Oct 182012

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

With less than three weeks before the Presidential event, the voters are beginning to make a more firm decision on their choice for president. At the moment President Obama may have a slight lead over Mitt Romney but they are so close within the margin of error that either could be victorious on Election Day.

And yet they are so different on the major issues that affect every one of us every day, like the economy, for example, and health care. All indicators show that the economy is starting to rebound – slowly- but still moving in the right direction thanks to cyclical patters of business and probably not because of anything special President Obama did. Yet who among us does not know a family whose breadwinner has been laid off causing great stress and fear?

Mitt Romney would cut taxes in an effort to generate growth in the economy. But those tax cuts would means less dollars to fund parks, playgrounds, schools, infrastructure, and medical care for the indigent, elderly and mentally ill. The Republicans consider a reduction in government as basic to their philosophy. But what schools doesn’t need more money to pay teachers, buy computers or fund science labs? Where will the unemployed find affordable healthcare? What hospital will have beds available for the deranged?

Many Americans love a boisterous, acrimonious political debate which is exactly what happened Tuesday night when President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney slugged it out in a wonderful, gritty and at times undignified fashion. The heavyweight combat featured two well—prepared, articulate warriors who felt passionately about the issues, defended their positions with fervor and attacked their opponent with ferocity. American politics is often undignified. Like the nation itself, our politics is frequently gritty, very personal, emotional and filled with passion.

Allan, who has been around since the dawn of time, remembered a 1971 debate between Edwin Washington Edwards and David Treen during that year’s gubernatorial runoff between the Democratic and Republican nominees. When members of the press asked Edwards what his game plan for the debate was, the soon-to-be governor replied, “I’m going to beat the s— out of him.” Well, he didn’t literally do that but he was fired up to win and he was victorious that night and in the general election.

And why are so many of our elected officials millionaires? What happened to blue-collar candidates of old? They can’t afford to fund today’s costs for direct mail, television commercials, phone banks and election-day expenses. Too often we are surrounded by rich politicians whose perspective could be different than those of us they represent – especially in Congress.

Finally, we think politicians often get reelected because of a lack of good potential candidates. That’s not the case in Belgium, where 50,000 candidates were running to be mayors and local councilors in the 589 administrative districts, known as communes, in last week’s elections.

In an effort to distinguish themselves, candidates are known to wage maverick campaigns utilizing singing, break dancing, graffiti and slam poetry. There are more than 30 political parties and candidates strive to generate a buzz. All these antics keep Belgian voters laughing. We hope America’s voters will be laughing after the November 6 election or the next four years will be pretty miserable.

Here in Louisiana, our votes in the Presidential race are already spoken for with the state’s electoral votes counted for Romney. Still, we hope everyone will go out and vote, either early or on November 6. No matter which way you’re going to cast your ballot, voting and participating in the election of the President who will lead our nation in the four perilous years to come is the right thing to do.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. Columbus is a paid consultant to the Dana Kaplan campaign, and they both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City Councilwoman Stacy Head, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. Robert Billiot.

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