Let's double down on our efforts to work together!
America’s social sphere is divided, in part, by fundamentalists who’ve sought to make religion front and center of their politics, claiming moral superiority and vehemently wagging their fingers at anyone who disagrees or thinks differently, anyone who sees public policy as more nuanced than the refrain that begins with, “The problem is those people...”
We can no longer let political leaders stand behind a thin veil of piety to further their own interests. Such leaders have corrupted the meaning of morality, have risen as a counterpoint to true moral leadership, have misled the people and damaged our country immeasurably.
Along the Mountain Parkway there is a sign near the Slade exit that perfectly illustrates how the fundamentalist movement has divided people, has charged the political debate to toxicity. The sign declares that the Democratic Party is Christianity and democracy’s worst enemy. In reality, the thinking behind that sign is indeed the biggest threat to democracy and religious freedom; it is the biggest problem we face in the American political sphere. The movement to objectify “others” as a political strategy is an evil we must confront, and it is the biggest problem facing anyone who aspires to be a moral political leader. Neither the Republican nor Democrat party has a claim on moral superiority. That pursuit lies within the individual.
To begin with, if leaders want to make religion front and center in their platforms, then there is a moral obligation to be inclusive. After all, every major religion holds inclusivity as a tenet, from the Eighth through the Tenth commandments which address one’s behavior toward neighbors and the directive to love thy neighbor from the Book of Matthew to the Buddhist understanding of Karma, Islam’s notion of Alms, and the Hindu concept of dharma or leading a good and just life, all religions speak to a need for inclusiveness.
Still, in American politics we see the exact opposite in fundamentalist leaders who ascribe to a philosophy of fear mongering, exclusion, and promotion of a narrow view of religion that is a handmaiden to their political ambitions. We see tactics such as the bringing out of the pro life argument when there is a dearth of critical thinking on policy issues; we see a blind eye turned to their own immoral actions, whether that involves subtle racism, labeling as immoral those not deemed normal, or the manipulation of the electorate as a kind of political currency to gain and hold onto power.
Let’s be clear about our notions of morality and the ideas of what it means to be a moral political leader. Holding up a Bible and channeling a base diatribe about sin does not make one a moral leader; nor does courting support from a narrow cadre of fundamentalist preachers who view everyone not in their churches as sinners. When Christianity or any religion is weaponized for the purpose of gaining political office, a great immorality has been perpetrated on the electorate.
It is important to remember that our nation has been successful, in part, because of the guarantee of religious freedom, and indeed we have the most religiously diverse nation in the world. Religious freedom has survived because we have kept the government out of religion, and the fundamentalist movement to put “god” (the lowercase “g” is intentional) in government and institutions such as public education, as well as the base tendency to conflate all public issues to abortion are not the signs of moral political leaders. While your individual views on the morality of legal abortion are important, it is also important to recognize that, for Kentucky in the 2020 legislative session, the veto-proof majority could have imposed an outright ban on abortion. Did anyone notice that no such law was put forth by the morality caucus? It leads one to believe that the issue is more of a political weapon than a true belief that abortion is a sin.
To my mind, a moral political leader understands that very few public issues are black and white, and that is especially true when we plod into matters of governing. Moral political leaders are not people who pretend to understand the will of God and then package these beliefs into attempts to legislate a narrow morality. Even the Christian Bible makes multiple references to the fact that God is too immense to be understood fully by humans -- indeed all religions hold that same precept as a fundamental truth. So, it follows that these base attempts by fundamentalists to suggest they talk to God are the signs of delusional thinkers, more the rantings of demagogues than moral leaders.
In my mind, an ultimate political immorality is a leader who seeks to divide people. I am on the ticket as a moderate Democrat, but you will never hear me vilify someone for being a Republican, a conservative, or a liberal. You may hear me call out extremists, but they are less of a political animal than a social animal. Many social theorists discuss the necessity of non-conformists, of extremists, and their importance in society. In the political bestiary, though, those folks are the test of our tolerance as a society, of the strength of our democracy. John Kennedy said that politics is the art of what’s possible; so, we should remember that a sign declaring the ultimate evil of a political party is not about politics. It is about a fundamental evil in the hearts of those who would promote such an idea, of immoral leaders and philosophically flawed individuals.
So there you have my political statement about moral leadership, and from here I plan to develop this notion more fully so that you can understand how I will approach political leadership as your representative. I do believe the fundamental issues in this election are not about the scores of policies we could adopt to improve our communities and our state as much as they are about approaches to developing those policies. My goal is to be a moral leader, not a to be someone who claims moral high ground while behaving very badly.
I’m a Democrat because the party is supposed to stand for the values that are the bedrock of our country. We are advocates for the middle class, the working class, the poor, and anyone who believes that prosperity is for all who strive to achieve it.
Democrats believe in fairness, a level playing field, and progress. The Democratic Party that I believe in understands that we must serve a diverse constituency if our country is to enjoy the blessings of democracy and free enterprise. We must make decisions that benefit the vast majority of people.
I’m tired of seeing us kicked around. I’m sick of seeing regressive ideologues like our current representative rub people’s noses in the radical right filth he leaves at his feet. The Democratic Party that I believe in, that I represent, will never surrender to the force of an Alt Right jackboot that tries to stomp us into the dust!
Isn’t it time that both parties stand up to the rot that is corrupting our government, poisoning our political sphere, and dividing our people? Both parties need each other to put forth competent candidates who work for the good of the people, not just the good of the privileged. Regressives endanger us all -- ideologues like our current state representative who wants to lead his flock back into the darkness, to a serfdom where only a chosen few are allowed to aspire beyond subservience.
If you hope for a better day, thirst for better government, and want a representative who vows to walk away from the toxic sludge that has become the norm for “how things are done,” then I hope you will lock arms with me and reclaim what is ours.
I’m calling on reasonable citizens in the 74thDistrict to stand for more than the mockery that our current representative has made of the decent people who live here. This November, the choice is simple. The voters can hold onto a charlatan who is nothing that he claims to be. Or we can join forces and unite to face the big challenges that lie ahead.
The stark choice is yours to make and yours alone. Please join me and let’s stand on the right side of history together!
We see it at every high school graduation -- a standing ovation for anyone who has enlisted. That’s rightly so. I always wonder, though, how do we honor their service after they come home? We know soldiers risk and sacrifice much on our behalf. For instance, since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, we’ve had 52,679 military personnel wounded and 6,954 killed in Middle East operations, according to Defense Department statistics (Smith, 2018).
Statewide, Kentucky’s veterans number more than 279,000 and fully 33% of them are disabled, with 22% having a service related disability. Add to those numbers the fact that 9% of veterans in Kentucky live below the poverty level (U.S. Census Bureau). See U.S. poverty rates.
In the 74th district of Kentucky, we see a similar pattern. Our vets in Menifee, Montgomery, and Powell counties do OK in terms of averages and median incomes compared to non-veterans, but 33% are disabled, and a higher number in the 74th (27%) have service-related disabilities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017).
It’s one thing to give our newly inducted service members a well-deserved ovation for their commitment to serve our country, but it is also incumbent on us to honor them when they come home to civilian life. Remember that if you applaud four young people at graduation who have enlisted, statistics say that one of them will come home with a disability from that service.
Smith, S. (2018, Nov. 1). The cost of war since September 11, 2001.The Balance Careers. Available at https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-cost-of-war-3356924.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2017 American Communities Survey 5-year population estimate. American Fact Finder. Available at https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml.