Steven Hofman: No more name calling
December 12, 2013
There is much to react to in Ken Collins' recent letter to the Pilot ("The 'other' party," Dec. 7). As a Republican who had the privilege of serving the American people as a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, allow me to speak to the question posed in Mr. Collins' letter with reference to the GOP: "Just how cruel does one have to be to be in that party?"
The idea that such a question would be posed is exactly what is increasingly wrong today about public discourse. People clearly have different perspectives, views and beliefs about what are the best policy choices to achieve America's core goal, as stated in the very beginning of our Constitution, "to form a more perfect union." That is why we have elections, why we have political parties and why our institutions of governance are built on a foundation of representative leadership.
But little is achieved, and can be achieved, if we allow our differences in what may the right and best path for our nation to drive us to accuse those who disagree with us as somehow being less virtuous and more mean spirited as a result of our disagreements.
After all, was President Barack Obama cruel when he was against same-sex marriage prior to changing his mind just in the past 18 months? Are the many Democrat officeholders at the national or more local levels of government cruel because they oppose certain restrictions on gun ownership that I as a Republican happen to support? Is it not a legitimate area of debate to consider the impact on job creation when government makes the cost of labor uncompetitive when compared to technology or foreign sources. Perhaps that is why until recent years, the editorial position of the The New York Times was that the minimum wage should be $0.00. That wasn't the GOP position, it was The New York Times'.
These are challenging times, here in the U.S. and around the world. I may not think that the best answers to many of today's challenges are found in the approaches largely championed by the Democratic Party, but that belief does not drive me to assign unkind motives to those fellow citizens who support the Democratic Party.
Mr. Collins probably would disagree with me on most policy matters. That's OK, but before he calls me or fellow Republicans cruel, he may want to ask himself if this approach to political discussion is the best way to do what our founders hoped in urging successor generations since the birth of our great nation to engage in collective efforts to form a more perfect union. I suspect that name calling was not on their list.
Former U.S. assistant secretary of labor and director of research and policy for the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives