Article in Cincinnati Enquirer, on October 17, 2014 by D. Thomas Longo,Jr., incoming NARFE eChapter #2363 President


As a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer whose job it was to help Washington make sense of foreign political sensibilities and developments, I was challenged at times to explain why countries like Italy, Germany and Turkey could become so politically deadlocked at times.  I was grateful then that we Americans with our can-do spirit and willingness to compromise for the greater good were somehow “better.”  But our own political gridlock in recent years has given me pause and a greater humility.

As a former U.S. Navy officer, diplomat and continuing patriot, I want better for our country.  I therefore offer the following perspective by way of urging my Hoosier, Ohio and Kentucky neighbors to think hard about the upcoming midterm elections.  Here are some considerations.

o    However you feel about President Obama, he is not on the ballot.

o    This election is to choose a new Board of Directors for the republic for the next two years,  the Congress, at a time of growing significant international perils and challenges and strongly debated domestic issues.

o    Beware of simplistic slogans that Government is Bad and Government Is Evil.  Government and dedicated federal employees do much good.  Examples:  the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, workplace and product safety and consumer protection, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Forest Service, F.E.M.A….   Recall that, but for the public’s confidence in federal bank deposit insurance, a major run on the banks would have deepened the Great Recession into economic catastrophe.

o     It is important for each of us to reach out beyond the Fox Propaganda Network, MSNBC’s Talking Heads, other slanted media and organizations and talk radio, intelligence-insulting political ads, and the Internet on which anyone can post anything, to inform ourselves and make our own conscientious decisions.

o     We each need to weigh whether we support or oppose respective political party positions on subjects such as foreign interventions, terrorism, U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese relations, Obamacare, minimum wage, infrastructure investment, immigration, climate change, gender and marriage equality, the federal role in natural disasters and disease threats like Ebola, significant tax reform, voting procedures and so forth.  There are pro- and con arguments on each.

Yet gridlock blocks progress on anything.  I was struck a while ago by a comment from an Ohio neighbor, a small businessman, who was not a close follower of politics.  His comment was like a jolt of common sense fresh air.  He basically said that if you have a business and things are not going well, Management has to change or be gone.  The same can be said of Congress.

One should not oversimplify and I as I said, this gentleman was a small businessmen, not a major private sector or academic intellect.  He doubtless confronts myriad local, state and federal rules and regulations as he has to make ends meet for his payroll and business.  But he was looking beyond that.  And unlike large Big Business and Big Finance, he was hardly in a position to spend or contribute megadollars to buy and pay lobbyists and Congressmen.  He was just being an honest American in his talk with me.

If you favor continued political gridlock and consequently paralyzed government, arguably your best rational course of action is to vote for your present incumbent in Congress whether that person is a Republican, Democrat or Independent.  But if you are uncomfortable with gridlock and the present state of affairs, a rational decision is to vote for that incumbent’s opponent regardless of party.

The bottom line is that we all need to think hard about our vote in November.

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