May, 2006 Rico Bugle Review

Read for your Life!

by John Burgeson,

"A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is hardly likely to look out." Georg Lichtenberg (1742-1799).

Three Rico Library books to consider this month, one by a Republican, one by a Democrat, one by a Green. Strangely, the first two address the same issues and come to very similar conclusions. The Green book, however, takes them both to task.

IT'S MY PARTY TOO, The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America, by Christine Todd Whitman. ISBN 1-59420-040-8.

In this new release, Whitman, past governor of New Jersey and Bush's first EPA director, a post from which she resigned in protest to the ideological pressures which were put upon her, but still a lifelong and loyal Republican, discusses the power of "the productive middle," a ground from which she feels the GOP has seriously strayed. She calls the far-right Republican group "social fundamentalists," and charges them with both violating traditional Republican principles and trying to purge the party of moderates.

Republicans should read this book; they will better understand the current -- some would say impending -- split in their ranks. Democrats and Independents should also read it -- they may not agree with Whitman on all her positions but they will surely come to admire her as a person. Adherents of either the far right or far left ought to leave it alone, it will just raise their blood pressure. Those who don't vote can ignore it.

Whitman documents in detail how southern segregationalists, a core constituency of the Democratic party in the mid 20th century have migrated to the Republican party, shedding some, but not all, of their more obnoxious baggage. She describes her vision of Republican principles, limited government, lower taxes, the power of the markets and a strong national defense. She insists there is plenty of room for passionate but civil debates on these, and other issues; one can "believe deeply and yet respect the beliefs of others."

Unlike some books I've reviewed recently, this one is short (243 pages) and easily digested in an evening. Or just pick it up at the library some Saturday and read chapter 1, 28 pages, "Does Might Make Right?" Of course, I mean for you then to become engrossed and check it out!

Whitman, whatever her politics, is a responsible voice in the political debates of this new century.

OUR ENDANGERED VALUES, America's Moral Crisis, by Jimmy Carter. ISBN 0-7432-8457-7.

Carter's book is more direct than Whitman's. Specifically, he sees the political rise of religious fundamentalism, and the blurring of church-state separation policies, as sandbagging the Republican party with phony (and decidedly non-Christian) arguments which play well to those who see the world only as black and white issues, "us and them." He has harsh words for Pat Robertson and other far-right political-religious pundits, and urges the Republican party to return to its roots. Over and over he points out how the positions of the so-called "religious right" are in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Carter explains what the difference is (today) between a Democrat and a Republican. The most accurate predictor of party affiliation, he asserts, is not gay marriage, abortion, or capital punishment; it is the issue of whether international disputes can better be resolved by diplomacy -- or by military action.

This book ought to be must reading for everyone, Republican, Democrat, Christian, non-Christian. Like Whitman's book (above), it is short (200 pages) and very understandable. As a past president of our country, his views demand respectful study, whether one agrees with him on all points (I don't) or not.

CRASH!NG THE PARTY, by Ralph Nader. ISBN 0-312-30258-4.

Whatever else one might say about Ralph Nadar, the word "passionate" certainly fits. Much more than a "spoiler," he brings into political debates fresh perspective, and his voice is sorely needed. In 2000, he garnered about 3,000,000 votes for President, and this is the story of that campaign.

Nadar writes of his fight against the prevailing two party system, how progressive Democrats are left behind, how the interests of both the Democratic and Republican parties have been bankrolled by corporations, and why so many real issues were never discussed in the Presidential debates. It was interesting to me to compare this book with those by Whitman and Carter -- the issues the Green Party raises are, for the most part, simply ignored by the other two. Of course, the same might be said in reverse. A three way conversation between these three authors would be worth listening to! But politics being what it is, don't hold your breath.

Nadar writes of "entrenched interests." The corporation that puts on the Presidential debates is -- you guessed it -- a non-profit whose board of directors consists of both Democratic and Republican partisans. It is easy for them to shut out voices of dissent, voices that ask, for example, why corporations are considered "citizens," citizens without a vote but with many side powers denied to individuals. Mark Larson, a Republican senator in Colorado, recently estimated that for every legislator there are eleven lobbyists! You can bet that few of them have the interests of the common person at heart! These entrenched interests are challenged from time to time; a measure of their power, Nadar writes, is their ability to simply not respond to tough questioning. One example Nadar points out is that well over one billion dollars of our tax money is spent subsidizing the commercial logging industry! That's your money, as well as mine. With all that money at stake, funding a few lobbyists in Washington is just good business.

Some who read this book may be incented to vote Green in the next election. Perhaps more may want to ask their candidates tougher questions.

John W. Burgeson,, Rico, Colorado, May 2, 2006

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