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When poverty really mattered

Yesterday (Wednesday, Jan. 15) was the birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, Jan. 20, is the official federal designation of Dr. King’s birthday. (It’s always recognized as a federal holiday the third Monday in January).

Dr. King’s championing of the poor and his message of fighting poverty apparently have become the new causes du jour in some quarters. Republicans, never known as the ambassadors for the anguished, have suddenly become the new abolitionists of the anguished.

That’s not bad but it is a tad disingenuous.

The Republicans’ newly found religion came on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty,’ something 1964 GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater disparaged, something 1980 GOP nominee and later President Ronald Reagan sought to dismantle, something today’s rightwing extremists seek to redefine. Both Goldwater and Reagan are considered the founders of the modern day conservative movement in America. To be sure, the war on poverty and the efforts to alleviate it were only 15 years in the works when Reagan decided the nation had enough.

Now the Republicans want to play revisionist historians, as if all the resistance never happened. Nice try, guys.

If the Republicans are truly serious about attacking poverty, they may want to start by addressing the conditions that cause it. It’s like fighting crime. It’s easy to blame guns. It’s easy to blame race. It’s easy to blame drugs, broken families and the Easter Bunny.

It is courageous and forthright to blame the misery of income disparity, no income, poor education, lack of opportunity and all the factors that spawn poverty, not the fallacy that poverty is rooted in individual decision making.

It is not.

One way to champion their newly found passion for the oppressed – poverty is an oppressive state – is for Republicans to ferret out those who are at the top of the list for insensitivity toward those of lesser means. They need to do it before Iowa, before New Hampshire, before November 2016. They need to do it before it’s too late.

And then Republicans need to find among their ranks some bleeding heart conservatives. That’s right, seek out those with at least the capacity to recognize not everyone enjoys their standing at the bottom of the economic ladder or relish having to decide between fuel and food. They need to find someone who’s not out to punish people for their poverty condition. We’ve had it with the bleeding heart liberal gibberish. Bring on their conservative compatriots.

What America needs right now is a conservative – or a cabal of conservatives – who are braced to stand up to the far-right wing bullies, especially those with close ties to the tea party rebellion, which considers any government action and spending to be borderline sacrilegious.

Such an individual does not currently exist. If they do, they are cloaked in denial.

But recent actions suggest there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Republicans have started the discussion among themselves about ways to address poverty. Good for them.

But they need to recognize those among their ranks who could sabotage their message. Start with these individuals who feign to rise to the highest office in the land: Ted Cruz – The Texas senator has a fundamental disdain for President Obama. That is not reason enough to halt his crusade. But it is part of the GOP playbook that has sought to say no to everything Obama’s pushed since Jan. 20, 2009. Cruz cannot on one hand harbor disdain toward the president then say he is for poverty reduction.

Paul Ryan – As Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate, he became the poster child for the GOP’s future. The only problem is his ideas were rooted deeply in the Republican past.

Rand Paul – Smart but dangerous, Paul makes government actions public enemy number one, and already has more baggage than baggage claim when it comes to helping the poor.

Rick Santorum – A scary man who actually won the Iowa Caucuses in 2012 after a recount showed Mitt Romney did not. Romney’s money, however, squashed any chance of Santorum getting momentum. For his part, Santorum’s message is religious based, although he seems to forget the fact most religious including the Pope – empathize with the poor.

Marco Rubio -A smooth-talker from Florida who has positioned himself well in re-framing the poverty message. But he, too, has his share of baggage.

Bobby Jindal – Of all the Republican possibilities in 2016, Jindal is the least logical, and the least credible. He governs a state – Louisiana – that is among the poorest and the least educated, yet he has fundamentally derailed all efforts to help those very people. The only people Jindal has defended are the stars of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, who were recently embroiled in their own racial rancor. Such is life. Jindal and his privileged upbringing validate that Jindal just doesn’t care for those he considers beneath him. Jindal almost seems to carry a genetic disposition to demonstrate disdain toward those who don’t share the benefits of inherited wealth. It’s attitudinal.

Conservatives, if they’re serious about poverty and serious about fairness, could win Americans hearts but only if they have one themselves.

Dr. King, the man we honor next Monday, had a lot to say about helping our family man, especially the poor. That’s what makes this time of year an even more appropriate time to lay down the gauntlet for the bleeding heart conservatives to make their presence known.

Life always catches up with the bully

When Gov. Paul LePage defies the state’s chief law enforcement officer, he is not doing it as Paul LePage the citizen. He is doing it as the people’s chief executive officer, on their behalf and at their expense. Let the average Joe Q. Citizen tell a law enforcement officer to ‘sue me’ and see what happens.

LePage eventually reversed his earlier stand and complied with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills’ request for documents pertaining to Medicaid, albeit with some chagrin. Day by day, LePage makes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie look like a Boy Scout.

Speaking of Christie, the New Jersey governor denies involvement in the burgeoning scandal involving his top aides and the George Washington Bridge lane closures. He adamantly says he is not a bully. Fine. But someone close to Christie created traffic jams to exact punishment on an adversary. That is bullying.

At best, the actions of Christie’s inner circle, people who would likely be at the center of a Christie presidency, were wrong, mean and induced by a penchant for power. Those actions were also unconscionable and dangerous, not to mention, a fundamental abuse of the power bestowed upon them.

In 1987, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart defied media reports of infidelity, and dared the media to follow him. They did. And Hart’s presidential aspirations sank on a pleasure boat. Now Christie is watching his own White House dreams collapse on a busy bridge called George Washington.

Life always catches up with those who bully others. For his part, Christie won’t have to wait until 2016 to hear more about the massive traffic jams. He’ll gently be shoved out of contention while all the other candidates rev up their political engines in the HOV lane headed toward Iowa.

 

Life always catches up with the bully

When Gov. Paul LePage defies the state’s chief law enforcement officer, he is not doing it as Paul LePage the citizen. He is doing it as the people’s chief executive officer, on their behalf and at their expense. Let the average Joe Q. Citizen tell a law enforcement officer to ‘sue me’ and see what happens.

LePage eventually reversed his earlier stand and complied with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills’ request for documents pertaining to Medicaid, albeit with some chagrin. Day by day, LePage makes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie look like a Boy Scout.

Speaking of Christie, the New Jersey governor denies involvement in the burgeoning scandal involving his top aides and the George Washington Bridge lane closures. He adamantly says he is not a bully. Fine. But someone close to Christie created traffic jams to exact punishment on an adversary. That is bullying.

At best, the actions of Christie’s inner circle, people who would likely be at the center of a Christie presidency, were wrong, mean and induced by a penchant for power. Those actions were also unconscionable and dangerous, not to mention, a fundamental abuse of the power bestowed upon them.

In 1987, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart defied media reports of infidelity, and dared the media to follow him. They did. And Hart’s presidential aspirations sank on a pleasure boat. Now Christie is watching his own White House dreams collapse on a busy bridge called George Washington.

Life always catches up with those who bully others. For his part, Christie won’t have to wait until 2016 to hear more about the massive traffic jams. He’ll gently be shoved out of contention while all the other candidates rev up their political engines in the HOV lane headed toward Iowa.

The Advertiser Democrat Editorial Board