Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Theory And Practice

We know that today is May Day, a day commonly used to celebrate worker's rights all over the world. That topic is one we fully support, and hope to address again soon. [We also know that in some places, May Day is about giving candy and gifts to your neighbors, but that's another story.]

However, after the stack of columns, commentaries, and news items over the last 24 hours that all pointed to the same idea, we've decided to focus on the difference between theory and reality in politics today. That seems to be something modern Republican politicians don't seem to truly understand - even if many others, including many Republican voters, do.

The tip of the metaphorical iceberg surfaced with a column from this weekend's Washington Post by two centrist political scholars (one of whom works for a conservative think tank), entitled, "Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem." In short, the two political scienists agree that the slavish devotion to ideological theory that current Republican Party politicians cling to, has - in practice - ground our current political system to a halt.

It's not that most Republican voters want the kind of inaction our system now displays. On the contrary, Republican voters, in general say they want our legislators to make smart, sensible laws in a very efficient way. That's not what our current Republican political leaders seem to want, though.

As we mentioned on Monday, just like Newt Gingrich, modern Republican politicians only seem to care more about proving their political theories correct then they do actually governing effectively. Like the poorly planned attacks on Planned Parenthood in Texas, and the illegitimate "personhood" bill in Oklahoma, Republican politicians seem to bent on imposing their theories on those they serve. Sadly, because those legislators didn't consider the constitutionality or ethical nature of either bill, both the bill in Texas and the one in Oklahoma were struck down or halted in court on Monday - which will now cost the taxpayers in both states significantly more money, with zero benefit.

The mindless pursuit of ideology seems to have also found its way into action by Nebraska's State Board of Education. The Board appears set to attempt to force students in all Nebraska public schools, at all levels, to say the Pledge of Allegiance every school day. That a similar bill in Nebraska's legislature failed to pass earlier this year only seemed to be more of an incentive to the Republican politicians on the Board. It doesn't seem to matter that some voters - conservatives among them - agree that being forced to say words one doesn't believe or support won't be helpful to the kids or the schools.

For modern Republican politicians, these kinds of differences between theory and reality don't seem to matter. It doesn't even seem to matter when their theories have been proven to be wrong. For example, the entire conservative theory of budgetary austerity - which, in short, is the Ryan Budget plan - has proven a massive failure throughout Europe. Yet Republicans continue to insist if the rest of us would just try these failed theories, for the thousand and first time, it would be different than the thousand previous failures of the same plan.

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney followed that same stubborn Republican pattern today, when Romney made an offhand comment about President Obama's decision to go ahead with the raid that lead to the death of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. Romney tried to frame the decision President Obama made last year as a theory, one that was no big deal, saying that, "even Jimmy Carter would have given that order."

However, as multiple people pointed out, Carter - like Obama - didn't just have a theory. Carter put into actual practice his decision in April of 1980, to rescue U.S. diplomats in Iran, a decision that was incredibly similar to Obama's decision to go after Bin Laden.

Unlike President Obama's decision however, President Carter's ended in tactical and political failure - and was likely a major reason Carter was not re-elected. As Romney's offhand comment makes clear, though, President Obama's call to go ahead with the Bin Laden raid was not just some pie-in-the sky theory, nor was it an easy decision. Obama's choice was a gutsy move, with calculated risks, that was a Presidential leadership move in practice.

For us, Yogi Berra summed it up best when he said, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

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