This week’s “Daily Journal” guest columnist is Donna Martinez, Carolina Journal Radio co-host and Right Angles blogger.
RALEIGH — There’s something about a presidential election year that gives me the same feeling as when I slide behind the wheel of a new car, sleep late during vacation, or see the first buds on a Bradford pear tree. The possibilities seem limitless. In the spirit of 2012’s new beginnings, I offer these suggestions:
To my liberal friends:
Acknowledge conservatives care about the poor. Despite nearly 50 years of expanding federal, state, and local poverty assistance programs, somewhere between 11 percent and 14 percent of the U.S. population consistently lives below the federal poverty level — no matter how much public assistance is available. Sadly, we’ve created a dependency society that holds people back. Hope, prosperity, and family stability come not with dependency on government subsidy but with opportunities that emerge when investors risk capital to start new private-sector firms. That is why conservatives champion policies that embrace the marketplace and the innovators.
Stop blaming the rich. Liberals and conservatives share disdain for crony capitalism, where big business and big government team up at the expense of taxpayers. But that’s where agreement ends about the role and value of the entrepreneurial class. I’m stymied when liberals say we’re in desperate need of jobs and then bash the very people who create and save them. Business leaders take financial risks the rest of us are too scared or ill-equipped to undertake. Yet we reap the benefit without shouldering the risk. Businesses are also vital to local communities. They sponsor Little Leaguers. They pay for community events. They fund nonprofits. They provide employee benefits ranging from health insurance to college tuition to discounts to Disney World. They pay taxes. And yes, some business leaders acquire wealth. That doesn’t make them bad for society.
Support free speech, even when it’s offensive. Those who claim the mantle of inclusiveness often seek to shut down the speech of those with a different view, particularly a limited-government view. For example, under the guise of creating a “welcoming” campus, many of North Carolina’s colleges and universities, supported by liberal social justice groups, endorse speech codes that are the antithesis of a free society. The penchant to trample the rights of others is particularly aggressive when offensive speech touches on race and sexual orientation. Liberal advocates can fight for this fundamental right to express ourselves by joining conservatives and libertarians in decrying efforts to shut down speech rather than shine light on views the majority finds objectionable.
To my conservative friends:
Stop complaining about liberal influence in education. Liberalism is the dominant mind-set and philosophy of educators, and that shouldn’t be a surprise since conservatives have abandoned education and the academy. Holding back liberalism requires conservatives to jump into the deep water. It’s time to become teachers, counselors, school nurses, curriculum specialists, researchers, and professors — not just entrepreneurs. It may take several generations to change the status quo, but if conservatives fail to step up, they will ensure indoctrination rather than education.
Embrace the idea that liberals can make effective allies. It is a mistake to assume the ACLU and social justice groups always land on the wrong side of issues. When it comes to free speech and crony capitalism, we share concerns. The ACLU, for example, defends against unconstitutional threats to religious freedom, unreasonable search and seizure, and censorship of speech. Others oppose government picking winners with targeted tax incentives and support greater transparency in government. When created carefully, forming coalitions with liberal organizations is smart public policy.
Jettison the retort, “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” While frustration with impotent federal immigration policy is understandable, any hope of discussing realistic reform and enforcement of law ends when that statement is thrown into the debate. This country’s history of opportunity and prosperity means there really are jobs Americans will no longer take at the pay level that reflects the jobs’ value to employers. Rather than complain, let’s be thankful the vast majority of Americans no longer face a life of back-breaking labor and rally to create legal mechanisms through which citizens of other countries can improve themselves, and help keep the cost of U.S. goods and services down, by legally taking temporary U.S. jobs.