From the Board: The Assault on Reason

It seems that this single year brought more political activism than America has seen throughout the past decade. In part, this can be credited to the efforts of our government to become more open with the American public through town hall meetings, Facebook, Twitter, and weekly radio addresses. Given all of these opportunities to confront Executive and Legislative officials and ask them questions regarding their policies, you would think that the people have, once again, become the involved and informed participants in government that the Founding Fathers envisioned and hoped for as they drafted the Constitution.
Think again.
The majority of town hall meetings amounted to nothing more than sending government officials into a virtual snake pit. As one Representative tried to explain the government’s steps towards healthcare reform, he was interrupted by a man hollering, “Obama’s a socialist!” while a woman burst into tears, blubbering, “I want my America back!” The Representative, who happened to be a Republican from South Carolina, attempted to respond to these concerns, until one man stood up and yelled, “Get your government hands off my Medicare!” To that, he could only stand in stunned silence.
The Tea Party protests fared no better. Thousands of Americans marched defiantly throughout the streets of our nation’s capital, likening President Obama’s increase of taxes for the upper income brackets to the British’s taxation without representation (ignoring the fact that, unless they were from D.C., they actually did have representatives in government). Posters with blown up copies of the President’s Kenyan birth certificate were waved in the air, each one suspiciously different from the next. These were met with posters exclaiming, “Say NO to Death Panels!” held by constituents convinced that the White House was out to kill grandma.
These protests, which will surely cost Democrats some seats in 2010, are still by no means a victory for Republicans. Conservatives certainly have many causes for concern regarding the new administration’s policies. It can be argued that the new healthcare plan, if passed, will cost a fortune and send our deficit spiraling to unfathomable heights. It can possibly drive private insurance companies out of business, leaving those happy with their current plans stuck trying to find new options. Government bailouts of banks and automobile companies may only be artificially propping up businesses destined to fail, rather than giving them a chance to dig themselves out of their rut or simply allowing their failure due to negligent practices.
Unfortunately, these issues are not the issues discussed by those taking a stand at the town hall meetings and on the streets of the capital. Although the American public is definitely more vocal and involved than it has been in recent history, it is by no means more informed. The sources of the protestors’ contentions will never be addressed simply because they can’t be. They aren’t real issues. These protests will only drive the Democrats into the ground while dividing the Republican Party into several different factions-each claiming to be the true representative of “conservatism.”
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Anger is never without Reason, but seldom with a good One.” At Vanderbilt, we have the privileged access to resources such as our professors, alumni, guest speakers, and an endless supply of books, newspapers, and articles that enable us to come to educated conclusions about our government’s policies. With these resources, will some of us find cause to protest? Certainly. Will others find cause to celebrate? Let’s hope so. In the meantime, the one thing we can all stand for is the fight to put the reason back into political activism, while eliminating the overwhelming anger that has distracted us from the real issues at hand. See you on the Capitol lawn.


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