all – even the judges, who can be removed directly by state retention elections or indirectly by federal impeachment. It happens seldom, only because citizens have been lulled into forgetting our own power. Does last year’s wave of protest signal that this year we’ll finally awaken? The red tide for Brown in blue Massachusetts suggests we may.
Many of the state senators and representatives I served with were easily motivated by reminders of the next election. In some cases, too easily – it was said of Rod the Republican and Don the Democrat (not their real names) that they quaked before a few phone slips from constituents as if it were a full-on lobbying campaign. More’s the pity if good folks like Bill and Deborah yield to discouragement instead of phoning in their concerns.
One of my greatest pleasures since leaving the legislature has been getting to know a constant stream of such patriots-in-the-making who come around seeking either entry into the process or encouragement to plunge. I should have one of those “Doctor Is In” signs like Lucy in the comics. Her nickel fee wasn’t nearly as enriching as the satisfaction this over-the-hill politico gets from nurturing the new crop.
Businessman Tom wanted an introduction to tea-party leaders, which I made – along with arrangements for him to help a congressional candidate. Retired teacher Mel brought an inspirational article about the Constitution that we’ll place with a local blog. Consultant Claire had ideas for small-business activism but no audience; she’s now on the GOP breakfast circuit. Undergrad Kim and executive Joan both aspired to the foreign service, for which I tried to give age-appropriate counsel.
Candidates also come knocking, of course, and doing my bit for them feels good. But it’s the “wanna make a difference” private citizens who inspire me most. If some aim awfully high – such as Cliff from church with his health care agenda, or lawyer Mike with his plan for drafting the next president – all partake of the minuteman spirit that is America at its best. None are bogged in despair.
My friend Francisco, an American by choice and an engineer turned artist in midlife, quotes something Van Gogh wrote when all seemed hopeless: “I shall get over it, I shall pick up my pencil, and I shall draw again.” Our hope for 2010 comes not from the White House, but from citizens of all parties more ready than ever to pick up that pencil and participate.
('76 Contributor) A personal viewpoint is hereby submitted by William Dent Sterrett III, this date February 6, 2010. In honor of the Founding Fathers and the United States Constitution, and as a proud member of the Posterity, so eloquently referenced in our Constitution (with its intent to secure "the blessings of liberty" to this generation as well as the framers' own generation), I hereby share my earnest and energized thoughts regarding our great and thriving nation. This position statement is presented for consideration, deliberation, and response.
We the Posterity…steadfastly believing in the innate rights and blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, do hereby state our goals and principles to better promote the common good for all law abiding citizens.
We the Posterity…further proclaim our resolve for compassionate, dignified, and constructive relationships that emphasize the general welfare.
We the Posterity… embrace and celebrate the collective spirit, wisdom, and resourcefulness of a unified and responsible national community.
We the undersigned will exercise our voting rights and responsibilities with due diligence while seeking out candidates for public office who clearly and inspiringly address the following position statements:
1. The overwhelming majority of our population entails law abiding citizenship. It is imperative that leadership exercise bold vision centered on outcomes that provide for the common good while addressing the vital issues that affect our sovereignty and security. The United States of America, as the premier governing nation, must continue to be universally viewed as a highly respected and representative governing body that will protect her own interests and come to the aid of other lawful nations, especially in times of crisis. The United States of America must be one of the leaders in modeling and holding others accountable to standards that disavow self-serving ambitions at the expense of universal law, ego-thumping rhetoric, arrogance, and exaggerated attempts for personal or national attention. Our nation must remain strong in rhetoric and military readiness.
2. The 911 Commission, the Iraq Study Group, and other distinguished bipartisan groups formed for the common good should convene regularly with diverse and fluid membership. The on-going findings and recommendations should be made public and fully honored with deliberate resolve for a better United States of America. The People should also hold the three branches of government accountable for a conscious awareness and appropriate actions regarding the recommendations of these commissions and study groups. The specific strategies recommended by the 911 Commission, for example, include a balanced use of: military action, diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense. It is important to note that the magnitude and profound meaning that results from a comprehensive product of considered thought, reflection, and humble agreement among a representative group of the Posterity should not ever be diminished or ridiculed because of personal agendas or biases. 3. Immigration reform should be implemented immediately based on the best collaborative work of the executive and legislative branches. It is entirely reasonable to expect sooner, rather than later, a comprehensive package of provisions that reflect a society dedicated to high ideals. Resourceful and informed individuals should be consulted with regard to the market for immigration, all the pertinent aspects of legal entry into our country, and the ramifications of no clear law. Mean-spirited comments and actions that presume to place blame serve no useful purpose.
