Posts Tagged ‘ election 2012 ’

The Wake-Up After the Quiet After the Storm (OPINION)

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Sharon Lerner

I’m feeling grateful for having power, Internet access, a dry place to sleep. But even in what may be one of the least superstorm-affected houses in Brooklyn, things are not yet back to normal — especially from the kids’ perspective. The Halloween parade was cancelled. School has yet to re-open. Whenever someone calls from out of town, my boys hasten to share the terrible news that lodged itself in their uncomprehending brains: that two young people right near us were killed by a falling tree.

People talk about the calm before the storm. But, strange and upsetting as Sandy was, there’s also been a calm after this storm. Shaken free from our routine, we’ve been operating in a quiet bubble in our house, finding comfort in unlikely playdates, checker games, baking experiments.

We’ve also been enjoying a reprieve, if a short-lived one, from the election. I know I’m not alone when I say that the race between “Bronco Bamma” and Mitt Romney was getting a little, er, wearying. (I admit I had moment of irrational fear that I had somehow magically caused the storm by screaming “Make them stop!” over and over during the last debate.)

But as I watched the sun shine over my leaf-strewn street this morning, it hit me that it’s time to wake up from the quiet after the storm. Given that the mere mention of political ads and “five-point plans” had become literally nauseating in the weeks before Sandy, it was a pleasant surprise to realize that I am not only ready to glance at the poll numbers today but also alive with a new urgency to fight to make sure Obama wins this race.

This coming Tuesday — THIS COMING TUESDAY! — is election day. And if Sandy left me with nothing else of value, it’s that this contest matters in a life-and-death way. The natural disaster brought two issues into sharp focus: the size of government and climate change. Both are issues that deeply affect children — and, at least when it comes to climate change, our children’s children, and their children’s children. And both are issues on which the political candidates have starkly different, potentially world-altering positions.

Mitt Romney, of course, believes in shrinking government. He’s made this clear with health care, which he promises to restore to its former state of dysfunction. He also believes in small government when it comes the safety net — or rather the elimination of benefits on which poor families depend.

And — try telling this to the child being rescued in this picture — he even believes in whittling down the government when it comes to disaster management. At least that’s how it seemed during the Republican primary, when he said he favors shutting down the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Wednesday, he came out with another position on the matter, which as Rachel Maddow points out, raises its own questions.

And then there’s climate change. Neither candidate has given enough attention to the issue. But Romney does far worse than ignore it, going so far as to mock  President Obama’s environmental efforts at the Republican National Convention.

Not surprisingly, his actual positions on the very serious matter of our climate are hard to pin down, as the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer notes. In front of some crowds, he says that he believes climate change is real and that humans have a role in it. While in front of others, like this one at a town hall meeting, he says essentially the opposite:

Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”

“What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to.”

I’m searching for a word that means the opposite of leadership now. Flip-flopping doesn’t quite do it. Pathetic politicking? Slithering?

Whatever you call it, ignoring climate change, as Romney would likely do if he were elected, would no doubt lead to only more of the catastrophic weather events like the one we just experienced. It would mean devastation for the planet our children and grandchildren will inherit. And, at least while he’d be at the helm, it would mean also getting less federal help during those disasters.

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Mister Rogers Wouldn’t Approve of Obama’s Lena Dunham Ad (OPINION)

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

Call it the Mister Rogers Effect: Moms want their kids to grow up in a neighborhood where the adults are virtuous. Whether it’s the baker, the postman, the mayor, or even the President, we want our children to have role models who are kind, generous, truthful. The kind of people your children could safely emulate.

During the most recent debate, some of us sat down with our children to see President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney discuss foreign policy. They disagreed on many things, particularly on Romney’s auto bailout position. For a few uncomfortable minutes, one accused the other of lying, until Romney suggested people at home should simply look it up. They did. For the days following the debate, Romney’s 2008 editorial about how he’d handle the Detroit automakers was the most-read story on the NYT’s website. So, who was telling the truth? Romney was deemed more accurate, but his success in this particular exchange is hardly earth shattering. What is significant is that voters, rather Americans, are realizing the President is not who we hoped he was.

“Here’s what upset me last night, this playing fast and loose with facts,” David Letterman said on his show. “Now, I don’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you want your president to be telling the truth… And so when we found out today or soon thereafter that, in fact, President Obama was not telling the truth about what was excerpted from that op-ed piece, I felt discouraged.”

“Discouraged” is a far cry from the sunny optimism that at one time characterized Americans. Even those who disagreed with the president’s politics were a little misty eyed at seeing the first black man to sit in the Oval Office. When my husband and I later adopted a toddler from Africa, part of me was delighted by the fact that she was immigrating to a country with an African-American leader. But since those moments of hope, something strange happened.  Obama—and consequently, our neighborhood—somehow managed to get smaller, more crass, more cynical.

