Monday, November 3, 2008

What I learned from my 5th grader's homework this weekend...

My 10-year-old came home with a 10-page homework packet last week, a research report on this presidential election. (Let me not start with the fact that the packet is from 1997 and asks for an example of a printed ad in newspaper or magazine. I don't remember the last time I saw any candidate spending their money on a printed ad, at least, not in publications that we read at home, e.g. The Economist...)

Here is what I learned:

1. It is not easy to find out what exactly the Democratic party and the Republican party stand for. We went to both parties' websites and we ended up frustrated and confused. The "party platform" manifestos put out by both parties read so similar: they both use the same vague, generalized statements to show that they are THE party that will watch out for the little guys, the working American families. Both parties believe in education, better teachers, and the freedom for parents to choose the best education for their children. I had to explain to my son that nobody will come right out to say, "Oh, yeah. We are going to raise your taxes, and we are not going to do anything about the education system nor the health care crisis." You just have to read between the lines. Here is one great example from the "Republican Party Platform 2008" document:

"It is not enough to offer only increased access to a system that costs too much and does not work for millions of Americans. The Republican goal is more ambitious: Better health care for lower cost.

First Principle: Do No Harm

How do we ensure that all Americans have the peace of mind that comes from owning high-quality, comprehensive health coverage? The first rule of public policy is the same as with medicine: Do no harm.

  • We will not put government between patients and their health care providers.
  • We will not put the system on a path that empowers Washington bureaucrats at the expense of patients."

  • (by the way, how many people actually read this document? It is entirely fascinating the wordsmith effort that went into this...)

    The GOP certainly did not state that they are against "health care for all" since that, on the surface, will certainly provide bad PR and negative sound bites.

    2. The symbol for the Democratic Party has been a donkey since the 19th century: it has its origin in Andrew Jackson's campaign in 1828 when he was called a Jackass, and Jackson, true to his larger-than-life persona, adopted the image of the strong-willed donkey for his campaign. The symbols of elephant and donkey were later popularized by Thomas Nast's political cartoons, (in which neither animal was portrayed in a positive light, therefore, it's curious that both parties readily adopted the images!)

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