The National Catholic Review
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The end is near. Candidates are hoarse and woozy; the public recoils in exhaustion from a final assault of candidate mailers and attack ads; the cable punditry contemplate mid-November Caribbean getaways. A good number of pollsters and commentators have already predicted the outcome of these 2010 Congressional elections, but the vote itself, the only poll that matters, still remains to be actually taken by actual people: Tuesday, Nov. 2. Will you be joining your fellow citizens in the voting booth?

Past performance suggests probably not. Mid-term races are notoriously poor draws—historically less than 40 percent of registered voters bother to mark a midterm ballot—and if members of the chattering class can be believed this year, many Americans are so turned off by the state of our electoral process that they will surely sit this one out. Young people, African-Americans and Latinos who enthusiastically ushered the Obamas into their historic White House residency in 2008 are showing significantly less interest in this race. Will America’s crucial independent voters head to the polls, or are they too falling into the “enthusiasm gap” that is swallowing so many? The only apparently dependable voting bloc this year may be the members of the emerging demographic of the disgruntled—especially the hyper-motivated, if anarchic and unpredictable, members of the Tea Party movement. These are the folks hurrying to get government off our backs by propelling their candidates into it. Partisans on the left appear equally eager for the first Tuesday of November.

If the nation’s political extremes swarm voting booths while the befuddled, exasperated moderate middle elects to stay home and watch television reruns, we will once again achieve the government we deserve. A motivated minority will set national policy for the rest of us who were too uninspired, too tired, too turned off and tuned out to vote. That is, in the best of times, merely an unworthy outcome for a mature democracy. In this accidentally crucial election, it proposes to become a tragedy.

The Tea Party has driven out Republican moderates—a problem for the G.O.P. no doubt, but also a disservice to the nation. If the moderate center cannot hold, things fall apart in America. Little legislative progress will be achieved during this time of profound national uncertainty and civic crisis if a hyperpolarized Congress becomes a bar-room shouting match instead of a legislative forum that remains somewhat familiar with the concept of compromise.

But despite the relentless anger depicted on cable news, this year’s vote may not prove as extreme as many predict. A Newsweek poll reports that “angry” voters are no more likely to vote than more even-tempered folk. Hot-button social issues that turned heads in previous elections or the Islamophobic distractions churned up earlier this year turn out to be of little interest to 2010 voters. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, voters are focused on two issues: an economy on life support and an unemployment rate that has turned obstinate. That is not surprising after an unprecedented 17 months of stagnant employment figures that threaten a generation of workers and their children.

Catholic voters need to be mindful that the economy is not the only issue that should direct their decisions in the voting booth. Our comprehensively pro-life camp needs to make decisions that are based not only on what is best for the economy but also on what will do the most to protect the most vulnerable among us during this especially dangerous time, to safeguard what is left of our social safety net during a period of accelerating poverty, to bring an end to overseas conflicts that squander human lives and increasingly scarce national resources, and to interrupt the collusion between corporate interests and government agencies that threatens our democracy and our environment.

Owing to the many geopolitical and economic hazards of our times, this is no throwaway election. It will determine the fate of a nation at war and struggling with a fragile economic recovery that could at any time relapse into something far worse. It is a nation finally facing up to the ethical necessity of a health care system that protects instead of bankrupts its citizens. There is cause, through the murk of the season’s ceaseless prognostification, to make out some signs of hope. According to a recent Pew poll, 70 percent of all likely voters say they plan to take part in our democracy on Nov. 2. If it is true, as Woody Allen once said, that 80 percent of success is just showing up, that figure suggests we may have a decent chance this year of voting in not just the government we deserve, but the one we need.

Comments

E.Patrick Mosman | 10/28/2010 - 4:46pm
John,
Further to my previous comment on government control of education and thinking as tyranny, the following articles describe the Deptartment of Education's efforts to exert absolute control on colleges and universities and what is taught. One would think that the editors of America would be in the forefront of defending their universities from government domination. 
http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/201010250.asp
"Department of Education Seeks to Regulate Higher Education October 25, 2010"
"A recently proposed regulation would give the federal Department of Education unprecedented authority over all colleges and universities—even private ones. The proposed regulation, entitled “Program Integrity Issues,” would create new accreditation rules for public and private colleges and universities. It would also allow the federal government to determine what constitutes a “credit hour,” and would require colleges and universities to submit to additional regulation and supervision by state and federal officials."
"
Before the proposal of this new 87-page regulation, colleges were accredited mostly by independent education councils. There has never been an attempt by the federal government to force states to regulate colleges and universities. Likewise, the federal government has never created a definition of a “credit hour.”...
"However, the proposed regulation will define terms for every college and university, and require individual states to create agencies that regulate colleges and universities. Every college or university will be required to have “a document issued by a state government agency or state entity that affirms and conveys the authority to the institution to operate educational programs beyond secondary education.”

