Good Housekeeping 101

The_Clean_Sweep

A house divided against itself cannot stand.”   Mark 3:25 – as referenced by Abraham Lincoln in his speech to the Illinois Republican State Convention June 16, 1858

To the honorable ladies and gentlemen of the 113th United States Congress,

Now that you are back home in your respective districts, and I assume fully engaged in this year’s midterm scuffle, I would like to share my thoughts on what I believe might serve as a better strategy to bring some dignity, decorum and decency back to “The People’s House” come this fall.

At the age of sixty, I am both the beneficiary, and the occasional casualty of the character of this country. The inherent opportunities and resilient nature of America has allowed me to receive a quality education, become a teacher, writer, hold elected office in the state of New Jersey, own a tavern in the shadows of where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, and to function as a voice in public broadcasting during the last twenty-three years. But at the same time, I like so many Americans face a fairly insecure future as a direct result of the ongoing dysfunction and distrust in Washington.

So rather than spending countless sums of donor’s money on trying to defend against the pitchfork politics of those who want to dismantle our governing institutions, those politicians who truly believe in the hopes and aspirations of the Founders should rededicate themselves to the simple idea of providing bipartisan working governance—putting both people and principles before party! This is the spirit that will cause your constituents to live up to their side of the contract by returning them to the voting booth—thus restoring representation that reflects the true will and needs of the majority.

On some of those more practical political issues that will be the focus of slickly produced, half-truth sound bites in the upcoming weeks–here are my recommended responses to those carpetbagging cash cows attempting to influence the outcome of local races from afar:

  •  On Healthcare – While the President’s attempt to tackle an issue, that at  one time was agreed upon by both parties as being in need of major reform, might have its flaws, those relevant points of the legislation, such as providing care for those having preexisting conditions, should be protected. Unfortunately, there still remains too much disparity and inefficiency in our healthcare system. People will continue to die because they cannot access or afford the best treatments available today in this country. That is totally unacceptable! The mantra must be, “repair and improve” this landmark legislation.
  • On Immigration – Every American must ask themselves, what they would do if their children were faced with the conditions and violence that plague those who are crossing our southern borders, before reducing the issue to a matter of simply demanding that the government prosecute and remove legitimate refugees who are portrayed by some as part of some criminal class.

 Secondly, a comprehensive approach to immigration is extremely practical when addressing the future needs of both entitlements and the economy. Any country that has a diminishing birthrate will simply not have enough healthy, young workers fueling its economy, or paying those taxes that offset the financial requirements of those programs designed to provide a degree of well-being and income to an aging population. And in the United States, where today fewer and fewer companies are providing guaranteed security for their retirees by way of pensions and extended health benefits, our own system of Social Security and Medicare must be shored up and strengthened.

In short, our future growth and economic welfare is somewhat dependent upon those who come here from other lands in order to find a better way of life. But hasn’t that always been the American story—and one worth retelling again?

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

While I tend toward George Washington’s point of view on political parties that ultimately they would do more harm than good to the republic, I do support a worthy opposition that brings a different approach, new ideas and rational thought to the table. If enough of our elected representatives were to take the political high road (like those astute gentlemen who came together at Philadelphia’s old City Tavern after adjourning the Continental Congress) those now joining together at that table would be able to dine together, drink together, dialogue together—and yes perhaps even govern together!

Posted by: Chris Poh

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A Dress Code for Democracy

Cowboys at the Rusty Spur in Scottsdale, AZ

With less than two weeks left before Americans decide on who will become the 45th President of this grand old Republic, I will once again try to wrestle with the paralysis of the pen that has plagued my armchair political punditry for the better part of this election cycle. After all the mindless and mundane chatter mixed in with a boundless measure of mercurial shape shifting, neither candidate has done all that much to move the ball down the field. And while I must apologize for my overuse of hackneyed sport’s metaphors, as we come around to the homestretch this really does appear to be a bona fide horse race.

Unfortunately, I suspect that if there were not those troubling tendencies that continue to cause a segment of the population to make their decisions based upon race and religion, the poll numbers would be very different. Added to that the fact that neither candidate has adequately articulated a clear or attainable vision of  how one might govern a nation in the grips of  ongoing economic and geopolitical peril–we are left with yet another presidential contest that will be decided by pandering to the disheartened and disenchanted mob on the extremes, and a handful of undecided voters in a few key counties around the country. So it is not much of a stretch to suspect that both parties might resort to a bit of chicanery in order to affect the final tally.

I happened to grow up in an area of New Jersey where the local Democratic machines had a propensity toward bribery and outright bullying if the usual promise of patronage was not enough to swing the vote in their direction. Thankfully, these transgressions against democracy were  mostly isolated local events, and did not have national implications that might determine the outcome of a presidential election. And while I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next gullible Gus, I tend not to believe that our fates have been altered and decided by the likes of the Illuminati, Free Masons, or those children of privilege that perform clandestine rituals while worshipping the remains of Geronimo’s cranium in the darkened bowels at Yale’s Skull and Bones Society. But at this particular moment in time, I might acknowledge the possibility that there was indeed a well orchestrated effort by Republicans to put in place a national policy of voter suppression in those potential battleground states that embraced a majority of like-minded governors and legislators. 

While the idea of having to provide a valid photo ID in order to exercise ones franchise in these times of heightened security threats and concerns about illegal immigration seems reasonable on the surface, take it from someone who has spent over forty years in the tavern trade–if you want to discourage certain clientele from gaining access to the bar simply initiate a dress code. The call for top hats and tails after six will certainly eliminate  those whose resources limit them to Levi’s and Stetsons. This allows those in charge to be selective without appearing to be discriminatory. So in the case of massaging voter turnout, one need not suggest something as offensive as a poll tax in order to statistically impact an election. Consider this political engineering a type of dress code for democracy.

Heard's Brigade at Re-enactment of the Battle of Monmouth

And now that some thirty states have enacted some form of voter identification law, it is more important than ever that we rise above our collective national inclination to sit out the game when someone attempts to make the path around the bases a little harder to negotiate. We owe it to those that have lived up to a much more serious code of  dress and decorum from the fields of Concord to the streets of Kandahar. Honor their service and sacrifice–Vote!

Posted by Chris Poh

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