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Art Callaham: I'm no liberal elitist

January 22, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

For 60-plus years, I have wondered who I am.

Finally, a letter to the editor (Jan. 16) by state Sen. Chris Shank and Del. Neil Parrott solved my life-long conundrum. According to them, I’m a “liberal elitist.” No, I’m not. Well, they said, at least my “overheated rhetoric is liberal elitism at its best.” No, it’s not.

Seriously, all humor aside (no eye rolling, furrowed forehead or tongue in cheek), I thank Chris and Neil for their letter. Most who really know me realize that my reason for writing this column is simply to spur a dialogue within our community. It is through discourse that citizens can better understand issues and develop their own opinions and positions on issues that affect us all.

The first word in the last paragraph of this column is “thwack.” That is what I think the sound a tennis ball makes when it caroms off a tennis racket as the ball is returned. I believe the letter has placed the ball in my court and before I send the ball back, I’d like to comment on the letter.

In a couple of columns published in 2011, I clearly defined my opinion of what constitutes the fringe or fringe groups politically. To me, and to several other columnists of greater renown, 80 percent of American voters are “centrist” and 10 percent make each of the left and right fringes. 

The statistics for Washington County citizens who signed the petition to referendum for the “Dream Act” are by the letter writers’ account reported as 8,241. That number is less than 10 percent of the registered voters in Washington County (reported recently to be greater than 83,000). In my opinion, that puts the signatories squarely within my opinion of the fringe.

More unimpressive are the reported numbers for statewide signatories, reported by Shank and Parrott to be “over 130,000.” Compare that number to the more than 3.4 million registered voters in the state and that number doesn’t even count statistically (3 percent) in my opinion about the fringe.

Further and equally unimpressive is the statement “over one-third of whom were Democrats.” Could one half have been spouses or significant others who signed merely because the principal signed?  Could one-third have been people who did not read the petition? Could one-tenth have been relatives of the volunteers who solicited the petition signatories? All together, the numbers are not, in my opinion, indicative of a groundswell of support.

I personally admire the effort Shank, Parrott and volunteers expended to bring this Dream Act to referendum. Thank God that within a “representative democracy” ultimate power to legislate is vested with the people. Dream Act supporters might win at the ballot box, but they lose, in my opinion, when they forget that “poverty and ignorance” are historically the greatest causes of a society’s collapse. The Dream Act supports, in a small way, an attack on both, and its enactment will be a small price to pay.

As for the comments concerning my opinions about the possible gas tax increase and transportation issues, I tire of the drivel. I have never asked a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly to sell his or her vote. I have and will continue to tell anyone who will listen that renting a vote on specific issues that might have a positive impact for those you represent — particularly when the outcome is inevitable — is not a bad move. And when you can’t rent, then vote your conscience and move on.

A good friend and leading Democrat in Annapolis once took me into the House Chamber and said, “See that board up there? It has 141 names on it. There are enough Democrat names that I don’t need any of your delegation to vote for most bills put forth. It is fine if they do; however, I usually have enough votes. What I do desire is that after a vote is taken, I don’t need some member of your delegation who voted against a particular bill dragging the majority through the mud while trying to overturn what has been approved. Even when successful, that type of effort in the final analysis is usually counterproductive.”

“Thwack!” I’m returning the ball to the letter writers’ court. They are free to comment any time they feel the urge. I wake up each morning looking forward to the challenge, welcoming them to convince me to change my opinion or to be so eloquent as to change the opinion of others.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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