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Monday, April 19, 2010

THE POINT: It’s in the American DNA to Speak Our Mind – And, Today’s Political Debate is On!

The Point with Brenda Krueger Huffman

Our founding fathers started it all with the first cries for liberty in the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution, to ensure American citizens the right of free speech with the 1st Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. It’s in the DNA of the American culture and the American people to speak our mind politically.

Today’s political debate is on in America from the Internet to family dining room tables. President Obama and Congress have sparked a passion in the American people on all sides of every issue and within all political parties. Americans are engaged and debating their political positions with passion fully exercising their 1st Amendment rights. Voters are joining Facebook political fan pages, following politicians on Twitter, posting political commentary on blogs, writing editorials to traditional newspapers to express their views, and sending politicians emails and letters directly.

They are watching political programs on television or the Internet. They are buying and reading political-themed books, as evidenced by how many of these books are on numerous best-seller lists. Political speakers are the biggest draw on college campuses. Americans are attending rallies, protests, and town hall meetings in record numbers and speaking their mind. With a great following, political blogs and news articles abound on the Internet. This mid-term election year everyone is talking politics with cab drivers, bartenders, hair stylists, fellow employees, friends, family, and just about everyone. Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams would be proud.

Americans question their government and its policies, simply because they can and they care. Voters express their positive and negatives opinions of President Obama, and members of Congress without fear of censorship or reprisal. They debate specific legislation and the way in which their tax dollars are being spent by Congress. As was the debate with the framers of the U.S. Constitution, Americans are discussing what role government, through constitutional law, can and should have in their lives and businesses. This year voters are exploring the benefits of our Christian founding and our capitalist roots. Many today know the definitions of capitalism, socialism, Marxism, and communism which they may not have thought about or discussed a year ago. They are discussing the differences between these political philosophies from an American perspective. They are discussing whether or not America is in fact being fundamentally transformed by this President and Congress with a legislative agenda, and if so, what this change really means in America and for Americans. They are discussing the difference between a democracy and a republic. This all makes for a passionate and sometimes heated debate no matter with which political party and policies you are aligned.

Americans are getting back in touch with the U.S. Constitution. For the first time since high school, many Americans are reading the Constitution again. And many are specifically looking up the 10th Amendment and the Commerce Clause. In today’s world of 2,000+-page legislative health care bills coming out of Congress, a 48-page Pocket United States Constitution that also includes the Bill of Rights, Amendments 11-27, the Declaration of Independence, and a complete index of the Constitution is a big seller, and is even being sold on eBay and other sources online in volume packages. Americans are questioning if the various federal legislation that is being considered, or has passed, is constitutional. They are debating their beliefs and positions on the original framers’ intent of the specific rights given to the people, states, and the federal government in the U.S. Constitution.

Approximately half of all Americans use social media, and political comments and debate are all over the Internet and social media platforms. The rhetoric is usually civil, but sometimes it’s not. With our 1st Amendment rights comes the common sense responsibility to debate your position on issues, and not by demonizing a political party, or with personal attacks and name calling. Everyone has a right to say whatever they want, with a few lawful exceptions. Yet there is also an ethical responsibility in free speech and a true logic in effective debate that doesn’t include spouting political spin and myth as fact.

Voters are engrossed in the political debate, and social media is a perfect platform as evidenced by a simple search on the keyword “political” on Facebook which returned a result count of 9,900 pages the other day. Youtube has political videos and clips too numerous to count. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty held his first Facebook town hall meeting March 31. It was well received, and proved to be a great use of social media to provide a real-time, transparent, economical, and interactive way to talk with voters. From a Facebook search of top political names for the top fan pages and fan numbers done on April 2, some of the results might surprise you. (These numbers can change at any time of course as fans join or leave the fan page, and I only looked at the “positive” pages for each name.)

Top Positive Fan Page RELATED TO NAME and # of Fans

President Barack Obama 7,982,205

Speaker Nancy Pelosi 18,737

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid 8,680

House Minority Leader John Boehner 58,669

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell 3,782

Newly Elected MA Senator Scott Brown 221,989

Sarah Palin 1,515,481

Glenn Beck 777,465

Jon Stewart’s 558,342

Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report 535,480

Anderson Cooper 360 343,323

Sean Hannity 255,385

Bill Maher 177,226

Rachel Maddow Show 129,833

Rush Limbaugh & the EIB 70,026

Keith Olbermann 48,186

Bill O’Reilly 16,081

Chris Matthews 7,985

According to Sysomos’ recent Twitter study:

• Overall, U.S. President Barack Obama is the most popular politician with 2.24 million followers. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most popular within the 168 identified members of the political Twittersphere with 68 followers, while President Obama is followed by 56 out of the 168.

• ABC News' Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos is the most followed media personality (Group 2). Nansen Malin, a blogger who is on the Republican Party's Executive Board in Washington State, from Group 2, has the most followers within the political Twittersphere.

