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George Mitrovich Headshot

Is That All There Is?

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Tuesday is Election Day, which made me think of the late pop vocalist Peggy Lee's famous song, "Is That All There Is?"

Some think Armageddon awaits. Others, the Rapture.

I think it's neither, but when it's over, when the polls have closed and the ballots counted and The People have judged, it will be fair to ask, "Is that all there is?" Is this the best America can do?

I have been consistent in my view Democrats would hold Congress, both House and Senate. But clearly I have expressed a minority view. Even Mike Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate in '88, emailed to say, "You were right in '08, but this time, I'm afraid, you will be wrong."

Pundits and pollsters have joined the governor in saying Democrats are done. That, come Election Day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives and Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate will be reduced to opposition leaders. That John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and the Republicans will be the new majority.

If that happens, if the House and Senate go GOP, it will be seen as an indictment of President Obama and his administration.

Since his inauguration January of 2009 the most reactionary elements in our country have waged political warfare against our president, and as disgraceful as their campaign has been -- truly disgraceful -- it will be nothing compared to what will unfold post-election. If the outs become the ins they will take that as a mandate for an all out assault on our president and his party. And whatever has taken place before will be, in the simile of sports, as different as Pop Warner football and the NFL.

At the center of the ceaseless effort to bring down Obama is the Tea Party, which is not a political party, but rather a movement. It's an upwelling coalition of the disenchanted, disconnected, and disenfranchised.

Those who constitute this loose federation believe the president and the Democratic Congress is the enemy, but in that they are quite wrong.

In their rush to judgment against the president and Congress the Tea Party missed the real enemy of the American people: Wall Street and the new Robber Barons.

The Tea Party marched on Harry Reid's hometown of Searchlight, Nevada, when they should have marched on Goldman Sachs in New York City. They rallied with Glenn Beck at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, when they should rallied against Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina.

What I find astonishing in all of this is how so many Americans could have been duped into believing the president and Congress were trying to institute "socialism," when all the while the country was being stolen by Wall Street. Being stolen by a group of pinstripe suited thugs whose only agenda is amassing greater and greater wealth with little concern for America's future, save for their place atop the economic pyramid.

That said, on Election Day three questions should be asked of the American people: will you vote your hopes? your fears? or your hypocrisies?

Clearly, any democratic society is best served when people vote their hopes. When they say, in effect, "I know this isn't about me but my country and I want what's best for America."

But that future becomes problematical when people vote their fears, when they allow emotions to overwhelm reason. This may happen Tuesday.

Having witnessed the rise of the Tea Party and its followers one is struck by three things: age, race, and ignorance.

If you painted a vast tapestry of Tea Party adherents -- the famous tapestry in Bayeux, France, (which was also about conquest) comes to mind -- you would fill your canvas with aging and angry white people. You would paint them with their signs and banners, evidence of their consuming contempt for the political order. You would portray their full anti-government fury and you would illustrate their xenophobic racism.

And when you had painted your last figure you would have painted a picture many Americans believe represents the Tea Party.

Yes, that judgment is sweeping and thereby unfair to many Tea Party disciples, decent men and women who have organized and marched and contributed financially to establish their claim upon the body politic, men and women who are patriotic and love their families but are desperate for change, men and women who know the system is unfair men and women willing to stand in the public square and be counted.

Such political activism is no cause for criticism, but celebration.

Many see Sarah Palin, the former Alaskan governor and Senator John McCain's running mate in '08, as the leader of this insurgency, and for this she has paid a heavy personal price (even if, in the process, she enriched herself and her family).

Leading the charge against Palin have been many liberals who, in their overreaction, have dishonored themselves and betrayed liberalism's ideals by their ceaseless diatribes.

Their criticism would be justified if confined to Palin's silly statements and misrepresentation of facts and stunning ignorance of American history. Ignorance of the Constitution and the Supreme Court is more than fair and valid, but too many liberals have stepped way over the line in demonizing a woman who, in the beginning, wanted nothing more than to be involved in the affairs of her local community of Wasilla, Alaska.

It's okay to criticize Palin's oddball politics. It's not okay to dehumanize her just to score easy political points (are you paying attention, Keith Olbermann?).

Many Americans believe in civic involvement and give significantly of their time, talent and treasure. They believe participation is emblematic of what is best about our country. They do this not for personal gain, but because they believe it is their duty to contribute. We should give Sarah Palin that, however ridiculous we otherwise find her politics.

The great irony of the Tea Party, with its aging white population over 65, is their unrelenting anger at government. They accuse it of meddling in their health care, while ignoring their own dependence upon Medicare. They call President Obama a "Socialist," while forgetting without Social Security many among them would be insolvent. They hate Democrats and taxes, while favoring Republicans, whose presidents from Reagan to Bush I and II grew government and left office with the nation facing staggering budget deficits.

Tea Party followers appear oblivious to the fact that eight years of the Clinton presidency resulted with the United States having a budget surplus of $230 billion -- the largest one-year debt reduction in American history, while President W. Bush's presidency witnessed a $2.5 trillion increase in public debt (source, The Heritage Foundation). Then again, don't allow facts to compromise your prejudices.

It is hypocritical to rail against government programs design to assist people in need when you are a beneficiary of such programs. It is hypocritical to want the government out of health care when you are on Medicare (a health care system, by the way, administered at mere four percent cost versus the 18-25 percent in the private sector). It is hypocritical to charge Social Security with being on the verge of bankruptcy while banking their monthly checks. That hypocrisy grows exponentially if you don't need the money.

People loathe other people's hypocrisies while being markedly tolerant of their own, but the time has come to call them out on their double standards and falsehoods and ignorance. If Democrats go down Tuesday, the president and his party will bear a significant share of the blame for waiting too long to confront the other side. In the meantime, the Tea Party Express will roll on.

Can it be stopped? Maybe. Possibly. But only if the rest of us get off our collective asses and act. It is more effective to crusade than complain, to march than mumble.

If you want change, then join the damn parade!

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