Rhetoric ob­scures val­ues gap

The Covington News - - Opinion - Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man Colum­nist Learn more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man at www. cre­ators.com.

Have you ever had a friendly de­bate that seems to run in cir­cles? On the sur­face, it sounds as though you agree, but as the con­ver­sa­tion un­folds, it be­comes ap­par­ent that you and your op­po­nent are us­ing the same words, but the mean­ings are en­tirely dif­fer­ent. You have fun­da­men­tal dis­agree­ments that can­not be bridged.

At that point, you have two choices: give up be­cause the gap be­tween your un­der­stand­ing of the words can­not be bridged, or back up and align your fun­da­men­tal val­ues to en­sure that you are talk­ing about the same things. Then work to­ward a shared un­der­stand­ing and ul­ti­mately, a so­lu­tion.

That’s where we are to­day in our po­lit­i­cal dis­course. Seem­ingly sim­i­lar rhetoric is ob­scur­ing a gap be­tween fun­da­men­tal val­ues.

In Tues­day’s State of the Union ad­dress, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama used words and phrases that res­onate with many Amer­i­cans: Amer­i­can fam­ily, Amer­i­can Dream, in­vest and op­por­tu­nity. As an on­go­ing theme, Obama used var­i­ous de­riv­a­tives of the phrase “win the fu­ture” or “win­ning the fu­ture.” He used these 10 times through­out his speech.

Lay­ing out a path to “Win the Fu­ture” ac­cord­ing to Obama:

“The first step in win­ning the fu­ture is en­cour­ag­ing Amer­i­can in­no­va­tion.”

“But if we want to win the fu­ture ... we also have to win the race to ed­u­cate our kids.”

“The third step in win­ning the fu­ture is re­build­ing Amer­ica.”

“Now, the fi­nal crit­i­cal step in win­ning the fu­ture is to make sure we aren’t buried un­der a moun­tain of debt. ... We can make the in­vest­ments we need to win the fu­ture.”

“We can’t win the fu­ture with a govern­ment of the past.”

This same phrase, “Win­ning the Fu­ture,” was the ti­tle of a 2005 book by for­mer Speaker of the House Newt Gin­grich (my fa­ther). The top five ways Gin­grich laid out to “Win the Fu­ture” were:

“Uti­lize Amer­ica’s Vast En­ergy Re­serves.”

“Tax Re­form to Fa­vor Job Cre­ation, Sav­ings, In­vest­ment, Pro­duc­tiv­ity, Re­search and Devel­op­ment.”

“Govern­ment Re­form to Make Ex­ec­u­tive Branch Agen­cies Leaner, More Ac­ces­si­ble and More Ef­fec­tive.”

“Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form to Em­pha­size Math and Sci­ence Learn­ing.” “Ju­di­cial Re­form.” While both Gin­grich and Obama are talk­ing about “Win­ning the Fu­ture”, their vi­sions are quite dif­fer­ent. When Obama says in­vest, he means that the govern­ment should spend more tax­payer money and call it an in­vest­ment. When Gin­grich says in­vest, he means cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where com­pa­nies and peo­ple want to in­vest more money.

When Obama says tax re­form, he means govern­ment should tax the wealthy more. Gin­grich fol­lows more closely the Calvin Coolidge line of thought that govern­ment should tax less so the peo­ple have more.

These fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences can­not be bridged with rhetoric be­cause the val­ues un­der­ly­ing these views are dif­fer­ent.

Our Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence not only de­clares this nation free, but also notes the source of our rights, our Cre­ator. “We hold these truths to be self-ev­i­dent, that all men are cre­ated equal, that they are en­dowed by their Cre­ator with cer­tain un­alien­able rights, that among these are life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness.”

But when talk­ing about the found­ing of our nation dur­ing his State of the Union, Obama said, “We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea, the idea that each of us de­serves the chance to shape our own destiny.” No men­tion of rights, where they come from or God.

Obama men­tioned faith, but not faith in God so much as the no­tions of unity and con­fi­dence: “We be­lieve that in a coun­try where ev­ery race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound to­gether as one peo­ple.” Later, “I would only sign deals that keep faith with Amer­i­can work­ers and pro­mote Amer­i­can jobs.” Fi­nally, “We’ll also work to re­build peo­ple’s faith in the in­sti­tu­tion of govern­ment.”

Obama talked about the story of Amer­ica as “the story of or­di­nary peo­ple who dare to dream. That’s how we win the fu­ture.”

What he did not ad­dress is why we have dared to dream and why we are dif­fer­ent, not as in­di­vid­ual peo­ple, but to­gether as an ex­cep­tional nation, cre­ated with the un­der­stand­ing that our rights come from God and are then loaned by us to our govern­ment.

It’s time for us to back up and align our fun­da­men­tal val­ues to en­sure that we are talk­ing about the same things. Then we can work to­ward real so­lu­tions.

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