Republican Opposition to the Stimulus: Wrong, But Not Treason

The Designated Conservative was pleased and surprised to come across this piece (excerpt below) from a liberal, self-described environmentalist neighbor of mine who has clearly not drunk deeply of the national Democrat Party leadership’s Kool-Aid (to read the entire article, click here).

First, a personal note to the author:

Mr. Alson,

I sincerely hope that you do not lose your party credentials for writing such heresy, but if you do, remember this: With your thoughtful words, you did not leave the Democrat Party; it was the radical, Pelosi-liberal thugs that shanghaied the (D) and left you behind. As far as this designated conservative can determine from your piece, you are more conservative in your thinking than the entire “Bush-McCain” liberal-wing of of the Republican Party.

Given time, you will figure out that the Obama stimulus “borrow and spend your way out of a recession” was a lousy and disastrous move for the country (like the Congressional Budget Office already has).  In the meantime, come on over.  You may find that you are much more comfortable on this side of the fence!

Sincerely yours,
the Designated Conservative

Republican Opposition to the Stimulus: Wrong, But Not Treason
by Jeff Alson

One of my best friends and favorite writers, Robert Letcher, has accused those Republicans who oppose President Obama’s stimulus program of “treason by a thousand cuts” (Republicans Giving Civic Lessons?!!!??, We! Magazine, February 14, 2009). I strongly disagree.

Even more important than the formal definition that Bob cites, I believe treason has a clear and powerful “public meaning” of disloyalty to one’s country. Accordingly, unlike words that lack such a universal public meaning, I believe words like treason should only be used when we really (really!) mean it. Otherwise, they lose their powerful public meaning.

I personally believe that the stimulus program was a very good idea, to try to jump-start our economy and help millions of families survive. But, I don’t think opposition to the stimulus program in general, or to the process that was used by the Administration and Congress to pass it quickly, comes even close to justifying the use of the word treason, whether by one or a thousand or a million cuts.

I think treason should be reserved for those issues with immediate consequences related to fundamental constitutional principles and which do not involve a “thousand degrees of grayness.” And nothing involves so many degrees of grayness than a giant stimulus bill put together in a few weeks.

  • Would a stimulus bill 10 percent smaller or a debate a week or two longer so more members (and the public) could read and digest it, really be the difference between treason and non-treason?
  • Or, was Obama’s willingness to compromise to get three Republican Senate votes equal to one-thousandth of treason?
  • Or, was his unwillingness to support a bill 10 percent larger (or much larger as economists like Paul Krugman and Dean Baker have advocated?) treason-like?

I think these questions point out the folly of bringing treason into the debate over an economic stimulus program….

Sure, some Republican clowns like Limbaugh will portray any stimulus, other than full repeal of all income taxes, as socialism, but many Republicans had more principled reasons for their opposition to the specific stimulus program:

  • passed too quickly,
  • too much debt,
  • too few tax cuts,
  • inclusion of programs that were not near-term stimulus and should have been debated separately….

Finally, remember that I remember all too well, a few days after my young daughter and I marched in downtown Ann Arbor against the war in the winter of 2003, reading a letter to the editor in the local paper, calling us “traitors” for not falling in line behind President Bush. I then responded with my own letter, also published, that mirrored Twain’s philosophy of “loving one’s country, not one’s government” and citing Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote supporting one’s right to criticize the President. I then used the two letters as a history and civics lesson for my daughter about the responsibility of citizens to dissent in a democracy.

I feel just as passionately about the anti-democratic nature of using the “treason card” now that my side is winning. Democracy demands dissent and dialog, not conformity and bullying-by-words like treason.

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One Response to Republican Opposition to the Stimulus: Wrong, But Not Treason

  1. Pingback: 2010 Election: Democrat Counter-offensive « Designated Conservative

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