RANCHO SANTA FE, CA., January 13, 2011 – Have you been listening to politicians and pundits on the Left and the Right cast verbal stones at each other over the recent tragedy in Tucson? While their focus has temporarily shifted, the competitive nature of their discourse has not. Liberals have been proactive in their attacks and have insisted that they’re “right” (which I find to be linguistically entertaining). Conservatives have been reacting in a defensive manner, which only leaves them with the arguments that are left (no pun intended). We would all be laughing if the result wasn’t so pathetic. That means it’s time for The Common Sense Czar to intervene to head our Nation in a more positive direction.
When I wrote the books The Left isn’t Right and The Right is Wrong, it was to expose how far the Democratic and Republican Parties had drifted from the ideals upon which this country was established. Their National Platforms, which are the basis of the books, concentrate on attracting money and votes rather than upon our Nation’s founding principles. The past few days have underlined the problem and given the titles a far broader application because, clearly, the Left isn’t right and the Right is wrong in how they’ve chosen to use the heartbreaking event that occurred in Tucson.
The Left launched an immediate attack upon the Right. It blamed the incident upon the Right’s inflammatory rhetoric and emphasized the Tea Party’s culpability in an attempt to discredit those who have broken ranks with the major Parties. In addition, it took the unprecedented action of isolating an individual, Sarah Palin, and suggesting that she personally be held responsible for the acts of the irrational gunman.
Correspondingly, rather than considering the core premise (i.e., that inflammatory rhetoric might contribute to negative acts), the Right launched a counter-offensive based upon the proposition that freedom of speech was at stake, that the actions of the shooter were singularly attributable to him, and that the Left’s attacks were politically motivated (okay, I’ll concede the last point).
So, at the risk of injecting common sense into a political argument, let’s examine the logic of both Parties. First, let’s assume that the Left’s hypothesis is correct: that inflammatory language can “inflame” emotions, which in turn can potentially impact behavior. Can the Right live with that assumption? What would happen if the Right were to tone down its rhetoric? Would it violate free speech? No! We have the freedom to communicate with each other in a civil manner as well as an uncivil one. The assumption only encourages the Right to choose the civil alternative. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it won’t be as entertaining … or misleading, but why not give it a try? This is a “pro-choice” alternative that even the Right should support.
At this point, the Left can stop cheering. Instead, it needs to pull its head out of the sand and surrender its state of denial. I’m talking about the dream world in which it lives; the one in which its pundits pretend that only the Right participates in inflammatory rhetoric. Please! You can’t have drunk that much Kool-Aid. If you don’t drop the façade of self-righteousness, President Obama will have to spend the next two years traveling around our own country apologizing for your arrogance.
So, here’s The Czar’s edict:
Rush, Sean, Glenn, et al., admit that the Left might have a point … that inflammatory language might have a negative impact and “inflame” emotions. Surely, you are educated enough to frame your arguments without caustic words and militarist metaphors. Try it! You might even find that you’ll attract more educated moderates to your position.
Keith, Chris, Rachel, et al., stop living on Fantasy Island and acknowledge your contribution to the problem. Admitting that you have a problem is always the first step to recovery. If you don’t, you’ll only continue to embarrass yourselves.
And Sarah … I can appreciate your disorientation. You have been subjected to uniquely vicious, personal attacks that are unconscionable in a civil society. However, rather than go into hiding for a few days only to deliver an ill-conceived, taped message, consider accepting responsibility for an error in judgment, state that you will modify your approach, and demonstrate true leadership if you consider that to be an important trait with respect to your future political aspirations. You don’t need a Teleprompter … or, at least, you shouldn’t.
If both sides will just take The Czar’s advice, we can begin building a political process that is based upon principled thought rather than stereotyped condemnation. If they don’t, please be advised that The Common Sense Czar is considering a new felony category: Aggravated Intellectual Assault. If you are found guilty, you will be summarily voted out of office (or dropped from the media), and you will never be allowed to run for public office (or broadcast) again. I don’t have any more time to waste on this issue. I have the Nation’s business to conduct, a State of the Union speech to write, and an economic crisis to resolve.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, The Common Sense Czar, in the Communities Section of The Washington Times.