4. The United States of America has historically and dramatically been a party to resolving problems and crises throughout the world. The United States of America must continue with pragmatic leadership while sharing the high ideals of a republic firmly grounded in democracy and freedom. The United States of America must energetically and rightfully project a positive image and command honored recognition while advocating and committing to assist and facilitate other countries with their needs particularly with regard to poverty. This entails deliberate action regarding engaged, visible, and reportable diplomacy.
5. Candidates for public office should articulate clear and sensible strategies concerning law enforcement, budget practices, justice, public education policies, health care, social security, and purposeful living by all citizens. Candidates should also demonstrate fair and honorable campaign practices.
6. Energy policies that recognize the underlying economic, political, and power-orientation problems, as well as the not too distant shortage potentials with current energy sources, should be aggressively studied. Measured and informed proposals regarding new forms of energy and strategies should be presented for public consideration within a reasonable timeline. Our citizenship is blessed with creative minds and entrepreneurs who have solid and practical ideas and solutions with regard to our escalating demands. They should be sought out, welcomed, and engaged in active problem solving.
7. Health care is the responsibility of all. Why would an individual not have some kind of health care plan? Some can easily address this basic necessity. Others have pretty decent coverage, albeit at hefty expense. And others, of course, do not possess the resources for any kind of coverage. When in dire need, they almost always will be treated, but at whose expense? The People. And that is fine, but reality dictates that there must be a better way to conduct the business of health care. So, it is time for the great and passionate experts to come together and get this down on paper. Let us develop a plan where everything is laid out, and we clearly state how we will pay for a better plan.And, as always, that plan will evolve into a better one as the years go by. That’s just the American way.
There will always be evolving measures for the betterment of ourselves and our Posterity.
Reference the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, September 17, 1787:
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The collective wisdom of the People is of paramount importance. We must continue to step forward and clearly speak as one to promote the honorable and rational aspirations of our great nation. Our country was founded through courage, high energy, and passionate convictions. We, the Posterity, must seek out leaders who honorably, conscientiously, and properly serve the People and the Constitution of the United States of America. We, the Posterity, are charged with carrying on the work of our Founding Fathers.
We are the Posterity. How will we follow through? How will we carry on? What is our role in a better United States of America and world community?
Our noble work continues.
Bill Sterrett of Golden, Colorado, retired in 2003 as a master teacher in history and other subjects after 30 years with Jefferson County Public Schools.
(Denver Post, Dec. 27) Remember those times when we thought the world had changed, but it hadn’t? Eight years ago after jihadists attacked the US homeland, and again last year after America elected its first black president, the talk of “forever different” was soon quieted by life’s old patterns. The world does not change, because human nature does not.
But an event that did change the world occurred 2000 years ago in the stable at Bethlehem. Religious differences aside, the earthquake of Jesus’ coming is historical fact. The idea of all persons created equal, all endowed with dignity and liberty, arrived with him and has gained steadily ever since. This makes our seasonal celebrations, both sacred and secular, most fitting.
Among them is the parlor game of tallying up who made a difference in the old year, amid the gusts of forgettable news and fleeting celebrity. In 2009 the very word “change” devolved from a mantra into a punchline. Yet certain individuals had an impact that deserves recognition as the calendar turns. Editors at Time and Sports Illustrated have crowned their national honorees. On behalf of Rocky Mountain conservatives, here’s my award for Coloradan of the Year.
Who would you choose? And by what yardstick would you decide? I took as jurors Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Grant, spiritual fathers under whose wise and brave influence our state was born. We looked for distinguished contributions by fellow citizens in keeping Colorado true to its heritage. The field was broad and bipartisan.
This was the year that Mike Coffman, Iraq veteran twice over, took his war-fighting savvy to Congress. Ken Salazar, son of the San Luis Valley, became steward of all the nation’s public lands. Douglas Bruce left public office but remained a potent force for limited government through his TABOR legacy. Peter Groff, descendant of slaves, took charge of faith-based programs for schoolkids across the country.
None of them, however, made our top-10 finalists. Nor did Jim Tracy, the managerial wizard who electrified Rockies fans, or Michael Bennet, the education wizard who vaulted into the Senate. Nor did leftist campaign financier Tim Gill or Islamist plotter Najibullah Zazi – though jurors sent them backhanded thanks for puncturing the complacency of many.
