Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.

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  • Patriotism, Groupthink, and PINOs

    • Posted on Jul 06, 2014 by Scott Cawelti

    This appeared in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier this morning, July 6.   

    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

    Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

    Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

    For 238 years we’ve been a union, minus five years for a terrible civil war to resolve slavery.  Since then we’re united by shared beliefs in freedom, individualism, rights, and equality before the law.  Oh yes, and we’re eternal optimists—Americans remain optimistic about nearly everything.   At its core, the American Dream involves hope for a brighter future, given hard work and a bit of good luck.   

    OFIRE, I used to remind American Civilization students:  Optimism, Freedom, Individuality, Rights, Equality—five pillars of American ideology.

    Thomas Paine wrote in late 1776, six months after the Declaration of Independence:   

    “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

    “Summer soldier” and “sunshine patriots” rings true still—those who love their country when it’s easy, when it requires little more than a pledge, a flag-wave or two, some fireworks and repeating talking points for your base choir.  Patriots in name only, or PINOs. 

    The real sacrifice today, however, doesn’t involve going to war against a tyrannical enemy.  Our age involves something that’s both more complex and almost as difficult:  Questioning your own party, its behavior and stance on major issues. 

    As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it last January, “The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.”

    The “wacko birds,” as John McCain calls them (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and others of their ilk) play well to their base but turn off most voters for being utterly out of touch.  

    Rabidly pro-gun and anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-government spending on anything except the military, anti-immigration, and certainly anti-compromise, they don’t reflect the rest of the world or most of the country.  

    Yet GOP Moderates other than McCain seem to tolerate and even kowtow to them, especially since Eric Cantor’s loss to another wacko bird.              

    It’s going to take heroic effort to oppose them, since the radical right owns talk radio and the Fox News propaganda machine.   

    WE’RE A COUNTRY IN DECLINE!  They cry from their Fox News rafters.   Their evidence?   Cherry-picked issues and manufactured crises, including a lawsuit from John Boehner over Obama’s use of executive orders—and our President has used far fewer than any modern president, (168 total so far) including their beloved Ronald Reagan, who issued 381.  Check Snopes.com for the facts on this one, facts which the radical right ignores.

    They’re grasping at straws, and it’s both mean-spirited and unpatriotic.  Put another way, the entire GOP has become victims of “groupthink,” a psychological phenomenon in which the desire for harmony or conformity in a well-defined group results in terrible decisions that group members won’t criticize or even analyze. 

    These PINOs are un-American because they’re total pessimists, group thinkers who’ve lost their individuality and freedom to question, who pay little attention to the issue of rights when it comes to sexual orientation, and for whom equality gets lumped in with political correctness, which they also despise.

    As Tom Paine would put it, those who stand up to them deserve the love and thanks of man and woman.

    Moderate Republicans: Endangered species and true patriots.  

               

               

     



    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

                Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

                Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

                Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

                Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

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  • Suppose Obama was a Republican President

    • Posted on May 11, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    This appeared this morning (Sunday May 11 in the Waterloo Courier and involves a fantasy:  If Barack Obama  was a Republican, and spent his first term doing exactly what he's done, Republicans would love him.  Really.  

    Why can' they at least acknowledge that a little?  Just a simple admission that he's basically been a conservative president in many ways, and succeeded even when he wasn't a conservative.   

    They can't because they're blinded by their ideology, so this column is about that blindness and how it keeps them from seeing Obama for what he has done as president.      

    *************
    “Blind” as a word doesn’t usually provoke a positive response.  Outside of ancient Greek stories, no one chooses blindness.  

     Yet we have “double-blind” studies, which scientific and medical researchers call the gold standard of scientific proof.  Also serious musicians prepare long and hard for “blind” auditions, where they perform behind a screen, their hearers unable to judge their appearance or body language.  

    Blind auditions mean judgments free of extraneous biases.  Musicians so hired must feel justifiably proud.    

     “Blind” can thus mean something quite positive, namely, removing personal prejudices and focusing on what matters.  When it comes to finding medications and treatments that actually work, as well as accomplished musicians, this means everything.   It’s the most fair and unbiased means of making judgments.   

     We could use such blind fairness in politics and political judgments.  

     We think we automatically know whether a politicians’ actions have been 
    laudable or horrible depending on their party affiliation.  

    Yet we could be wrong.  Completely, utterly wrong.   T

    The best politicians get legislation passed that, seen through an unbiased perspective, could well be supported by members of either party, or hated as well.   Only when biases recede, after decades, can we see who did the right thing.   

     Consider:  If Republicans could have fielded an ideal dream GOP candidate in 2008--let’s call him Robert Evergood Reagan Lee of Virginia--had accomplished what’s listed below, Republicans would be flying high, crowing all the way:  

    1. Finally passed a health care reform bill based largely on the conservative Heritage Foundation’s recommendation of government-sponsored exchanges involving private insurance companies.   This, instead of the progressives’ desire for a single-payer government plan, and in spite of bitter resistance and dozens of votes to abolish it from naysayers. 

    2. Took us out of two horrendous wars that were costing enormous resources and that ultimately, almost no one supported.    

    3. Brought the jobless rate down and the economy back from the brink of a complete meltdown, so much so that stocks are now at an all-time high. 

    4. Done more for Veterans than previous presidents.    As veteran journalist Jamie Reno writes, “things have gotten better for veterans overall since [R.E. Lee Reagan] took office. It's not easy fixing such a deeply entrenched bureaucracy as VA, especially when two wars are concluding and politicians are too busy fighting each other to pass many laws. But by almost any measure, the situation for veterans and their families is demonstrably better now than it was under the previous administration.” 

    5. Shrunk government more than any other president, just as their party had hoped: As one commentator put it: “Not only has [the president] shrunk the size the government, but he has reduced it more than . . .Ronald Reagan ever did . . . [the president] has cut more taxes than any other president in American history.”  

    6. Initiated a successful attack on Bin Laden, America’s mortal enemy and wisely buried his remains at sea to avoid making him a martyr.   

    7. Finally, Republicans’ dream president added more jobs during his first four years than G.W. Bush added for his during his entire presidency.  By the time of the his second inaugural in January, the economy had added a net total of 1,208,000 jobs since he was first sworn in four years earlier, beating his predecessor’s eight-year total of 1, 083,000.  
    Those are the bias-free, non-blinded facts. 

     If Republicans could see through their party blinders, Republicans would be fainting from sheer joy.    

     Instead, thanks to the drumbeat of constant bias, anger at losing, and any number of loony far-right fantasies, repeated endlessly on Fox News, they hurl invectives and slurs, wild theories, call for his impeachment, and oppose every attempt to do the right thing, from reforming immigration to raising the minimum wage.  

     They have eyes and ears, but they don’t see or hear.   
     
     



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