Lessons from Tucson
The late NY Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed,
“In some forty years of government work I have learned one thing for certain. The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself. Thanks to this interaction, we’re a better society in nearly all respects than we were.”
Recently, a friend reminded me of Senator Moynihan’s apt observation in light of Saturday’s mass shooting in Tucson. Pat Moynihan’s pursuit of a seemingly eclectic mix of liberal and conservative ideas is what we expected of the statesmen American voters once sent to Congress. That has not been the case in our nation these past few years.
Our prevailing politics fueled by partisan blogosphere pundits and the talking heads on AM radio and cable news programs, plus reality television shows seem to have coarsened and undermined our culture. The conflict between conservatives and liberals has done little to better American society. Instead of uniting to lift our economy out of its doldrums, some Americans are consumed with the false belief that the President is a foreign-born socialist. Others focused on resisting healthcare reform because it was a socialist invention. Still others railed against federal aid to the auto industry, financial industry regulations, extending unemployment benefits and environmental protections. Without the likes of Senator Moynihan, Congress seems incapable of rescuing America from the fringe elements that dominate the airwaves and blogosphere.
The political vitriol is problematic, not because it may motivate mentally ill people to kill their perceived enemies, but because it distracts from real solutions to the problems that confront our nation. The conspiracists in the blogosphere and on talk radio should not be silenced. Reasonable people must take the airwaves back and engage in real dialogue, not ad hominen attacks on their opponents.
This past weekend’s finger pointing as to who is responsible for the carnage in Tucson only served to further distract from the real issues confronting us. Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives need to put economic recovery and jobs in the “crosshairs.” They must take aim at businesses that exploit undocumented immigrant workers, outsource American jobs, and violate regulations protecting consumers and the environment. The Tucson shootings should impel bipartisan cooperation that brings America back from the brink of fiscal and economic collapse.
I remain hopeful that in the aftermath of Saturday’s tragedy, our Congressional leaders will reduce the temperature of partisan conflicts in our nation’s Capitol and on the airwaves. President Obama, Senate majority Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner must engage in a reasoned political discourse that changes the direction of our culture and saves our nation. Such actions would be a great tribute to Rep. Giffords and those killed or injured in Tucson. Senator Moynihan would be pleased that conservatives and liberals were working together to make society better in important respects than we were before Saturday.