Denver Bar Association
February 2005
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Get Over the Election? This Ain’t Funny

Editor’s Note: As expected, January’s article, "Ok, I Voted, So Now What," created quite a stir among DBA members. Here are some of your responses.

From Terry Kelly:

Doug McQuiston’s "OK, I Voted, So Now What" was entertaining. Who doesn’t enjoy gloating posing as sympathy? "Hey, lighten up," directs Mr. McQuiston. The whole election thing? It was a joke! Presidents have no power. The USA’s real power is its "healthy, capitalistic entrepreneurial economy, trading freely in the world, creat[ing] jobs ... form[ing] the strongest engine for economic success the world has ever known." We are also assured that however the latest Bush retained power, it wasn’t because of superior moral values. Nobody gives a damn about moral values. And things will get better — Iraq, social security, employment. They always do. Otherwise, why would immigrants be suffocating, jammed into border-crossing trucks, seeking jobs in the "strongest engine for economic success the world has ever known"?  

Look: Presidents do have power. Because Iraq held big, big weapons, and because a full scale war on Iraq would result in the Iraqi people quickly joining us against their countrymen, this
president got to become a "War President." We now have over 10,000 dead Iraqi civilians, 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers, at least 6,000 wounded soldiers. What we really have is " ... a train coming that’s packed with people who are going to need help for the next 35 years."(Stephen Robinson, Ex. Dir. National Gulf Resource Center, NCR 1/7/05.) The dead, the wounded and those people in that train have spouses and children. The social havoc wreaked by this little display of presidential power is an off-the-books cost on the U.S. economy and conscience that will be a huge burden forever. Presidents also nominate federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. That’s power. We are assured that this president’s nominees will be "strict constructionists," and not "judicial activists." Even Justice Scalia has made it clear that whatever a "strict constructionist" is, he isn’t one of them. "I am not a nut," he claims. (New York Times, May 2, 2004, p.34.) A person who is committed to nominate judges based primarily upon the nominees’ wacky characteristics has power, even if he is ill-equipped to exercise that power.

I would like to laugh, light up Doug’s cigar, pour some port and enjoy the joke. Can’t do. I know funny.
This ain’t funny.

From Carolyn Powell:

I read Doug McQuiston’s "balanced" article and was heartened by the promise of "some perspective" on what was admittedly one of the most gut-wrenching election cycles in most of our memories. Needless to say, the text box touting "Go shopping" was not a good sign but I read on. My conclusion was that this guy is smoking some really good stuff.

What country are you living in Mr. McQuiston? Not the one where the electorate is so polarized on some issues that they can scarcely believe there is only one America. Not the one where the citizens are so compassionate that they will pour out millions of dollars to help those devastated by the tsunami, while turning a blind eye to the fact that they are responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi’s in the last 18 months. Not the one where the poor are becoming poorer and the wealthy more wealthy with no regard for the consequences. And certainly not the one where the litmus test for survival is loyalty to an ideology and to a leadership espousing that ideology, with no tolerance for any difference of opinion or any divergence of ideas.

We marvel at America, the land of promise and opportunity. The rest of the world looks at America and at best fears us and at heart despises us. We are seen to be intolerant,
arrogant and self-indulgent, concerned only with ourselves and with our own relentless quest for wealth. It is easy for you to say that the next few years will be less scary and less revolutionary, but pay attention. There is a bumper sticker that surfaced in the last election cycle that states: "If you aren’t appalled you aren’t paying attention." Pay attention Mr. McQuiston!

We are a nation willing to be divided as we never have been by people who would manipulate us to their own advantage by widening that divide. We are a nation moving to inflict our "morals" on a world in which we should be partners, not masters. We are a country that refuses to care for the children of our poor and of our working poor. We are held together by our love of freedom, democracy and family, yet we allow the irrational fears of a fringe minority to threaten those freedoms and to dictate a morality that leaves no room for the wonderful diversity of humanity that is essential to our democracy and limitless in its capacity to enrich our lives.

We are proudly members of a profession that is dedicated in large part to helping others. Surely we should be the standard-bearers for tolerance and for balance, and we should
be the leaders that step forward and help our "America" recognize that we all embrace common principles that allow us to thrive and that provide us with the basis for a true "democracy."

I worked with a team of over 150 lawyers on Nov. 2, 2004 who gave up their entire day to participate in a process that is the foundation of our nation. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., it was not about political parties, it was not about slick or destructive advertising, it was not about campaign operatives; it was about citizens coming together to exercise their right to vote and to come together to ensure that everyone else had the same opportunity. It was a period of time when it did not matter whether you were gay or female or wealthy or poor. It only mattered that you were a citizen and that you took the time and had the opportunity to cast your vote in
a free election process. How is that for common ground?

So Mr. McQuiston, I would say to you, do not relax. Take that shopping money
and think carefully and thoughtfully about whether you need something else extravagant. Do not just write a check to a "charity." Think about what you can contribute to a non-profit group dedicated to achieving a mission that matches your interests and beliefs, and then write a bigger check. Skip the extravagant gift and volunteer some of your own time to become involved with that non-profit so that you connect in a personal way with those who are doing such important work. You are right: our country needs us, but "going shopping" is not the answer.

From Jim Bailey:

I was over the election (once the anti-depressants kicked in) until I read Doug McQuiston’s article. At first I thought it was a joke, but then it occurred to me that this guy may actually be serious (and may never have read a decent history book), telling us that the election wasn’t a big deal so we should just relax, let the free enterprise system solve our problems, go shopping, and, oh, donate to charity.

Nothing like some smug Republican perspective as antidote to liberal depression. No space for a point-by-point rebuttal, but a couple of thoughts. I think U.S. presidents have a lot more power than McQuiston credits or else there were a lot of otherwise intelligent people and corporations with intelligent people working for them stupidly throwing boatloads of money at the candidates.

I don’t know the criteria for determining "the greatest country in the world." But whether it’s the ability to kick everyone else’s you-know-what (we’re definitely number one there) or access to health care, educational levels, low infant mortality rates, etc. (we may not make the top 10), we should care about what European and other countries think about us if we want to remain at or near the top. McQuiston’s right on one point: our country does need us — but to do more than shop and max out our 401(k)s. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to mull over my next extravagant purchase.

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