It takes a villain

Oct. 1, 2000
Some families find holidays stressful. Around my house, it’s election time. I grew up in a family of staunch Democrats

Some families find holidays stressful. Around my house, it’s election time. I grew up in a family of staunch Democrats. My father is a Democrat and so was his father. And the first few times I voted, I followed suit. Over the years, however, I began to see things differently. Now when I go to the polls, my dad and I usually cancel each other out.

I try to keep an open mind, for his sake at least, but common sense tells me there’s something wrong when a privileged elitist walks into a group of factory workers or farmers, trying to give the impression that he’s one of them. “Fellas I feel your pain. I’ve been there. I punched a time card. I baled hay. Just put me in office one more time and I...” Like it or not that’s the standard line, and it is wearing transparently thin.

Ironically, if we ever achieve the sort of world these illusionists claim to be working toward, their political platform would disintegrate. Then, career politicians who have no business telling working men and women how to live their lives would no longer be able to appeal to the poor, the aging, the sick, the homeless, the environmentalists, the human rights advocates, this group, and that group – taken together, the masses.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for many of the causes my dad’s party endorses. I want clean air and I’d like for everyone, including the unborn, to be treated with kindness and dignity. Who doesn’t? I just can’t lend my support to an organization that exploits the inevitable misfortunes of life for corporate gain.

Elected Democrats, by the nature of their affiliation, are entrusted with power because of their implied concern for their fellow man. But the attesting acts of personal kindness don’t seem to be there. Where, in the words of Cicero, is virtue manifested as action? Where are the homeless who’ve found shelter under Bill Clinton’s roof; the drifters who’ve stepped out of the freezing rain and into the warm foyer of the Kennedy mansion; and the hungry who’ve enjoyed a meal bought with money from Al Gore’s wallet?

In fact, Al Gore, champion of social causes, once claimed a total of $347 in charitable deductions on an adjusted gross income of $197,729. That’s pathetic. Anyone who finds fault with him is “mean-spirited,” although it’s okay when he makes callous references to Down’s Syndrome, labeling his opponents as “the extra chromosome” right. These aren’t just isolated examples; this is a pattern and the reason why my dad and I aren’t on the same page, politically speaking.

Look at Gore’s shifting stance on the China issue. In 1988, according to the Washington Post, Senator Al Gore got all cozy with the Chinese, taking a political junket to the Far East to collect on a promise for financial support and help in his future bid for the presidency.

Then, in 1992, Gore did a one-eighty roundly denouncing China to a group of ironworkers at American Brass and Iron in Oakland. Wearing a blue shop coat and a red-white-and-blue hard hat he bellowed about how the current administration had granted most-favored-nation status to “one of the worst Communist dictatorships in the world.” He also blasted China on human rights violations and unfair trade practices.

Four years after that, however, Gore was back for more money and Moo Goo Gai Pan, taking handouts from the same special interest group that flew him to Taiwan. This time they raised money at a Buddhist Temple, an event Gore falsely described as “community outreach.” True to form, Gore is now coming down hard on anyone who accepts illegal contributions raised like this.

Gore’s characteristic ambiguities are also woven into his record on the tobacco issue. After accusing Bob Dole of “being addicted to tobacco money,” Gore pulled the heartstrings of everyone at the 1996 Democratic National Convention as he related the tragic story of his sister’s death. In the context of her struggle with cancer, Gore proclaimed to thunderous applause how he dedicated his life to fighting the tobacco industry. Meanwhile, his family farm was collecting government subsidies. This is the same farm he boasted of on the campaign trail in 1988 while addressing tobacco farmers. Of the leafy green plant near and dear to everyone’s heart in the room he said, “I’ve hoed it. I’ve dug it. I’ve sprayed it. I’ve chopped it. I’ve shredded it and I’ve sold it.”

Al Gore sold tobacco all right, and he may have sold my dad. But, he hasn’t sold me. Given his pattern of shifting allegiance and the fact that every Democratic cause targets a villain, there’s no telling what or who the next villain might be.

Larry Berardinis
[email protected]

About the Author

Larry Berardinis

For more than two decades, Lawrence (Larry) Berardinis served on Machine Design and Motion System Design magazines as an editor and later as an associate publisher and new-business development manager. He's a member of Eta Kappa Nu, and holds an M.S. in Solid State Electronics. Today, he is the Senior Manager of Content Programs at ASM International, formerly known as the American Society for Metals.

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