Friday, November 24, 2006

Op Ed by Ken Larson

The following OpEd was provided by Ken Larson, a fellow Democrat residing in north Idaho. In this piece Ken expresses so well many of the same thoughts that I, and it seems many others, have about why north Idaho remains Republican. He very clearly points out the disconnect between the actions of the Republican Party and the negative effects these actions have on the people voting for Republican candidates.

I hope you enjoy the first of invited critical opinions and articles.

OpEd, by Ken Larson

Are we disconnected from rest of the U.S.? Bob Wynhausen raised this question in a letter published on November 19, 2006. I would suggest that the disconnect between Idahoans and the rest of the country may be greater than previously thought, since current polls show President Bush's rating around 31 % and Congress at less than 20 %. Yet, Idaho elected Republicans at a rate far above the national average.If the Republican Party were the traditional conservative party it used to be, this trend would be understandable, even admirable, because it would reflect true conservative values. Idaho is, after all, known for its independent-minded, freedom-loving people who support each other in time of need and defend their liberties at all cost. But, clearly, the evidence shows that the current Republican Party is no longer steeped in conservative principles. It has changed, but Idaho does not seem to recognize that change. Facts show without a doubt that Republicans over the past six years or so supported big business above the individual family, they grew the largest government we have ever seen and they spent money so recklessly that our current federal administration has borrowed more money from foreign governments (like China, Mexico and Saudi Arabia) than all of the previous administrations in our history combined. Even on a state level we saw the Republican controlled Idaho legislature increase taxes on working people to pay for tax breaks for wealthy land owners and out-of-state investors. These are not traditional conservative values. Curiously, fiercely independent Idahoans supported the political party that has done more to weaken our civil rights than any other in our history. The current Republican Party is the one who brought us these programs, and more: Free Speech Zones, which limit our ability to express ourselves in public; National Security Letters which allow warrant -less searches of all kinds of personal records at the discretion of a single FBI officer; warrant-less phone, internet and e-mail surveillance; active monitoring and maintaining files on non-violent organizations (including church groups); and, even developed programs for local agencies to use unmanned aircraft with cameras to spy on us. These are not conservative values and go beyond the scope needed for security. These, I would think, are contrary to the values of Idahoans.Even though Democratic candidates without exception said they would work for the betterment of the average working person, including holding tax burdens down and getting us health care, the people voted against their own interests by supporting candidates who are funded and committed to big business and special interests. The problem with this type of vote is that it forces all of us to live with the consequences, facing higher taxes, more restrictions on our freedoms and stagnated financial improvement for the working people of Idaho, a large number of whom are sliding into the poverty level.How does this disconnect occur? Why is our state so different than the majority? The answer to that is obviously very complex, but certainly must have it roots in the flow of information. In North Idaho, we appear to have limited sources of information compared to larger markets in the country. All of North Idaho's five main newspapers are owned and operated by the same person. We have limited radio coverage, mostly involving programming such as Rush Limbaugh who publicly said that he broadcasts untrue things just to get people to vote Republican--he lied to get your vote and he admitted on the air doing so. We also know that fundamentalist religious stations promoted candidates based on single issues, such as abortion, gays and stem cell research, even though those same candidates would raise your taxes and limit your Constitutional freedoms.Fact and opinion have become blurred by the cable network entertainment programs. There is no liberal media; rather, it has all become corporate media, promoting limited agenda and making money. This is true of CNN with Glen Beck, MSNBC with Tucker and Scarborough. But, nowhere is this more evident than on FOX News Channel. This network trailed CNN, MSNBC and the others in viewer ratings until 2001, when Bush took office. As Bush's rating are now falling, so are the viewer ratings of FOX News. Since 2001, FOX has had access to the White House and Congress beyond any other network. FOX's fortune is closely tied to Bush's presidency. As such, it became a propaganda tool of the Republican Party, using what CBC News in their documentary "Fifth Estate" clearly showed as numerous examples of false reporting and out-right lies. A University of Maryland study showed conclusively that of people who said their primary source of news was FOX News, 80 % were very misinformed about current events related to the invasion of Iraq. The main reason shown for this was the "stenographic" reporting by FOX News, where information from the National Republican Party, the White House and Republican strategists (such as Karl Rove) was read on the air verbatim, without investigation or editing. Opinions were promoted as fact. The losers in the propaganda pursuit are the American people, especially those of us who want the lives of the Middle Class to improve and who wish above all else to save our hard-won personal liberties. The solution, I think, is that we need a wider variety of information sources, we need to demand truth and fact over opinion and we should stand together, insisting that the interests of working Idahoans once again become the focus of our government. Only we the people of Idaho can make this happen. And, it will only happen, if we stand together and forget the political party labels, seeking only those programs and policies that help the common people. We all share more in common than we differ. Our state and our nation with thrive as the working people thrive. Forget that concept and we all will be victims of the corporate media, national corporations and the politicians they prop up.

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