There are two types of reckless drivers. Some manage to never have an accident. Their cars have no scratches or dents. Unfortunately, they leave in their wake death and destruction as others are affected by their actions. The other type of reckless driver is more familiar. The daily news features stories of people texting right up to the moment that they slammed into the parked car or school bus.

My Republican friends used to accuse Democrats of hating George Bush. I never met anyone who hated our most recent president. They didn’t like him. They certainly didn’t respect him. But George Bush was too insubstantial to generate hate, a strong emotional reaction. What I often perceived was resentment. People resented Mr. Bush’s ability to go through life oblivious of the affect of his actions, untouched by his mistakes, and seemingly unaware of his place in history. While others stressed about the human condition, George W. Bush appeared to be the living embodiment of the expression that Ignorance is Bliss.

Then there is Sarah Palin. As I am writing this, a young woman, a Congresswoman, is fighting for her life in a Tucson hospital. Eighteen people were shot. Six have already died. One of the fatalities was a nine year old child. One of the fatalities was a federal judge. I can only hope that no one else will have died by the time you read this.

Why did I mention the former Alaskan governor? Up to an hour or so ago, Mrs. Palin was “targeting” Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other elected officials. Targeting is the correct word. Her site featured a map with bull’s-eyes. Her rhetoric, inflammatory.

There is a campaign to take back our country. This assumes that someone or some group took our country from us. It idealizes some imaginary world, circa 1950’s, where everyone, or at least everyone that mattered, was white, Christian, and middle class. Mom stayed home and wore dresses. Dad went to work. The U.S. was #1 and the biggest question was who made the best cars, GM, Ford, or Chrysler.

That time never existed!

The United States has been a dominant country throughout much of its existence. We are a world power. We can be a beacon of hope. We have also suffered the stain of slavery, Japanese internment, and unequal justice. In many respects, we are a better country today, January 8, 2011, then we ever were before. And we have plenty of room for improvement.

We can not move forward as a country by targeting those who disagree with us. The U.S. Constitution is a living document that has been amended twenty-seven times. It will be amended again as our country’s needs change in the future. We can no more return to 1954 then we can relive 1854. Nor should we want to.

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. There are 100 Senators. It is probably easier for you to name a half a dozen with whom you disagree, six that you would like to see replaced, than five that you always support. That’s representative government.

You don’t point guns at people. No targets. No bull’s-eyes. No bull shit. Swimming pools have adult only time. We have come to a point where it has become necessary to declare an Adults Only time for public discourse.

We have suffered too long from the actions of the reckless. It is time to escort them from the public stage.

Now Is The Time To Bribe Jim Renacci

Jim Renacci defeated John Boccieri last month in a loud, ugly campaign for Congress. Residents of Cuyahoga County were forced to view countless negative commercials for candidates that weren’t on our ballots. At best, we got to pretend that we rejected both of them.

Mr. Renacci is now accepting cash payments. Let me explain. Congressman-elect Renacci’s campaign raised $1.1 million from individuals and $317,000 in donations from political action committees. You know that that there were more than a million and a half in awful TV ads. Who or what was the source of the other money? Jim Renacci! In what is now a common practice, the candidate loaned his own campaign money, $750,000. The Renacci for Congress campaign spent over $2.2 million.

Jim Renacci is now hosting fund raisers in Washington D.C. He is meeting with PAC’s and lobbyist in an effort to retire his campaign debt. But his campaign debt is owed to one major benefactor, him. If you donate $5,000 to help retire the debt, you are, in fact, donating $5,000 to Mr. Renacci.

Giving money now assures you that your donation will actually go all the way to the target.

Let’s be fair. This practice of legal bribery is common and well publicized. Rich Democrats are just as likely as rich Republicans to loan money to their campaigns. Loan not give. And, this isn’t reserved for federal office seekers. Terri Hamilton Brown, a recent candidate for the new Cuyahoga County Executive, loaned $50,000 to her campaign.

We have established that this practice of lending money to your own campaign is legal, common, and performed by both Democrats and Republicans. May I add that it is also reprehensible?

The Enthusiasm Chasm

My ballot arrived with Thursday’s mail. It was not a good mail day. One bill, a couple of ads, some oversized political postcards, and a ballot – nothing I wanted to see. I opened the bill, but I put the ballot aside for a couple of days. I can accept responsibility for my expenses. I refuse to believe that our awful choices are my fault.

President Obama is worried that Democrats, like me, are experiencing an enthusiasm gap. He wishes. Mr. Obama and the national party have managed to squander a huge lead and an incredible amount of good will. Add to this a still struggling economy, the debacle in Afghanistan, and a campaign of unparalleled mudslinging from both parties and you have all of the ingredients necessary for voter antipathy. It was fitting that Jimmy Carter spent a couple of days here last week. If I may borrow his term, many of us are feeling “malaise”.

I’ve got to vote. It is my civic duty. Some of the choices are easy. The affable Nina Turner is unopposed. Also unopposed, but vote worthy, are Paul Pfeifer, Jose Villanueva, and Peter Sikora. A few of the contested races are also slam dunks. Lance Mason has received good reviews as a judge. Anyone running against Bridget McCafferty should win by acclamation.

The next couple of races aren’t too difficult. Rob Portman has yet to tell Ohio why we should vote FOR him. Advantage – Fisher. I have never voted for Mike DeWine. There is no reason to end that streak today.

I have given the new County Executive position a lot of thought. The only person with enough experience, connections, and integrity to take the reins and have a chance of success may be Tim McCormack. I don’t know if he will win, but at least I’m not embarrassed by my choice.

The rest of the races are not that easy. Competency, ethics, and judgment come into play. Dirty campaigns, exaggerations, and flat-out lies are sprinkled throughout. I darken the little ovals. I do not cast a straight ticket ballot.

