An Opportunity missed

About the same time as I was calling for some sanity and maturity in the national dialogue a test case was presenting itself on the national stage. I’m sure most of you have heard by now about James Hoffa, Jr. and his fiery speech against the Tea Party. Never mind the Hoffa name is connected with the mafia, for whom “taking out” opponents is not an electoral activity, his choice of words was unfortunate in many ways.

But even more unfortunate is the response: Silence from the White House. Excuses from the DNC Chairperson. More of the same from Hoffa (though more carefully worded now). Blog posts examining moral equivalency, or stating that it couldn’t be more obvious that Hoffa was speaking of ballot box take-downs.

This all misses the point. Here was a prime opportunity for one side to step forward and show that they are better than that, and that they meant what they said eight months ago in the post-Gabrielle Giffords calls for a return to civility. They missed it. Even President Obama, who was the voice of reason then, has nothing to say now.

It would appear they weren’t serious. They evidently were just using the situation to try and muzzle their opposition. When push comes to shove, they no more wanted that rhetorical tool removed from their toolbox than the other side did. No one is willing to step foward and be the first to say “Hey, you know what? We’re not going there.” 

No one.

No one needed to have denounced Hoffa. Would it have been so hard to say something like, “Well, I can understand his frustration, and I can understand the sentiment. We approve of working within the democratic process to remove from office those we feel do not represent us. But his choice of wording was unfortunate. We repeat our calls for civility in the public dialogue. We encourage Americans of all political persuasions to get involved–but do so with calmness and respect.”

Had anyone come forward to say this I would have given them a huge thumbs up and a double-helping of respect. To my knowledge (I don’t claim to monitor every source), no one did. This particular approach could have worked for anyone! The Tea Party could have used it. The Republican congressional leadership could have used it. Hoffa could have used a variation of it. They would have received plenty of air-time for it.

Missed opportunity.

I’m sure many feel it was an opportunity worth missing in favor of political gains with their “base”. I’m sure Hoffa gained some “street cred” with the unions and the liberal fringe. But I’m just as sure the Tea Party gained some sympathy from moderates who can’t help but notice that the Left seems to hold them responsible for everything wrong in the world.

And hopefully just a few people are taking time to really think about this. According to Hoffa, the Tea Party is “anti-worker”. Huh? Is he saying that the Tea Party is made up entirely of welfare recipients or the filthy-rich who don’t have to work? From what I’ve seen, the Tea Party is made up largely from middle-class Americans. The majority have to work to get by (anyone care to guess Hoffa’s net worth?), and a good number of them probably belong to unions.

This is much like similar criticisms made several years ago that the various anti-war groups were “unpatriotic” and did not “support the troops”. It was untrue (largely) then, and this is untrue (largely) now. 

Yes, yes, I know. “We’re just doing to them what they did to us!” I don’t doubt it. But I doubt both sides agree on the score.  Look around, people. What we’ve got is something akin to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. How that tit-for-tat thing working out for them? I don’t think I’m exaggerating all that much to say that’s where we’re headed as a country.

Enough! If I could I’d send you all to your rooms without dinner! I’m still waiting for someone to be the first “adult in the room.” I had really hoped to find a few takers.

I’m still waiting.