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A dinosaur liberal gives his view of politics and issues from ‚??his‚?? left Commentary John Watson


February 15. 2013 8:26PM


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IT‚??S GOOD to be on the pages of The Times Leader with a column.


It has been about a decade, so let me re-introduce myself. I am a Pittston native and a third generation member of a newspaper family. I spent 27 years in the publishing business. Trained in the old school, I am uncomfortable with labels, but if I must assume one, ‚??liberal‚?Ě would fit.


In fact, I‚??m a dinosaur. I stand to the left of President Obama and ascribe to the old liberal playbook of JFK Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans, butter over guns, Social Security, universal health care, environmental protection, a progressive tax system, civil rights, labor laws, a rising minimum wage and protective regulation from destructive financial manipulation.


I also believe in some newer initiatives of the left, such as advocating for a woman‚??s reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, responsible corporate citizenship, which includes a fairer distribution of income among executives and workers, an inclusive immigration policy, energy independence through conservation, new technology and sustainable living, and federally funded scientific research.


I‚??m a modern conservative‚??s nightmare, but not a zealot. I respect the opinion of others and enjoy a civil dialogue, basing an argument on empirical evidence rather than ideology.


I despise the political consultant game of reducing every issue to the lowest common denominator, the daily ‚??talking points‚?Ě of right-wing radio and the 30-second attacks of TV advertising, and I despair over the disaster of the Supreme Court‚??s Citizens United decision, which will corrupt politics further than the eye can see.


I am not a name caller ‚?Ľ unless I think it is funny. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom I like, might be called ‚??Chrispie Cream‚?Ě here, only because I think it‚??s funny. Call it comedic license.



In fact, politics for citizens should not be a shouting match among ideologues in some vain attempt to prove oneself right, like fans of opposing football teams, but instead we should embrace an open-minded process by which we seek to improve our world by participation, compromise and understanding. The honest exchange of ideas, the dialogue itself, without the immature ‚??us against them‚?Ě ferocity, can be life-improving.


For a personal example, 17 years ago I was a ‚??big brother‚?Ě to the son of a friend of mine, a ‚??mentor,‚?Ě as we call it today. At the time, Hal was a 13-year-old bright African-American kid from New York City. Hal met a lot of friends while staying at my Lake Winola home during the summers. He wanted to attend Scranton Prep for his high school freshman year.


That was a tough one. To take Hal on a full-time basis would have been a big commitment and I pained over the decision. I knew it would be a wonderful opportunity for Hal, but was I up to the task?


Then one day, I was listening to NPR radio and a report on a hot issue of the day, racial ‚??quotas,‚?Ě when House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in arguing against quotas, said, ‚??We need less quotas and more friendships.‚?Ě


How ironic? The rhetoric of the most conservative Speaker in our history challenged me into a life-changing decision. It made sense for me to act.


I sold the house at Lake Winola, Hal and I moved to an apartment in downtown Scranton, and Hal spent two years at Prep. When I moved to Florida in his junior year, Hal moved in with friends in Kingston and ended up graduating from Wyoming Seminary and going on to graduate from Providence College in Rhode Island.


Many lives were affected, all for the better, and many people were brought together, all because a conservative said something compelling and I was listening.


As Bill Clinton has preached in his post-presidency, when we look to the many things we have in common, instead of the few things we don‚??t, everyone benefits from the dialogue and politics can be fun, as it should be.


So it‚??s nice to be back. In future weeks, I‚??ll be discussing issues and politics from the perspective of a liberal. I hope you enjoy it and, please, join the dialogue.




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