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The Contrarian: Why Labels Are Good for Us

12/15/2010 10:41 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pardon me, but I need to rant a bit.

Sarah Palin and "refudiate."
Blog posts with obvious misspellings.
Newspaper articles poorly written.
Politics without core principles.
Economic policies that defy rational explanation.
Science and mathematics incompetency.
Conflation of bipartisanship with nonpartisanship.

What are they teaching people in these schools?

We used to believe that we needed to send to Washington the Best and the Brightest, the Thinkers, those who have experience in the Big Issues and public service, or at least who have studied and have some demonstrable knowledge and wisdom that would serve well in governing.

Beginning with Bush, we elected a person who was as ignorant as the rest of the people, poor to mediocre in their grades, one who had failed in business more than once, and whose greatest delight to the public was the verbal gaffes he so prolifically produced.

Yes, people misspell words. People misstate things. Sometimes the bloopers are hilarious, but in a figure of public prominence, the hilarity always lowers the respect they would otherwise have. People remember the mistakes.

So we have a half-term governor as the political darling of the right. The Tea Party revels in their down-home prejudice and ignorance. Intelligence is reviled. And the nation expects dumbed-down explanations that will make them feel like experts when thinking about complex subjects like economics and foreign policy. Sarah Palin sees Russia from her house. She can't describe foreign or domestic policy with any kind of specificity. And she is our kind of leader! We want to elect people who are as ignorant as we are, and as a result we get the kind of government we deserve -- inept, inequitable, and incompetent. In the case of Sarah Palin, half term and half... well, you know what I mean.

The latest drive towards political incompetence is found in the "No Labels" push. Really. "No Labels" is promoted as a good thing, the ability to "reach across the aisle" and cooperate, without name-calling. "Problem-solving" is valued over "positions" and partisanship is considered a bad thing.

What? You don't agree with me? You think that partisanship is bad? That cooperation is good?

Well, I will definitely agree that an overabundance of partisanship, as shown by the Republicans these last two years, is indeed a bad thing. They are the "party of no" for good reason.

But labels have their uses, specifically description and categorization. You think that all ideas are created equal? Try this: take all of your canned goods in the pantry and remove the labels from everything. Now all cans are created equal!

Now try to make dinner.

Begin to get the picture? Not all food is created equal. Nor are all ideas. Not all ideas deserve respect. Without the ability to put a label on an idea, one cannot describe it, compare it to other ideas, or predict what the outcome will be. By making "No Labels" the politically-correct move, one cannot demonstrate that the otherwise lovely idea of no taxes at all is a bone-headed move which will drive the government into bankruptcy.

How about another example. Remember, no labels! So you fill the kerosene heater with gasoline. After all, it is fuel, it will heat the room, and it is cheaper. Who doesn't like to save money?

Don't tell me that gasoline will be too hot, melt the heater, and cause a house fire. You are just being alarmist. So what if it has happened every time. You are a labeler and just trying to destroy a good idea. At least meet me across the aisle and do half kerosene and half gasoline.

"No Labels" is ultimately destructive because it squelches debate and it suppresses the truth in the name of compromise, congeniality, and cooperation. Like gasoline in a kerosene heater, it will burn the house down with destructive ideas set loose without critical evaluation and labeling.

Mind you, the "No Labels" rule will be pushed ruthlessly on the liberals and progressives, who will meekly accept the requirement to be temperate in their speech. The conservatives and Tea Partiers (who gave themselves the label, mind you!) will go merrily on their way misapplying labels and lying to the American people about their motivations and actions.

"No Labels" is a one-way political weapon. Despite the baldfaced lies the Republicans have told, the Democrats have not ever forced through legislation without compromises with Republicans. The Health Care Bill was full of compromises Republicans insisted on, with a few others Obama and the Democrats just gave them. Even then, the Republicans refused to vote for it, so they could pretend the bill was just a Democratic dictatorial push. Republicans would propose an idea, the Democrats would say "great!", and then the Republicans were against it.

The political shenanigans just keep on going and going with more energy than the Energizer Bunny. The Democrats, victims of their own spineless gentility, refuse to frame the conversation, so the Republicans control the Spin.

Under "No Labels", Republicans will still control the spin. Democrats who don't wholeheartedly abandon their principles and become Republican lackeys will be labeled as "Labelers" and "hyperpartisan", while Republicans who refuse to compromise will be "sticking to their principles" and "looking to find common ground" (as long as it is completely on their own turf!).

We need labels. We need definition. We don't need warm fuzzies which will allow the rich to keep on abusing the poor, irresponsible industry to keep polluting, financial gambling which endangers our economy or political gamesmanship which puts the citizens of our nation in peril. We don't need platitudes. Without labels there can be no definition of the problems we face, and good solutions will be indistinguishable from bad solutions.

Would you drain the brake fluid out of a car to stop a fluid leak? It is a solution, after all. No mess, no fuss, and no stopping the car. Give the idea a label, for goodness sakes! Call it a stupid one, and note that such an idea would result in a wrecked car and loss of life.

Similarly, call ideas that propose deregulation for industry what they really are -- stupid, only benefiting the industry owners at the expense of everyone else. Ron Paul thinks that safety regulations should be left to the mine owners, not to Washington. Massey would be proud of such non-labeling trust. The families of the dead miners might well have other words to say about it.

Continued tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Why can't Democrats point out that the tax cuts they got under Bush did not go to hiring more people, but went to speculation, driving up commodity prices, production of economic "bubbles" and the shipping of industrial jobs overseas? Oh right. That would be "labeling".

The "No Labels" proposal is another attempt to get Democrats to let go of their principles, to stop fighting for justice for common people, and to park their brains and hearts at the door.

Instead of "No Labels", let the Democrats start a new campaign -- "Truth in Advertising" in which they clearly and loudly describe the ideas they propose and the ideas which are proposed. Flood the media with real information. Analyze, describe, make projections, demonstrate a clear command of ideas. And show some intestinal fortitude for a change!

Somehow we have got to bring the nation away from the idea that all ideas are created equal, and move toward goals which will enhance the welfare of the nation as a whole. We need to value education and experience. We need a rational and reasoned partisanship with people intelligent enough to point out the differences in positions. Uncritically accepting what those "across the aisle" hand to us in the name of "Bipartisanship" is like accepting the gift of a hand grenade from a military opponent.

Think. Describe. Understand. Take a reasonable position. Be able to tell others the how and why. Stand up for what you believe.

If we don't, not even God will be able to save us from the wreck we will make of ourselves.

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