My historical idol and alter-ego John Adams famously said that "facts are stubborn things." I concur. I also think that if shared honestly, people of good intentions with good faith could come to an agreement on very difficult issues even in difficult times. With a majority of Americans, this approach is the only way to reach consensus. Indeed, when I was a congressional nominee, one of my most favorite experiences was to present an argument on which I knew my audience took a contrarian viewpoint and listen to the feedback afterward. Almost always, it was something on the order of, "well, we don't agree on everything but I appreciate your stating your views and being willing to hear our side."
Of course, there were those who walked out as soon as they discerned we disagreed (abortion immediately comes to mind). Nevertheless, unless your mindset runs to the Banana Republic prescription of coups and/or assassinations to bring about your desired outcome, persuasion and open debate is the democratic way. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose. Although the late night comics have us guffawing often in chagrin at the rubes stopped on the street who don't have a clue why July Fourth is a holiday or can't name the last two presidents, if one believes in democracy then one must still assume that the people will make the right choices most of the time.
I believe it. And the town hall meetings of the past few weeks have shown that when the people get awakened enough to turn off the TVs and actually join a demonstration to make a point, the empirical evidence is hard to deny. These folks along with the Tea Party demonstrators appear to be as close to non-partisan as one could find in these extremely partisan times. Some of us who have been involved deeply in the process for years have admittedly pejoratively referred to them as the "mushy middle." This is the 20 percent or so of voters who sway with the times in deciding just which lever to pull. Ordinarily, these folks only pay sufficient attention to the political process the last few weeks before the election or when dramatic events are unfolding.
Well, those events are upon us. The prospect of health care, which is one-sixth of our economy, being given to the bureaucrats; the government takeover of major corporations; the obvious mindset of the ruling party to get government involved in every aspect of our lives; and perhaps most of all, the outrageous spending that portends disaster for our country's future financial health has stirred the sleeping giant.
I have never heard the words "fear" and "scared" so many times as in the past year when it became evident that Obama would win. These are people who have lived their daily lives making decisions on how to spend their hard-earned money wisely. They can't fathom a government that appears to have abandoned all fiscal responsibility. They just know there has to be an endgame to multi-trillion dollar deficits and it isn't pretty.
Nancy Pelosi and many on the left can attempt to demonize these concerned Americans, but it only infuriates them more. We are a funny people - fiercely independent in wanting to live our lives free of bureaucratic interference yet also demanding ever more services that only come from more losses of our financial and other freedoms. But like most things in life, it's a matter of limitations. How much government is enough or too much? We appear to be close to answering that questions - right now.
Gary Hofmeister is a Steamboat Springs businessman. He is a director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana. He made 18 trips to the former USSR to teach democratic-capitalism during the 1990s.