As finalists for 2009, the jury salutes Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute, laughing lancer of liberty; Joe Blake of Colorado State, common-sense businessman turned university president; and Mayor Hickenlooper along with Congressman Salazar, two solid Johns who remind us not all Democrats are loony liberals.
Plus Philip Anschutz, philanthropist, media mogul, and rising GOP rainmaker; Vincent Carroll, senior pundit of the right at the old Rocky and now here at the Post; Dick Wadhams, quarterback of the state’s impending Republican revival; James Dobson, radio hall-of-famer and hero of the American family; and Jane Norton, new voice of women conservatives in the West.
But last and loudest, as Coloradan of the Year, we applaud Archbishop Charles Chaput. He did the state proud as a leading signer of the Manhattan Declaration on sanctity of life, dignity of marriage, and defense of religious liberty. His book “Render unto Caesar” is a timely guide to principled citizenship in a nation under God. Four centuries of Americans who pushed westward from the Old World’s exhaustion to the New World’s promise would recognize in Chaput a friend to their souls.
I’m not a Catholic, and some of my ghostly jurors were but hesitant Christians; yet no matter. The good archbishop models self-government and self-giving for Coloradans of all faiths. Tempted to believe we live by bread and circuses rather than by truth and love, our state is continually reminded otherwise by this fearless prelate. Soldier of civilization, man of backbone, Charles Chaput will live in grateful memory many Christmases from now.
On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, having met for four long, hot, and humid summer months in Philadelphia, had finally completed their task. On that day, they lined up and signed their names to the completed document.
The debates had often been heated and the disagreements significant, concerning the powers of the national government, the representation of the states, and, of course, slavery. Yet in the end, the final version was a Constitution that has endured for over 221 years. It is the longest surviving, working constitution in the world today.
The Constitution is indeed worthy of respect and honor because of its long survival. But survival of a regime and survival of a constitution is not good in and of itself; just as survival of a tradition isn’t good for its own sake. The perpetuation of a tradition or a Constitution must be judged on what it is, not simply on its endurance. We can all think of many examples of governments around the world that are surviving, but that we (as well as its citizens) would certainly prefer to see fail.
Abraham Lincoln delivered the eulogy for a man he admired greatly: Henry Clay. Clay was an early leader of the Whig party, to which Lincoln was a member before the Republican Party emerged. In his eulogy, Lincoln said of Clay: “He loved his country partly because it was his own country, and mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity, and glory, because he saw in such the advancement, prosperity, and glory of human liberty, human right, and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen, partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that free men could be prosperous.”
Henry Clay was patriotic toward his country. But his patriotism was not a blind faith loyalty based simply on the fact that he resided here. It was a loyalty to both the principles of the founding and the Constitution crafted from those principles. Lincoln shared this loyalty and dedicated his presidency to the preservation of the Union and its Constitution. However, Lincoln would have been the first to admit that had the Union not been worth preserving (because of what it was about), it certainly wouldn’t have been worth the loss of over 600,000 lives in the Civil War in order to preserve it. So what was and is so significant about our Constitution that Lincoln was convinced that waging a lengthy war at the cost of so many lives was indeed worthwhile.
When we discuss the significance of the struggle to preserve the Constitution, we need to be clear on two things: first, what exactly are we preserving; and second, what is the nature of the attack that is being made against it.
Be clear, our Constitution is under attack. The center of the attack is made against the two things Lincoln thought were so important to save: the Constitution and the concept of the “rule of law” that is essential to the Constitution’s preservation. The method of attack is two-pronged. The first is to debunk the text and original meaning of the Constitution. The second line of attack argues that we can re-interpret the text whenever we deem it necessary and when it suits our purposes.
Today there are two primary and competing schools of thought when it comes to Constitutional interpretation. The first school is described well by former United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.
In a speech delivered at Georgetown University in 1985, Brennan claimed that “the genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs.” What Brennan was in fact saying was that the text of the Constitution really has no meaning, or a least no meaning other than what we happen to decide to give it today, regardless of whether our modern interpretation has any resemblance to the intent of its authors. This perspective is also unconcerned as to whether or not our interpretation will be completely different in 50 years, 20 years, 1 year, or even tomorrow. What Brennan describes is a school of constitutional interpretation that favors a “living” or “evolving” constitution. The meaning of the text is no more than what we choose to give it, and we grant ourselves great latitude to change our interpretation any time public opinion has changed.
