Max Weber reminds us that too often we act like a herd of sheep. We decide we’re for some thing without examining the validity of our conclusion. Let’s consider one divisive issue: pro-life v. pro-choice. Women’s reproductive rights are a compelling issue. But when we vote for someone based on one particular issue, we could be neglecting our children, ourselves, and the nature of the society in which we live. There are other issues. For example, we can all agree that health and education are essential to a decent and meaningful life. I’m reminded of one public servant who did. David Bonior was for years one of the leaders of the House of Representatives. He is one of the most intelligent, committed politicians I’ve known. He is also pro-life. My wife, Audre, is totally committed to the pro-choice position. When David was running for a Michigan House seat, we obviously couldn’t vote for him. But we could contribute generously. And we did. When people asked Audre how someone so dedicated to women’s reproductive rights could support a “pro-life” candidate like Bonior, she had a simple response. “He’s sort of like Ivory soap-99.5 percent pure.” Give or take a percentage point, it was a good assessment of David Bonior, whose career was dedicated to improving the lives of Americans living on the economic margins of our society. To deny him support based on a single issue was to fall into a herd driven by single-issue politics. Or more accurately, a herd driven by right-wing political operatives who have mastered the emotional exploitation of single-issue politics. I’m not writing to tell you what my personal position on this issue may be, though I certainly believe it matters in the confirmation of Supreme Court justices. But I am more concerned about a society where too few have too much and too many have too little, an issue on which we all should be able to agree. I went to the drug store recently to get pre A Herd of Sheep by BERNARD RAPOPORT scriptions filled for my heart condition. The bill was $1,000! I asked the pharmacist, “What if I didn’t have that amount of money?” He said, “Well, you couldn’t have them.” I said, “You mean in this land of ours, the richest country in the world, that I can live because I have money and someone who doesn’t have money won’t be able to live? I think that’s a terrible injustice.” He responded, “I know that, but that’s the way it is.” Let’s return to Weber’s herd of sheep. Rather than focus on a single issue easily exploited by the political right, doesn’t it make sense that before we support a candidate, we ask about his commitment to access to good health care for everyone in this country? Doesn’t it make sense that we consider a candidate’s commitment to quality public education and adequate and equitable taxation to support it? Sure, I support good education, just don’t increase my taxes to pay for it. That’s the attitude that too many of us have, especially those of us in high tax brackets, favored by a tax code that provides all sorts of machinations to evade paying our fair share. I think that before each of us considers how we’re going to vote, we ask the candidate what her priorities are. And we refuse to accept mumbling about “I’m for health” and “I’m for education.” Both have to be paid for. When a candidate says, I support AD COURTESY OF THE BERNARD AND AUDRE RAPOPORT FOUNDATION 5400 Bosque Blvd., Suite 245 Bernard Rapoport Chairman of the Board both of these issues, ask her how she suggests we pay for them. The answer must be higher taxes. The tax rate has to be based on the ability to pay, as it was before Reagan and the Bushes began rewriting our tax code to favor those of us who can most afford to pay. Those who have more should pay moreconsiderably more. As someone who founded and directed the building of a large financial institution, I can tell you that you can get rich, very rich, without stock options, without the CEO earning more than 25 to 30 times what the lowest-paid employee earns \(today CEOs make 1,000 to 1,500 times what the lowest-paid employee the rules of the gamein particular the tax codewere rewritten. It wasn’t so long ago that we were a society in which wealthand the tax burdenwas more reasonably distributed. So we should be mad. But we too often get mad in the wrong way. Or we focus our legitimate political anger on single issues easily exploited by the far rightwhether it is reproductive rights or gay and lesbian rights. Before you decide who you’re for, decide what kind of world you want. Don’t let a single issueregardless of its importancedetermine the candidate you will support. My own position is clear and unequivocal, as is Audre’s, after whom Planned Parenthood’s Waco clinic is named. But because I love this country, I have the courage to say that if we succumb to the virus of letting single issues determine our votes or dominate our political discourse, we will have succumbed to an incurable political illness. I’m an optimist. I believe we can reassess what determines how we cast our votes. I also believe a commitment to a broad range of interests fundamental to a genuine quality of life in this country ultimately allows us to elect the candidates who will advance all the issues the progressive community supports. JANUARY 13, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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