Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kwiatkowski/Schmookler debate brought out the best

Last night's "debate" between GOP candidate Karen Kwiatkowski and the Democratic nominee, Andy Schmookler gave the crowded fellowship hall at Community Mennonite Church a glimpse of how political discourse in a democracy could be, and should be, conducted. Sometimes agreeing but more often taking diametrically opposed positions, the two candidates sparred over the economy, foreign policy, the environment, the Fed and monetary policy, taxation, education, and the role of government. While the differences were often sharp, the elbows were not... both candidates were passionate about their ideas and views but, on a human-to-human basis, treated each other (and the crowd) with respect and dignity.

Karen Kwiatkowski
Kwiatkowski fervently believes in a smaller government and holds many positions I'll call, for lack of a more descriptive term, "libertarian." She was equally critical of Democrats and Republicans believing that the parties, especially at the state and national levels, are essentially the same. She'd abolish or curtail the Federal Reserve, believes private property rights (i.e. few regulations) are the best protection for the environment, cares little for public education and a federal role in schools, and would avoid alliances while promoting trade with other nations. If elected, Kwiatkowski's priorities included repealing both the 16th (income tax) and 17th (direct election of senators) amendments and various steps to assure representatives give due diligence to bills and taking away the perks that have made congressional service into a career.

This was my first time seeing and hearing Kwiatkowski in person and, while I disagree with many of her positions, I was impressed with her ability to clearly explain deeply held beliefs while answering questions directly and without evasion as well as the obvious fire in her belly to carry these views to D.C. She connected directly with my experience when relating how she'd written Rep. Bob Goodlatte only to receive a reply that didn't address the issues raised. So, she wrote again only to get a brush-off from the "representative." It was that experience that got her thinking about running for office. During her campaign she's discovered many folks around the district had similar experiences of Goodlatte refusing to listen. To chuckles and applause from the audience, she noted, "Bob is one of my best campaign workers."

Andy Schmookler
Schmookler has obviously engaged in deep thinking about powerful forces lusting for power and wealth and their relentless campaign of "divide and conquer" that is corrupting our democracy. One often repeated priority is a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and return a semblance of equality to our political processes. On foreign policy, human rights, and protecting the environment he understands the historic role of the United States and how solving interconnected problems will require American leadership. Schmooker believes in public education and its power to open the doors of equal opportunity and break down increasingly rigid social/economic class structures. Running through many of his issues was a theme of finding common ground and setting aside hardened ideological differences to solve real problems affecting people and the nation.

I've heard Schmooker several times and was immediately impressed on his maturation as speaker and candidate. More than most, he has thought about and understands the big picture and the tenuous interplay between greed, power, democracy, taxes, compassion, and people's lives. In earlier events I thought Schmooker was too intent on getting all his ideas out and in doing so he was hurried and seen by many listeners as too lecturing. Last night he was relaxed and confident with a warm and genuine sense of humor. He answered questions directly with precision and clarity.

Karen Kwiatkowski and Andy Schmookler were both winners last night. But, the biggest winner was a notion that democracy should engage citizens in an honest and open discussion of compelling issues. That sharp political discussion can be engaging, cordial, and without vitriolic personal attacks.

The biggest loser last night was Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte. In spite of repeated and personally delivered invitations he rudely did not even respond. I assume he felt like giving a smack down to the organizers (Occupy Harrisonburg and the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Liberty Alliance), but that smack down was felt throughout the community. The message he sent and the voters received was - I am entitled to this office and I don't care about your views, your concerns, or your lives. 

Voters... Republican, Democratic, and independent... should send a message to Bobblehead Bob that politics as usual isn't good enough. For the first time ever this Democrat will vote in a Republican primary (open to all voters) for a candidate with honesty and integrity who is willing to stand before the people and debate the great issues facing us. We can retire Bob Goodlatte on June 12. Let's do it!


Anonymous said...

You say you want to be polite. If so, why call the congressman Bobblehead Bob?

Belle Rose said...

It is a comment on his political style and substance. Like the bobblehead doll in the back window of a sedan, Bob Goodlatte nods and smiles while hearing nothing and repeating GOP dogma to the point of hypocrisy (he supported all the Bush budgets/wars that exploded the debt but now pushes a balanced budget amendment).

Indian Jones said...

What is Kwiatkowski's position on monopolies and excessive corporate power? Reacting to government excess after a career in the military could be a personal rebellion, but it could also reflect an ignorance of private sector corruption.

Would you say she is imbalanced or convincing in her arguments?

Schmookler has neocon leanings though Kwiatkowski easily frames him as a liberal. Did you notice?