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/oct/27/obama-regulations-threaten-colleges/
ARMSTRONG: Obama regulations threaten colleges October 27, 2010
"Within weeks, the federal government, through the Department of Education, will have the regulations in place to control potentially what's taught in our nation's private colleges and universities."...

"under the new mandate, a government panel - its format yet undetermined - will take into account public complaints and objections to an institution's curriculum and content. Under the principle of "adverse action," the state would have the power to deny an institution's accreditation because of those negative findings, or because they may (theoretically) challenge some element of state policy."
"Any issue that might engage a college campus today, from climate change to abortion rights, even the presence of ROTC, could become grounds for complaints and government interference."

"Religious and faith-based institutions are especially vulnerable because they are inherently ideological and often countercultural. For example, a Christian university could come under scrutiny for offering a survey on the history of traditional man-woman marriage without giving "equal time" to the other side. It could run afoul of the state for offering courses on intelligent design theory, which is critical of the conventional wisdom on evolution."
Control of education is the first step in a communist takeover of a nation.
E.Patrick Mosman | 10/26/2010 - 10:58am
John,
"Nobody gets a government bullet for speaking their mind.  That's what tyranny is. "
You might ask Juan Williams about his firing by the government run NPR for expressing a personal opinion. Every personal freedom taken away by the government and replaced by a government diktat on what cars will be produced, what is taught in schools,what light bulbs to use, what type of energy you use, what to eat, where to smoke, more rules and regulations by unelected bureaucrats governing our personal lives and businesses is tyranny. Having observed the tyranny of the state first hand before the fall of cmmunism, having been in China in 1989 shortly after Tienamen Square massacre I do fear the tyranny of the state control of our lives and especially our minds as Jefferson warned. Suggested reading Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm for a glimpse of the future under centralized planning, command and control.
John Hess | 10/20/2010 - 10:51pm
I can't speak for the European experience since I've never been there to see first hand.  I speak only to what I have personally experienced and seen with my own eyes.  Based on that first hand experience I can assure you that when done well, an "efficient national health care system" is entirely possible.  I have seen it.  It does exist.  Instead of reams of paperwork, you swipe a card that carries your identity and medical information.   

Also, I never claimed that a military government is the only way for tyranny to exist.  It does however, make it much easier.  Indeed, it is a very common form of tyranny in the world today.

You seem to fear someone is trying to impose tyranny on us.  Please, take a deep breath and put aside your needless fear.  Its corrosive to the heart and soul.  Friend, "Let not your heart be troubled."  There is no prospect of tyranny in our nation.  The police don't come in the dark of night to drag people away.  Nobody gets a government bullet for speaking their mind.  That's what tyranny is. 

                            
Peter Connor | 10/20/2010 - 10:40pm
John:

I appreciate your comment on my post.  While I have traveled abroad, I have not lived in another country, as you have. 

However, I reiterate my belief:  My vote for a candidate is less what that candidate stands for than it is for the party with which she/he is affiliated.  I know how a partisan can be treated if he/she decides to stray from the party's platform.  The upshot of all this, in my view, is that the control of government has been wrested away from the likes of you and me.  While the USA, indeed, has government of, by, and for, the people.  The "people," in my view, have become a select group of "us"
E.Patrick Mosman | 10/20/2010 - 12:50pm
No doubt "efficient national health care system" is an oxymoron as even the most advanced counties in the world, as posted earlier on the UK's sixty years of the NHS experience, have failed to achieve health care nirvana. As for the description of health care under martial law it is also an almost perfect example of goverenment run health care in the Easten block countries pre-1989, unless one was a high ranking party member.
The definition of tyranny does not require a military regime, martial law or a dictator to exert
"Absolute power, especially when exercised unjustly or cruelly: "I have sworn . . . eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man" (Thomas Jefferson)."
Efforts to command and contol the actions, thoughts and choices of the governed through appointed, not elected, bureaucratic czars or commisars's issuance of rules and regulations is also tyranny. Jefferson recognized power over the mind as tyranny and so do many others  today.
 
