Ric Llewellyn

Friday, Nov 15 2013 04:00 PM

RIC LLEWELLYN: Single-issue stereotypes delaying solutions

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    Californian contributing columnist Ric Llewellyn.

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By Ric Llewellyn

If you were to go read the outlines of the 2012 Republican and Democratic platforms, you might not notice much difference. They share a lot of bullet points. More jobs. Lower deficit. Quality of life. Stronger military.

In theory, the basic difference is that the Democratic party looks for solutions in more, bigger and centralized government while the Republican party looks for them in less, smaller and decentralized government.

And instead of actually dealing with issues and discussing solutions the political conversation has come to this -- gender, ethnicity and age will be the tactical political weapons of the future.

On Oct. 13, The Californian ran a column by Rob Paral titled "GOP must consider impact of new Asian and Latino voters." On Oct. 26 a story by Cathleen Decker appeared on the front page of the Local section: "California GOP told outlook is bleak."

Although Kern County is a pretty conservative region, most of the state government is quite liberal. In fact, the Democrats decisively control the state government and the Republicans are trying to figure out how to regain a little influence.

But there is only bad news for Republicans. Women, Latinos and the youth have become crucial "voting blocs." And apparently they are all Democrats.

In the sixties the idea of racial integration was institutionalized. I feel very fortunate to be among the first children to have grown up in that environment.

What I learned young and still embrace today is that the superficial traits that make it easy for us to place people in groups are really irrelevant. And to stereotype them based on those superficial traits is immoral.

But what really moved me to write about it was that those very people who are so diverse within their groups actually seem to be accommodating the stereotypes. Worse than that, as a group each has glommed onto a single highly charged issue, which seems to lead the individuals of the groups to disregard many more personally important ones.

Let me be blunt. Politically powerful Democrats have created a condescending caricature of these groups. They say women vote based on who holds the most unrestrained position on "reproductive rights." Latinos vote for whoever supports "immigration reform." The youth vote for the person who promises to do the most to alleviate the challenges they face.

I find it amazing that individuals will passionately affirm these group identities.

Just considering the diverse conditions of the women around me makes me wonder how "reproductive rights" could possibly be THE decisive political issue. Middle-aged businesswoman, 30-something single college graduate, Filipina immigrant, 80-year old retiree.

The same kind of diversity is rampant among Hispanics and youth who are in my circle. It is unbelievably simplistic and even contemptuous to promote these stereotypes.

But it is not my intention to persuade any women, Latinos or youth to register as Republicans. Republicans have determined that these detestable political stereotypes are actually valid! The point of The Californian stories I mentioned is that for the GOP to succeed politically it must reduce the political fight to the three "great issues" of our time: abortion, immigration and entitlements.

So let me say it again. It is immoral to stereotype based on gender, ethnicity or age. Whether it is done by Democrats or Republicans.

Unlike the conventional wisdom, I don't want to characterize the Republican Party as a gender-, ethnicity- or age-related alternative to the Democratic Party. Instead I'd encourage voters to thoughtfully choose people of integrity to represent their interests in government.

We need to abandon these empty political stereotypes that are so polarizing. The diversity of the so-called blocs demands it.

Republicans shouldn't accept these abhorrent stereotypes. Instead they should be thoughtfully contextualizing core principles for all people.

I know it's working for the Democrats but they shouldn't be cocky. Little by little the people will come to understand that single-issue stereotypes belie contempt for their diversity.

We need people who can come up with solutions to tough and persistent problems with the economy, not a "reproductive rights" talking head.

We need people who can push through bureaucratic barriers to make substantial changes in the way government works, not oafish calls for "immigration reform."

We need people who have big ideas for future generations, not disingenuous proponents of limitless entitlements.

It's really time to get something done for our state and our country. These stereotypes are useless in that work. Maybe even destructive.

-- Ric Llewellyn is a community columnist whose work appears in The Californian's Local section every third Saturday. Email him at llewellyn.californian@ gmail.com. These are Llewellyn's opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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