CNN Breaking News is the most followed news source (Group 3) overall, while the Los Angeles Times Top of the Ticket is the most followed news source among the political Twittersphere.

• Within the political Twittersphere, George Stephanopoulos is followed by the most politicians; Virginia Senator Mark Warner is followed by the most media personalities; and MSNBC cartoonist Darly Cagle is followed by the most news organizations.

Americans are tuning in to politically-based television programs like never before, since the 2008 presidential campaign and election. Whether you like Fox News or not, they tout the “top 13 programs on cable news” and “the most total viewers.” There is no denying FNC programs, The O’Reilly Factor and the Glenn Beck, dominates the ratings. Their viewers grow every day. FNC program contributors, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Juan Williams, and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, are becoming political rock stars with name recognition similar to pro athletes and well, rock stars like KISS’ Gene Simmons. Glenn Beck is the only person in America other than Oprah Winfrey who is able to catapult a book to the top of popular bestseller book lists simply by mentioning the book on his program. And, these are all political and history-themed books.

Whether you drink coffee, tea, kool-aide or just plain water, everyone has an opinion. There are usually very different ones in the same family. In my own family of four sisters, debate is lively as I suspect it is in every American family. One sister is a die-hard Republican, and one is a died-in-the-wool Democrat. One believes President Obama wants to move America to a European style socialist culture, and one believes social justice policies that redistribute wealth are just fine. One thinks the new health care legislation is unconstitutional, and one believes everyone should have “free” health care. One is upset over the check she had to write when she filed her taxes, since she feels the government already took too much out of her pay all year. And one doesn’t pay any income tax, will receive a refund, and thinks only the rich should be taxed. One can’t wait for the 2012 election that she feels will surely replace President Obama, and the other thinks that sister is just an Obama-hater. Yep, Elizabeth and Rosie are still debating from "The View" inside of my family. The only hot button issue we four of us seem to agree on is that same-sex marriage should be legal, and the Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell policy should not. Then other family members debate us all on our equal human rights position and the definition of marriage.

Thousands of Americans don’t just express opinions with each other. Many also call their representatives in Washington or write them a letter as part of the American political debate. In fact, many in 2010 have done this for the first time in their lives. A good friend of mine who lives in Arizona sent a letter last week to Senator Jon Kyl expressing her opinion of what Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said that morning on television.

With permission, here is her letter:

Dear Senator Kyl,

I find it troublesome that Mr. Geithner holds press conferences discussing legislation like controlling companies from becoming "too big to fail." I find this wrong on several levels. Last I checked, his role as Secretary of the Treasury doesn't include a voting role in the Senate or necessarily the right to propose legislation. Am I wrong in this assessment of his role?

Secondly, I find it horribly un-American to say that if a company is overly successful with too broad a reach the government can step in and say - halt – “You're doing too well.” Could not this in essence be said of Microsoft or Google or our own Government?

And, on that note, the real issue I want to address is why are we not looking at our government as possibly being an entity that would be subject to "too big to fail" fail-safes, as it were? I presume, without too much research, one of the largest employers in the United States is the federal government. I also presume that because its agencies are so large and it employs so many people, it is rare we would think about collapsing one agency or the equivalent of a large company as Mr. Geithner spoke about for the private sector. Am I wrong in my assertions? So, is it wrong to think the reason our government won't consider a more simplified and equitable tax structure is because it would cause a loss of jobs within the IRS? Is it wrong to think we don't seek out changes in the Postal Service, which has been leaking money like a sieve for years, simply because it would mean scaling back on postal employees throughout the country?

Why isn't Washington turning the eye on its own house and demanding it be on time and on budget? Geithner’s expressed "too big too fail" philosophy strikes me as trying to use a broom to clean up after a flood. The reality is this philosophy is only going to create a bigger mess and a bigger infrastructure to house the mess. Good luck with that.

Lesley Woodring
Concerned Citizen

Some say America‘s best days are behind us. I don’t believe that. As 2010 is already reflecting, Americans are not complacent about our Constitution, politics, politicians, and government policy. The majority of Americans love their country and are willing to fight with debate for their vision for it -- no matter what side of the political aisle they support. Our founding fathers are looking down on us and smiling. They are pleased we are proud of the political roots they firmly planted, and that we are still discussing their work and legacy. They would have liked the Internet, and without a doubt, each would have had their own political blog and offered Facebook town hall meetings. They are fist-bumping each other that we, as American citizens, continue to engage in passionate political debate, and that we regularly utilize our 1st Amendment right of free speech to do so without fear or censorship. This is one of the ways we honor our heritage and their legacy. The political debate is definitely on in 2010 -- as it should be by the intended design of the American culture’s DNA. The spirit of Americans will never be broken.

For more information, please visit Brenda's TNNW Bio


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