John Hess | 10/19/2010 - 5:32pm
Peter, I've had the experience of living for a short while in a country that was under tight martial law for decades.  They took my passport in order to modify my new wife's papers and that was scary.  Trust me on this, we do get better (and definitely safer!) government through democracy.  Having seen military rule first hand, albeit only for a period of some weeks, when I hear all the Beck people crying "Tyranny tyranny!", it is as obvious as the sun in the summer sky that their heads are as empty as dry coconuts and their hearts are as steadfast as a flock of birds.  Please don't give up on voting, in the long run it does provide us with the nation we want.  Not perfectly or in the time we desire, but in the big picture, we do get there.  Besides, if you don't vote you forfeit the right to complain.

As far as health care goes, during the period of martial law, if you had to go to the hospital you had to literally pay cash up front to get in the door, or if you were poor, just go away and die.  But upon achieving full democracy, as civilized people, one of the first things they did was set up an efficient national health care system that seems to be working pretty well.

  

      
Peter Connor | 10/17/2010 - 7:47pm
I am one of those 'disgruntled.'  I am an independent and exasperated, but certainly not 'befuddled.'  I am one who believes that our country's greatest days are past.  I believe that by voting for a person whose values, perspectives, and wants and needs are reasonably consistent with mine is nothing more than a vote for a political ideology that could care less about my values, my perspectives, or my wants and needs.  The party rules supreme!  Thus, I am one who believes that it doesn't matter who wins on November 2.  If I vote, I have no more assurance of getting the government I want than it I don't vote, and "get the government I deserve."  Pathetic outlook?  Compared to what? 
Linda Wolcott | 10/16/2010 - 3:30pm
Why can't health care be private and non profit.  I don't want the government running it, neither do I want it to be about making money.  Sarasota FL had an excellent county hospital.  Years ago it had the leading cardiac care on the west coast.  Then Humana came to town and took the folks with the best insurance. Please, someone explain why the two most important common good activities - health care and education - should not be non-profit!  Thank you for listening.
E.Patrick Mosman | 10/16/2010 - 1:37pm
Having lived and worked in four European countries for over 20 years, it would be easy to recite my families own experiences and observation however if you really want horror stories about health services simply live under a government run NHS or simply peruse the English, Canadian or almost any European newspaper to learn the truth. NHS health care is a strictly rationed care depending on age and seriousness of the illness, long waits for tests and economic disasters. it is no wonder that private health care is available to those who can afford it in every country. No doubt you are familiar with the term Harley Street physicians in London. They are the prime examples private, personal care over of the failure of government run health care systems.
And contrary to the economic studies used by proponents of sponsored health care systems NHS are, by most reports, out of control and growing year-by-year.  The truth is that there are two health care systems in most, of not all, European countries, one for those with additional private insurance or who can afford to pay and those relegated to the government run  For those who can pay there are the Harley Street physicians in the UK, the private clinics with private rooms, no wait for laboratory tests, i.e., X-ray, MRI, CT scans, no wait for elective surgery and no rationing of services. For those ensnared in the government system there are assigned doctors, choice is not option, there are no private or semiprivate rooms, wards only, the wait for tests can be weeks, unless one can pay and then there is no waiting, the wait for elective surgery can eextend for weeks if not months if one is found eligible under the rationing guidelines.  Under the rationed care of most state run health care systems older patients, over 65 in some countries , are no longer eligible for transplants or other costly operations and even expensive drug treatments. An alternative readily available and often used by Canadians and Europeans is to seek treatment especially operations in the USA or other countries.  
There is no free lunch in any government run service and those who advocate for a government run health care system are either misinformed or pushing a political goal, socialism.
the following article describes the UK's initial effort to dismantle their NHS:  
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7880592/Biggest-revolution-in-the-NHS-for-60-years.html
"Biggest revolution in the NHS for 60 years
 Doctors are to be given sole responsibility for overseeing front-line care to patients under Coalition plans described as the biggest revolution in the NHS since its foundation 60 years ago."
Obama's newly recess appointed head of medicaid and medicare, Dr. Donald Berwick, is a strong believer in the British NHS and its government managed, really rationed, care approach must be disappointed that the British Government is moving away from a failed system while he is moving full speed ahead to implement a carbon copy of  the failed NHS system known as Obamacare.
Richard Cross | 10/15/2010 - 5:28pm
The disgruntled folk are, it's said, the more energized portion of the electorate.   For sure they're the most energetic bloggers.  Perhaps that's to be expected. 

