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Return to normalcy?

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February 5, 2011

Denial of the truth or apathy?

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I recently received this email message from a pen pal who lives in South Carolina. I initially thought about writing an article with these same thoughts. Then it occurred to me that I could not say it any better...or as well, so I decided to just share his email message directly. Thanks to Bob Bell for his willingness to allow me to share his thoughts that are so well expressed.

Mike,

I was listening this AM to some post game analysis of the NH primary; one story is that the Romney camp is so certain of victory they have begun doing research on strategies and themes to take Obama on in the general; one of the themes they have, evidently, latched onto to capture what a Romney presidency is all about is "A Return to Normalcy!" They have been reported to be testing it in focus groups.

Realizing that the job of message makers is to come up with something pithy which appeals to the largest percentage and insults the smallest, I thought this theme was quite relevant to the question you posed and which I attempted to answer: why are people so convinced our current problems and issues can be solved by conventional wisdom and solutions which have worked before? The political equivalent of the old saying that the generals always fight the next war with the last war's weapons.

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It appears the Romney team has done their homework and has concluded a large percentage of the electorate lusts for the most recent version of "the good old days;" you know when everybody had a job, your employer paid your health insurance, your 401 K was growing daily and no one had to worry whether or not their SS or Medicare programs would go belly up before they did.

So what is normalcy and when does yearning for it turn into complacency, or worse yet, an inability to adjust to new circumstances? I have used the phrase a "new normal" to describe how I read what is happening to our world; and I believe that conclusion to be valid because many of the factors influencing our world are neither normal nor minimal; but if both our political leaders keep selling and our people keep buying the concept that nothing really important is going on and having an impact on our lives and that of our kids, then we are, truly, doomed. How can we be motivated to adapt and make the significant changes necessary if we actually believe in a past reality?

There are a lot of things wrong with our political process; at the head of the list is the huge industry of consultants, strategists and message makers who work for candidates and advise them on how to manipulate public opinion, often based on research of what people "want" vs. what they might "need." I think that is what is going on in the GOP with all the appeals to the social conservatives, the Tea Party movement and the attempt to demonize the OWS movement as a bunch of radical hippies as opposed to citizens addressing a legitimate concern if in a not so pleasant way for the rest of us who consider ourselves well mannered.

If Romney does use the "Return to Normalcy" theme, I have a question for him. Whose normal?

Regards,

Bob

As I said, I could not have stated this as well. I too believe our nation is in serious trouble. Too many Americans are feeling pain today. It will only worsen for our children and their children. It is we, the current generation that our future citizens must depend on to save our nation's heritage that we were handed by our forefathers who came before us. For many of us to continue to remain in a state of denial is, to me, simply incredible. 

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I have had a few readers and friends tell me that I am being too pessimistic. They usually then tell me that we, as a nation, have faced similar problems in the past and have always managed to come out OK...so why wouldn't we this time. The answer is that we have never faced such a "perfect storm" (to use a movie analogy) of an accumulation of critical problems that have been building up in America and globally for the past several decades. I may be wrong...and hope that I am. However, I have asked all of those who have expressed this general optimism to share the specific points of light that they see on the horizon that will get our economy and job creation back to "normal". No answers so far. Too many seem to remain complacent and simply assume that somehow our elected will find some way to get us back to normal.

I think that these folks sadly are missing the critical point. The old normal is dead and buried, and we can't get back to it. All we can realistically hope for is a recognition by our leaders and our citizens that the paradigm has shifted significantly and we will all have to suffer together in order to allow our future descendents have any hope at all.

Mike Tower

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Mike spent most of his working career in a variety of managerial roles in five different industries for two employers over a 38 year career. He now writes a political Op-Ed column for the Hendersonville, NC Times-News, and displays his favorites at (more...)
 

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