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By Ric Llewellyn
Politicians! Always asking, "What will people think?" Actually, they are always asking, "What will the majority of people think?"
The Californian ran a front-page story Sunday about the pressure inside the Republican Party to drop its opposition to gay marriage. Regardless of the constitutional, ethical or social implications of endorsing gay marriage, the party's rationale is that "it no longer makes political sense" to oppose gay marriage.
So a position on an issue -- whether or not it should be the concern of the politicians -- has become all about attracting the next generation of voters. It is not about the government's authority to meddle. It is not about the government's compelling societal interests. It is just political pandering.
The same calculation is executed over and over: How do we get more people into our party? They have been asking themselves for quite a while, "How do we become most things to most people?" But recently it has become something more malicious.
Rather than cultivating ideas and proposing solutions, politics has become a game of infamy tag. Now the question they ask themselves is, "How do we NOT become THAT to most people?"
That approach has led to the most contentious and disruptive political climate in a long time. Sharp partisan division makes the two-year election cycle seem way too short. The name-calling and vitriolic disrespect for opposing points of view are startling!
Rather than discussing ideas, partisan activists routinely apply the most extreme and contemptible terms to characterize opposing points of view.
It's just like that with gay marriage. Rather than a rational discussion about Republican principles, people are limited to choosing either homophobia or supporting human rights. It appears the Republican Party has been overcome by that false dilemma.
Thankfully this political polarization is actually quite exaggerated. While none of us wants to be identified by some loathsome label, we regular folks also quickly refocus on our families, work and communities as we endeavor to make life better here.
Working together we actually accomplish what the partisans have failed to do with their strategy of division. The way people volunteer time and give money --despite the features that make us different -- are two of the things that make Kern County a good place to live.
Let political activists "get their voters" through the artifice of cynical complaisance. We should continue to work together here at home to create more opportunities to prosper. We can build better, more flexible education options. We can create an environment that is attractive to business but strengthens the community.
While they insult their opposition's ideas, we can engage the diversity of thought in Kern County to develop a more stable and rewarding future for all our people. We can strategically address the relationship between agriculture and the environment. We can work to mitigate air quality problems and the health effects we experience.
The question shouldn't be, "What will people think?" It should be, "Do I just want to be one of their voters, or do I want to get something done?"
Email contributing columnist Ric Llewellyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work appears here every third Thursday; the views expressed are his own.