The most recent example is when his campaign released an ad featuring hipster Lena Dunham comparing voting to Obama to surrendering one’s virginity:

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy… someone who really cares about and understands women…  It’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says ‘did you vote?’ and [you reply] ‘no, I didn’t feel—I wasn’t ready.’ ” The Weekly Standard wrote, “The President of the United States running a campaign ad implying that young women who don’t let themselves get pressured into sex are ‘super uncool’ is more than enough to make any normal person’s head explode.” Of course, Twitter did erupt. “Is it too much to ask that the President’s campaign ads be workplace safe?” someone tweeted. Parody ads popped up. But the damage was done. The President had released an ad mocking sexual purity, just to win votes among the college age demographic.

We wanted him to be great. To inspire. To soar. Instead he became smaller, almost bent on taking us down with him.

Recently, a friend’s first grader was assigned a biography of the president for Great Americans Day. “How bad would it be for me to ask my child to switch books?” the mom asked me. There was a time in the very recent past when I would’ve responded with a gentle reprimand. “Come on,” I would’ve said. “He’s our President, he’s a good man, he’s accomplished a great deal.”

Rather, that’s how I would’ve answered it. She happened to ask me six weeks after extremists murdered four American diplomats in Libya, and the President had still not told us what really happened. In the second debate, when Obama defended his lack of military response to the attack, his focus was all on semantics. He parsed his words, he covered his legacy. It was tragic and disappointing, because we wanted justice. We wanted to understand. We wanted honesty. We didn’t want a President to assign blame, before heading off to Las Vegas for a fundraiser.

In fact, it was Fred Rogers who said, “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

Moms know this: a complex world requires nuanced responses to terrible events, but we want our leaders to be honest, courageous, and responsible. We are raising children to become adults, to build families, to create businesses, to serve this country in uniform. Sadly, none of us really live in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, with its astroturf lawns and closets full of perfectly pressed sweaters. Life is complicated and dangerous and sometimes scary. We want leaders who rise above it and illustrate how to navigate the complexities of this world with as much virtue and grace as possible.

The problem with this campaign season is not that moms are realizing Obama is not the President we wanted him to be. Much more tragically, he’s not the man we wanted him to be.

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Everything Our Politicians Need to Know They Should Have Learned in Kindergarten (OPINION)

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

“Use your words.

“You can’t always get what you want.”

“Take a minute to think about it, and then tell me the truth.”

“Remember to share.”

 “Instead of grabbing, please ask nicely.”

I repeat these phrases throughout the day, pretty much every day. I want my children to learn how to be kind to one another, how to think about other people’s needs in addition to their own, and how to work out problems. I want them to know how to compromise.

As I watched the second Presidential debate on Tuesday night, I wondered whether President Obama and Governor Romney remembered the lessons their parents had taught them in their early years. The debate heated up at times, with each man accusing the other of misleading or untrue assertions. They interrupted each other. They raised their voices. They gave us reasons to be disappointed. NPR called it a “town brawl” instead of a “town hall” meeting. According to the New York Times, both men exaggerated or misrepresented the other’s position (or flat out lied). And yet I also suspect that these m­­en–both pragmatic leaders with track records of centrist positions and a willingness to work with the opposition (Romney in Massachusetts, Obama as President)—would both be willing to compromise, to work it out civilly. If we still had a system in which the loser of the Presidential contest became Vice President, I could imagine it working out between these two.

            When it comes to civil government and common courtesy, it’s not Obama or Romney who need reminders. The people who need a reminder of putting the common good ahead of self-preservation, a reminder of compromise, a reminder of telling the truth and sharing, are our representatives serving in Congress.

President Obama, as he stated in the debate, inherited a mess. The economy was headed towards depression. The unemployment rate was on the rise. The deficit had soared as a result of fighting two unfunded wars. And Obama was prepared to tackle the problems through centrist solutions. He reached out to the Republican opposition. He advanced a health care plan based upon the conservative Heritage Foundation’s proposal (which, incidentally, served as Governor Romney’s blueprint for health care in Massachusetts as well). He initiated conversations about tax cuts for the middle class, a return to Clinton-era tax rates on the wealthiest individuals, and reductions in spending. He tried to pave a middle way.

And then the Republican opposition forgot what they had learned as little children. Instead of deciding that their job as elected officials was to serve the people of this nation, they decided to serve themselves. They decided that their primary goal was to defeat Obama. They worried that compromise would make him look good. They assumed that economic change that benefited us all would ensure his reelection. And so they nearly shut down our government on multiple occasions.

As an independent voter with moderate views on both social and economic policy, I believe the best situation for our country is one in which the President and the majority in Congress come from opposing sides of the aisle. At least in theory, this scenario forces compromise, forces each party to give and take, to listen, to allow the ideas that serve all people to rise to the top. Instead, the Republicans have decided to take their toys and go home, and our nation has continued to wallow in a place of high unemployment, low growth, and increasing poverty.

Whoever wins this election is probably going to be lauded as a great leader, simply because the economy is poised to turn around no matter who holds the highest office in the land. But the mark of true and meaningful leadership in the service of our nation will come only if our president—whomever he may be—can figure out how to bring our nation back to a place where Republicans and Democrats alike can sacrifice their party’s ideology for the common good of the American people. If only our leaders could remember those basic lessons we try to teach our children every day.

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