But allow me, as a reasonably "gruntled" citizen, to put in a word.  The Obama administration and the much despised Congress have done some very heavy lifting in the past twenty months, for which, to my mind, they deserve a lot of credit-and certainly my vote.  They've done what they could, partially hamstrung as they were by the Republicans and Blue Dogs, to stanch the economic hemorrhaging they inherited and to bring a greater measure of order to the financial markets.  Whatever happens this year or in 2012, the thing they'll be remembered for is bringing this country, kicking and screaming, into the middle of the 20th century, by which point every other advanced industrial society had universal health care.   The health care law as passed is imperfect and will need a lot of fine tuning over the coming decades, but at the very least it's a long step in the direction we had to take.

My view on this has doubtless been colored by my experience living in European countries where universal health care has been in effect for generations and where costs are much lower and medical outcomes much better than they are here.  Bismarck, hardly most people's idea of the paradigmatic left-wing radical, initiated public health insurance in the 1880s.  It's not a left-right issue in Europe, Canada, or much of the rest of the world.  It stems from a sense of being part of a community, of being in it together, rather than every man being for himself and the devil take the hindmost.  If you want to call that socialism, that's your privilege.  I prefer to think of it as Christian solidarity. 
E.Patrick Mosman | 10/15/2010 - 2:37pm
Your description of an emerging demographic as " disgruntled—especially the hyper-motivated, if anarchic and unpredictable, members of the Tea Party movement." illustrates an amazing ignorance as the majority of those attracted to the Tea Party movement which I and many members of my family are proud to support in opposition to the marxist/socialistist programs, the tax, borrow and spend policies, the bureaucratic imposed rules and regulations controling both our personal lives and the private business sector are hard working, middle class, taxpaying individuals who are fed up with government intervention.
It is said that President Reagan once said the most frightening words are “I am from the government and I am here to help you.” The industrial might of the United States did not result from government leadership but from the government getting out of the way of inventors, investors and entrepreneurs. The industrial might of the United States is slowly but surely being tied down by ill-conceived and unnecessary rules, regulations and mandates as surely as Gulliver was tied-up by the Lilliputins.
Your concern for Republican moderates, often referred to as RINOs, is misplaced. Did some Republican moderate write the following:
"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work ... After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... And an enormous debt to boot!"
No it was Henry Morgenthau
Treasury Secretary under FDR
Those who continue to advocate for more and more government spending and higher taxes obviously have never read or understood Santayana's words "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", FDR's big government programs failed to end the depression of the 1930s as any review of that period's economy history shows conclusively. However, tax cuts and economic incentives to the private sector introduced by Kennedy, Reagan and Bush brought ends to recessions and generated economic growth. Following FDR's failed policies for the past 18 months led to higher unemployment, has not produced job growth except in the public sector, more IRS agents to investigate working taxpayers, many of those are temporary, and for some unionized workers, GM and Chrysler. Saving public sector jobs by robbing from taxpayers like Peter and Patricia or borrowing from lenders like Ping and Pong to pay Paul and Pauline is not a sustainable path to create jobs and end a recession.
It is "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" Albert Einstein
James Collins | 10/15/2010 - 2:01pm
This is the year the political class gets its comeuppance. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have governed against the will of the people, They are racking up trillion dollar plus deficits and attacking and over regulating those who provide jobs. This reminds me of the old children's fairy tale about the goose that laid golden eggs. You are concerned for the most vulnerable among us and rightfully so. However, we can never afford to provide all the benefits that we all want for all of our people without a roaring economy. An ever growing government is absolutely incompatible with that.We must curtail the elitist ruling class which is concerned only with their power and privelige. And while we are at it the governing class of our church should be concerned with the lessons from this as it applies to church governance.

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