Thursday, October 28, 2010

Think, Choose, Vote

Comparing this week’s two guests, Mahoning County Republican Party chair Mark Munroe, to last week’s, his Democratic counterpart David Betras, may not be completely fair.  You might focus on the contrast between Betras’s passion and Munroe’s calm reserve, but that might well reflect the differences between their professions.  Lawyers do well by speaking righteously and passionately on behalf of their clients, while media producers have to speak more moderately. 

They agree on a few things, like the need to end corruption in local politics, though it’s not surprising that they offer very different solutions for that scourge of Mahoning Valley public life.  And both do the job of a party leader:  endorsing their candidates and positions, predicting success for their parties, and promising a better future for the nation.

The more important differences come out in how the parties they represent approach the problems facing our country and our community.  Democrats believe that society, in the form of government, has a responsibility to look after those who have the least power and resources.  While they recognize that the theory doesn’t always translate into practice, they believe that government can provide services more effectively than private organizations because it’s less driven by profit.  They don’t trust business or the wealthy to operate in the best interests of the society at large, and they view the recent economic crisis as evidence of how business is more likely to pursue their own profits than the good of communities or the country.  They value the idea of America as a whole rather than America as a bunch of separate interests.  Republicans take the opposite view: they believe that the free market will do a better job of generating good for all, because they think that people behave best when they act out of self-interest.  They see government as inept and inherently corrupt, and therefore not to be trusted to pursue the common good.  They place their trust in business, the wealthy, and local government.  And they view America as a loose collection of localities rather than as a unified society. 

As Betras suggests, as voters we need to make our choices based on these underlying values and ideas, not on personalities, not on old habits, not even on frustration with the current economy.  Munroe would probably agree on that.

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