It is this school of interpretation that has given us the remarkable constitutional “reasoning” in several recent cases of, “the evolving standards of decency.” This argument has been put forth most notably in recent capital punishment cases. To see how this works, considering two recent cases will suffice. In 1989 the Supreme Court concluded that it was constitutional to execute individuals with low I.Q.s. The majority concluded this because there did not exist at the time a consensus among the states as to whether or not such practice would offend the 8th Amendment. However, just a few years later in 2002, the Supreme Court concluded that we could no longer continue this practice. Why? Because of the “evolving standards of decency.” According to this interpretation of the Constitution, the 8th Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment is completely dependent upon public opinion! Thus the rightness or wrongness is not determined by the text of the constitution, the principles behind it, or the intent of its authors. Rather, it is simply the adaptive interpretation as exhibited through public opinion. This understanding assumes that constitutional interpretation is simply majority will and that this will determines the rightness or wrongness of something. Of course, if we follow this argument to its logical conclusion, the institution of slavery was right, as long as it had popular support!
The competing school of interpretation argues that rather than having a living and evolving meaning, the Constitution has an “original intent”, and that American jurisprudence is based upon it. With this understanding, our application of the laws, and interpretation of the Constitution is bound by the intentions of those who ratified it. Obviously, this interpretation is in stark contrast to the constitution of Brennan that has no “static meaning”, and is forever adaptable.
If we view our Constitution as meaning only what we want it to mean, when we want it to mean that, we are violating the principles of rule of law and constitutionalism. Rule of law is based upon the need to have consistency of law, equal treatment of the law and everyone being “under” the law. Central to the need for consistency of law is that the law, and more importantly, the Constitution from which our laws are crafted, has a sense of permanence that is not easily altered. I am, of course, not making the argument that our Constitution is perfect, nor am I saying that improvements to it are impossible. The point is that there is a proper and deliberate method of changing the Constitution through amendments. The answer to changing the Constitution is not to have five Supreme Court justices simply redefine the terms for us, nor for we as the citizens of the Constitution to be disinterested or apathetic and idly watch as infringements on our Constitution take place through executive and legislative fiat.
Lincoln warned us that the greatest threat to the Union would not come from an outside force, but instead, from within. In his famous Lyceum Address, he stated: “At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”
The title of Lincoln’s Lyceum address was: “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” His audience was somewhat stunned that he would question the survival of the Union and her constitution. When he delivered his speech in 1838, most of his audience had concluded that the country was a well-oiled machine with no chance of faltering. Of course, it was not long after that speech that the Union did face its crisis of survival. Lincoln believed that the seeds of the movement toward secession, when the South refused to accept the results of the constitutionally held election of 1860, were sown decades earlier, when a growing mindset of disobedience to law and a weakening of the loyalty to the Constitution was growing.
My point is not to be an alarmist. Rather, it is to have us return to Lincoln’s concern for the nation: does she reverently hold to the hard work laid out by the founding fathers, the principles of the Declaration, and the Constitution created in order to establish a More Perfect Union? Failing that devotion, a breakdown of constitutionalism and rule of law are certain to take place.
Editor: You thought blogging was inherently overheated? This coolly reasoned piece asks for our best as deliberative citizens sifting for truth in the health care melee. Scott Starin is Boulder County Republican chairman, a former candidate for Congress, and an aerospace engineer.
The Art of Persuasion
In his book, "Rhetoric," Aristotle describes three fundamental methods of persuasion. The first method is the reasoned approach. Through logic, reason and historical reference, the persuader builds his argument upon facts and acumen. The second approach is the establishment of expertise. The arguer`s reputation precedes her argument and people are persuaded by the stature of the person. The third approach to the art of persuasion is political rhetoric. Political rhetoric plays on people`s emotions and usually has little to do with logic and reason and more on stirring up passions. This method is, unfortunately, most common in today`s political discourse. In considering the arguments on the current health care debate, it is interesting to listen to those trying to persuade and to decide which of these methods they are employing.
Undoubtedly, there has been political rhetoric on both sides of the debate. Examples of political rhetoric include quoting misleading or exaggerated statistics as justification for radical reform. Often these arguments do not indicate how the current legislation will address systemic problems in the healthcare industry. When you hear about disturbing statistics without tangible solutions, that is political rhetoric. On the other side there have been melodramatic descriptions of death panels or forced inclusion into public options. While there are legitimate concerns about the intent and purpose of the wording of legislation and where the interpretation may lead, people have over-stated the consequences of many provisions. When you hear about extreme repercussions without citation of specific code provision, you are listening to political rhetoric.
