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Aug. 3, 2019

Presidential Debates (EP.153)

Presidential Debates (EP.153)


There is very little presidential about the candidates, and virtually no real debating. Insults, attacks and posturing, yes; debating, no. Note that I did not title this podcast the Democratic Presidential Debates; the Republicans are just as guilty. Hey, 2016 was not all that long ago.

When John F. Kennedy successfully ran for President in 1960, his slogan was “A Time For Greatness.”

That is the subject of today’s 10-minute blog/podcast.


We live in a unique and exceptional country; part of the equally unique and exceptional role we all play in the US is to understand how to identify and solve problems, instead of making ourselves or our fellow believers right, and everyone else wrong. 

When I was a kid, I used to hear my Dad, a Republican, and my Step-mom, a Democrat, talk about politics. Dad, a quiet and thoughtful man, said that he voted a “straight ticket.” Even at a young age, that confused me. How could my thoughtful Dad vote only for Republicans? Weren’t there at least a few Democrats somewhere on the ballot who were better than their Republican opponents? I had no idea at the time, but I was hearing the “party over person” argument. I heard that position most recently and passionately from Mike Rosen, a Denver-based KOA talk show host.

My Father introduced me to the “straight ticket” concept during the 1952 Dwight Eisenhower/Adlai Stevenson election. I remember that “Ike” Eisenhower was a war hero; his campaign sported the “I Like Ike” campaign buttons.

I also remember a political cartoon from that time showing a man purposely striding off to his polling place while answering the question, “You are off to vote. Where is your wife?” “My wife and I support different parties. Instead of cancelling out each other’s vote, we vote in alternate elections.” There is more than one lesson here. First, he thought enough of his civic responsibilities to actually go somewhere to vote. Back then, mailed ballots, called absentee ballots, were only for people who were unable to get to the voting location, e.g., they were ill or on vacation. And they had to prove it to get a mailed ballot.

The man in the cartoon, purposely anonymous, a sort of everyman, had nothing unpleasant to say about either his wife or the persons or party she supported. They had found their own resolution to their political disagreement, and then went about their business. 

The cartoon was entirely reflective of the political tone of the times. There were indeed serious issues; Republicans attacked Harry S. Truman‘s handling of the Korean War and the larger Cold War, and claimed that Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. government. Democrats faulted Eisenhower for failing to condemn Republican Senator Joe McCarthy and other anti-Communist Republicans who they claim had engaged in unscrupulous attacks. Stevenson tried to separate himself from the unpopular previous Democratic administration, instead campaigning on the popularity of the New Deal and lingering fears of another Great Depression under a Republican administration. 

Stevenson had his own button. Supporters could, and did, wear either button without risking angry comments, or, perhaps, even a physical confrontation. Volunteers or staffers would set up on street corners, like Girl Scouts at cookie time, and give away hundreds of buttons with “thanks” from supporters, and nothing from those of a different mind. No one yelled out “Racist!” or “Lock her up!”, or overturned the tables. It is much to our shame that nothing like that is possible today. Yes, our shame. We’re in charge here, aren’t we? If not, who is?

Stevenson lost twice to Eisenhower, in ‘52 and ‘56. He ran for the Democratic nomination again in ‘60 losing to Kennedy, who eventually beat Richard Nixon with his, “A time for Greatness.” campaign slogan. Where is the campaign for greatness today?

There was a snarl of issues in the ‘52 campaign, but the candidates did not snarl at each other. They were passionate about their positions and issues, but maintained a presidential level of character, a characteristic which made their passion more attractive and engaging–not less. 

Today’s Key Point: Have a Moral Compass, a True North, to keep our passions in check. When we have that moral compass, we can let our passions run higher and longer, allow them to be more effective, secure in the knowledge that we have an internal check-and-balance system to keep us between the lines. Having a moral compass adds to the level and effectiveness of one’s passion; it certainly does not detract.

We once read the same newspapers, and had access to the same 3 TV channels. Because those in the media in those days were reporters and not advocates, we all had pretty much the same news and fact base. Today we self-select from the hundreds of information sources, carefully choosing the ones that agree with us. We do the same with people we associate with. We are blind to the fact that we have created our own constantly reinforcing echo chambers, believing that the entire world should be like our artificially constructed mini-world. And if that is not correct, well, those in the other worlds are dead wrong. And they need to be fixed.

I have strongly held positions on, among others, immigration policy and pre-K-12 schooling. And I have isolated the key question on issues like abortion and climate change. I am at least equally dug in on the position that we must–must–stop with the argument by insult and cliche, proof by yelling louder, and believing the evil that the end justifies the means. Passionate, relentless reasoning and appropriate, effective action are what’s needed. Are you in? 

If you are in, share this podcast, or the site itself with one other person. “Each one, reach one.”

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. 

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Don’t forget to visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

We All Need A Moral Compass (EP. 137)

Dwight Eisenhower/Adlai Stevenson 

As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.