I have saved the worst for last. Item 16 is the income tax increase for Beachwood. For or Against? I have been putting off this decision. Do I reward bad behavior and incompetence? NO! I can not vote for the levy. Do I deny Beachwood the money it needs now that the city has blown through the millions it had in reserve? NO! I can not vote against the levy. I abstain. Since the tax is designed to be paid by people who work in the city, but can’t vote, as opposed to the people who live here and can, it should pass easily.

I am careful to seal the envelope before I either change my mind or simply tear up the ballot. I am just one more guy wandering around the bottom of the enthusiasm chasm. Will the major parties find us in time for 2012?

Lee Fisher For President

A recent Quinnipiac Poll shows former Congressman Rob Portman ahead by 20 points over Lt. Governor Lee Fisher. Other polls show Portman with leads of about 10 points. I take no pleasure in reporting these numbers. I have voted for Mr. Fisher lots of times. I will probably vote for him again in November. My vote, like approximately 45% of the ballots eventually cast, will be in vain. Mr. Fisher is destined to lose. Mr. Portman will be our next U.S. Senator.

The polls and recent Ohio elections lead me to one conclusion. Lee Fisher will run in 2012 or 2016 to be our next President.

A stretch? I don’t think so. Let’s review Mr. Fisher’s last couple of campaigns. After serving 12 years in the Ohio legislature:

1990 – Lee Fisher won a close election for Ohio Attorney General earning the nickname Landslide Lee.
1994 – Defeated in his bid for reelection by Betty Montgomery.
1998 – Eschewed the opportunity to challenge Ms. Montgomery, Lee Fisher ran for Governor. He was defeated in a close election 50% to 45%.
2006 – Elected Lt. Governor on Ted Strickland’s ticket.
2010 – Defeated (projected) in his bid for the U.S. Senate.
2012 / 2016 – President Fisher?

His previous defeat led him to run for a higher office. We are running out of offices. All that is left is the presidency.

Please don’t take any of this a knock on Mr. Fisher’s efforts. Lt. Governor Fisher was the state’s point man for economic development. I bumped into him several times in my capacity as President of the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce. He was engaged and active. Was he effective? In a recession? In a state that lost bidding wars to Georgia and others? I don’t know if anyone could have done any better.

Was he good enough to get promoted to U.S. Senator?

Rank and file Democrats didn’t have much of a choice. Fisher or Fisher wanna-be, Jennifer Brunner. Having served one tumultuous term as Ohio Secretary of State, Ms. Brunner refused to attempt to defend her position and bolted for the Senate race. Ohio voters chose the familiar, overly ambitious Fisher instead of the upstart, overly ambitious Brunner. What a shock.

Lee, my old neighbor, if you are reading this, know that I really wish this current race would end more successfully. And, I pledge $18 (Chai / Life) toward your inevitable Lee Fisher for President campaign. Just let me know where to send the check.

Choosing Sides

David’s frustration was not feigned. My friend’s confusion was very real. Why wouldn’t I become a Republican? He could not understand my reluctance to change sides. With my occasional bouts of logic and my appearance of reasonableness, I didn’t fit his image of a Democrat.

Before this goes much further, I should probably note that my friend’s name really is David. Get a bunch of Jewish guys of a certain age together and you will inevitably have several David’s, Marc’s, and Jeffrey’s.

David happily listed some of the Dem’s shining stars. He flung names like Pelosi, Reid, and Waters like accusations. I calmly told him that when Republicans refer to a person of color, they usually mean John Boehner. I think I got in an Agent Orange joke, too.

This wasn’t the first time we had had a conversation like this. It won’t be the last. David admitted that the Republicans did have some members on the far right, but he felt that my experience in the 90’s of leading the New Democratic Policy Council would lend a moderating influence. And at that I said, “No thanks”. I can stay where I am and help my own party find the sensible center.

I am, officially, a Democrat. But in truth, I really belong to a party that has only one member and I’m sometimes at odds with him. I don’t think I fit neatly into any particular box and I’m always amazed by those people who do.

Some of you may think that this is a perfect segue to a discussion of the church closings in Greater Cleveland and the one group that didn’t meekly go away. It is not. I thought the letter to the editor published in the Plain Dealer from Reverend Kenneth Chaulker was out of place. I prefer to leave the discussion of Catholicism to Catholics.

A month of so ago the Democratic Party ward clubs of several eastern suburbs were going to have a candidates’ night. The purpose was to gather all of the Democratic candidates for the new Cuyahoga County Executive position. The average voter would have an opportunity to hear their platforms and ask questions. Democracy in action.

The Party squashed the event. Since the Party had already endorsed Edward FitzGerald, there was no reason for us to meet with any of the others. Mayor Gorden and the other ward leaders had conveniently done our thinking for us. The primary is just a formality.

I have already mailed my primary ballot. I sincerely doubt that I will vote, come November, for that person again. Two of the Independent candidates are in the running for my vote. I’m more intrigued by either of them than I am with any of the candidates running as Democrats or Republicans.

I am represented in Congress by Marcia Fudge, someone who schedules community meetings on Rosh Hashanah. We appoint our Congressional representatives for life in this district. Unless she chooses to run for the U.S. Senate, Ms. Fudge will be there in Washington, for me, until death or wanderlust takes one of us. Will I vote for her? I have, and depending on who my choices are, I may again. I reserve that right. I also reserve the right to skip that race on the ballot if I find all of the choices abhorrent.

David shouldn’t waste his time attempting to craft more persuasive arguments. I can’t switch from being a Democrat to identifying myself as a Republican, because I am unwilling to give up what little independence I have left. I may not be much of a Democrat, but I’m more than enough for me.