I have viewed the seven Colorado House Representatives` and two Colorado Senators` Web sites with an eye toward the type of persuasion they use to present their positions. Congressman Jared Polis` overview on healthcare makes an impassioned plea, stating "... Americans have struggled (with) high costs, inferior care, or no care at all. We must not be a nation where helpless children cannot receive necessary medicine or visit their doctors for routine check-ups because it`s too expensive." Can you feel the emotional tug here? Congressman Polis is a strong proponent of a single-payer system, citing reduced overhead rates as justification. Lacking in his argument, however, are examples of countries where the proposed reforms provide superior care and value compared to our current structure. To his credit, Congressman Polis` Web site does have the text of the bill as well as section-by-section analysis, as written by the majority committees. For completeness, minority summaries are highly recommended reading.
I believe that proponents of healthcare reform, as proposed in H.R. 3200, are losing support from the American people, not because of embellished claims of consequences (although that certainly is a component), but rather citizens are becoming more informed about the provisions of the legislation and the projected costs of these new entitlements. People realize that without massive governmental reforms these revolutionary changes to our healthcare system cannot be sustained in an economically viable fashion. Also, in my opinion, proponents of this healthcare reform are not providing adequate explanations of how this legislation will achieve the promises being made.
In today`s 24-hour media cycle, sound-bite society, it is difficult to present a reasoned argument to the American people on any subject, let alone one as complex and far-reaching as healthcare reform. Reasoned debate and critical thought are required to make meaningful decisions that lead to effective legislation. Those who argue that we must make these radical changes quickly do themselves and their constituents a great disservice. As the debate continues on, listen to those presenting their arguments. Without regard for your own preferences, decide whether the information presented is reasoned thought or political rhetoric.
John Calvin, one of the giants of Christian history, was born 500 years ago this month: July 10, 1509, to be exact. To mark the half-millennium of his enduring influence, Pastor Don Sweeting of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church -- and a trustee of Colorado Christian University -- wrote a three-part tribute on his blog.
Under the overall title of CELEBRATING THE LEGACY OF JOHN CALVIN, you'll find Sweeting's perspective on...
Part 1 Calvin as Pastor, Preacher, Reformer, Church Planter
Part 2 Calvin as Influencer of Culture, Government, Economics, and Education
Part 3 Calvin as Theologian—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
These are wonderful articles. I loved them, and among Don Sweeting's words that jumped off the page was the observation that “no human can be trusted with absolute power.” Human experience has conclusively proven this to be true.
Personally, I would go even further – it is the lesson of history that no person nor any group can safely be trusted with a large degree of power over their fellow human beings, especially for any extended period of time.
Madison, among others, understood this very well. So did almost all of the nation’s early leaders, particularly Washington who said something to the effect that government is not reason nor is it eloquence, rather it is force, and like fire, a dangerous servant and fearful master.
We believe that one of God’s purposes for CCU is to raise up a generation of citizens who share Washington and Madison’s aversion to big government.
On Sunday, May 31, Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas was killed as he was walking into his church. Dr. Tiller was perhaps one of the most controversial practitioners of abortion in the United States. He repeatedly and defiantly performed late term abortions at the Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita, where he worked.
Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, one of our nation’s strongest and most eloquent opponents of abortion, wrote the following upon learning of Tiller’s killing:
Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing. The evil of this action is in no way diminished by the blood George Tiller had on his own hands. No private individual had the right to execute judgment against him. We are a nation of laws. Lawless violence breeds only more lawless violence.
The point made by Professor George is identical to the concern expressed by Abraham Lincoln in his Lyceum Address of 1838. The title of Lincoln’s speech was “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” Lincoln addressed his concern about a growing attitude of lawlessness as exhibited by increasing instances of public vigilantism. In what he described as an ill omen, Lincoln explained the circumstance:
I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny.
Lincoln referenced some of the instances of lawlessness: the hanging of gamblers in Vicksburg, Mississippi and the burning to death of a black man in St. Louis who had committed murder. Lincoln recognized his audience’s skepticism and whether there was in fact any great loss to society, now rid of these people, and what difference it made to the larger matter, the topic of Lincoln’s address:
But you are, perhaps, ready to ask, "What has this to do with the perpetuation of our political institutions?" I answer, it has much to do with it. Its direct consequences are, comparatively speaking, but a small evil; and much of its danger consists, in the proneness of our minds, to regard its direct, as its only consequences.
