Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fear of Change and Public Policy

Speaking of the Tea Party extremists who succeeded in shutting down the government and threatening the world economy recently, Fareed Zakaria today (on his CNN program) made a striking statement:  One cannot love the idea of America while also hating America.

Yet that is what those on the far right have long done: they love the idea of America as it was while hating the America of the past fifty years, the country of diversity in which minorities have become more and more powerful. Zakaria is a clear-eyed realist, not an ideologue.

The latest ideologue to cause havoc in the cause of self-promotion is Ted Cruz of Texas, who warns of disaster and the coming of American "oblivion" unless the federal government becomes less "socialistic."

This is the argument to fear that Ronald Reagan used in 1961 to warn of the coming horror of Medicare, something that most Republicans today who honor Reagan's memory greatly value, even though he warned that it would take away our freedom. Whose freedom is lost by the Medicare program?

The same argument is made today about Obamacare, with ominous warning glances at European nations that have chosen social welfare programs, which to the right-wing extremists, mean the coming of "socialism," a term GOP ideologues seldom define or understand.

The rhetoric based on people's fear of change is clear, from Reagan to Cruz, with each decade seeing more extreme and shrill scare tactics being used in the public policy debate.  These pessimists give true conservatism a bad name by seeing the inevitable changes in demographics and world economy as a loss of freedom, with America becoming second rate. They rarely take in the prosperity, creativity, and innovation that still make the U.S. the envy of the world, much of it due to immigrants like Fareed Zakaria.

Like many astute outsiders, he can see the bigger picture than what the daily news presents to us. He can appreciate the positive side of America as it is today, not as it was in the 1950s; he has also become a leading critic of our fear-based policies and the dangerous polarization that will again threaten the federal government.

The very thing the Tea Party types like Cruz say they want to prevent is what they are achieving by their extremist tactics: the decline of America.

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