So perhaps society was better off having fewer gamblers. And wouldn’t the man who had committed murder ultimately have been executed had he been put on trial and been found guilty? Didn’t the mob simply expedite the inevitable?
This was not, according to Lincoln, a justification for lawlessness. For a spirit of lawlessness begets a greater spirit of lawlessness. For “the lawless in spirit, are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint, but dread of punishment, they thus become, absolutely unrestrained.”
So what did Lincoln prescribe in order to prevent our degeneracy into lawlessness?
Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; -- let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty.
Many opponents of abortion may be tempted to conclude (like the mob in Vicksburg or the vigilantes in St. Louis) that society is better off with one fewer abortionist. But our society, based upon the Rule of Law, does not permit citizens seeking individual vengeance. The temptation to find a good that justifies murder is the same temptation of lawlessness that so worried Lincoln.
The means of ending abortion in the United States are not by murdering abortionists. They are by winning the minds of the American public through persuasion and prayer, and by legislating through proper means the end of state-sanctioned abortion. Tiller did indeed have blood on his hands, but the evil of his murder is in no way diminished by that fact.
(Denver Post, May 24) Memorial Day, honoring America’s war dead, originated in 1868 after the horrific bloodbath that saved the Union and freed the African race. From Sumter to Appomattox, half a million whites lost their lives so that 4 million blacks might have their liberty.
What else was bought with all that blood? Freedom of thought and speech and assembly, for one thing. In defeating the slave power, Americans also defeated the thought police who had tried to criminalize black literacy and silence abolitionist voices. The First Amendment was reaffirmed with passage of the Civil War amendments.
Unfortunately the tyrannous impulse never dies. It must be constantly fought. There are always those who prefer censorship to debate. Sometimes they use labels. Criticize Obama and you’re a racist. Warn about illegal immigration and you’re a bigot. Sometimes they use laws. Diana DeGette muzzled free speech outside abortion clinics. Now the FCC has talk radio in its sights.
But this is not a policy piece about the Fairness Doctrine and all its sneaky surrogates, community content, minority ownership rules, the performance tax, or whatever else. Rather it’s a Memorial Day meditation on the attitudes and habits that keep a free society free.
First consider how “talk radio” became a sneer label in itself, when we should be cherishing it as today’s successor to the Committees of Correspondence from 1775. It’s a glorious thing, this unruly community of a host with his listeners, callers, guests, and sponsors, sounding off about what’s wrong and how to fix it. What a wimpout for liberals, uncompetitive in the medium, to deem it unfit company, infra dig.
Rush Limbaugh can settle his own score with Colin Powell; indeed the extra notoriety is money in the bank for El Rushbo. I’m more interested in local radio’s contribution to the open process of self-government here in Colorado. We’ve had one daily paper fold and another on the watch list. We’re getting the blue snow job from billionaires Tim Gill and George Soros. We need more ferment, not less, on the airwaves.
All Coloradans are better off when Peter Boyles of KHOW calls in the cavalry for that soldier with the impounded car, or when Mike Rosen of KOA champions that teen with the America-hating teacher. It’s good for the big, arrogant, impersonal institutions to get taken down a peg. (And if my show from the right on 710 and Jay Marvin’s from the left on 760 don’t often break news, we too enrich the free-speech mix.)
As for the attitudes that sustain a free society, Thomas Krannawitter of the Claremont Institute cites four indispensable ones. His checklist for citizens includes self-assertion to resist despotism, self-restraint for civil order, self-reliance to prevent dependency, and civic knowledge to unlock participation. I’ll argue the donnybrook that is talk radio stimulates all four.
“Your views count, you have a voice, you can make a difference, and if you don’t nobody will.” That’s our encouragement to the oft-ignored Jim and Jane Average from every broadcaster who sits down to the microphone, opens the phones, and dives into the issues. The packaging differs widely, from the combative Jon Caldara to the calming Dan Caplis, but the empowering message is consistent. Where’s the downside?
Unless you fear the messiness of democracy, there is none. Talk radio undeniably broadens civic knowledge. It fosters self-assertive, self-reliant individualism. Its moral fervor teaches self-restraint. Think of it as citizenship boot camp.
Web activism is potent, but talk radio with the spoken word and hearing ear in real time is even more so. Sen. Udall, Rep. Markey, Gov. Ritter, Mayor Hickenlooper, Benson of CU and Kiley of Coors may not return YOUR call, but when 850 the Blowtorch speaks, they listen. Politicos naturally want to turn down the volume. We shouldn’t let them.