Kicking the hornets’ nest

Published 1:42 pm Saturday, September 8, 2012

Some people thoroughly look forward to the rush of adrenaline that comes right before doing something incredibly stupid, such as dropkicking a hornet’s nest just to see how riled up the hornets will get. For the rest of us, the seconds leading up to the moment of impact are filled with uncertainty and terror, enough so that we will typically try to avoid kicking it at all. I am not a thrill-seeker by nature and have no desire to see an angry swarm of hornets frantically search out the fool who kicked in their front door, especially when that fool is me. Sometimes, though, the nest just needs a good kicking.

I spent a fair amount of time watching the Democratic National Convention this past week, and I did so for a couple of reasons. First, I spent the previous week watching the Republican convention, and I really do try to hear both sides of the story. I’m pretty set on which party I think best represents my personal values, but I think many of us make the mistake of spending time only listening to those who affirm our personal beliefs and not enough time hearing those who would challenge them. I think we get more value out of listening to people tell us why they think we’re wrong than those who simply tell us why we are right.

Secondly, it’s impossible to have an intelligent debate on the issues if we don’t know the other side’s position. I can’t tell you why I think you’re wrong if I don’t even know what you think. And after three nights of listening to their speeches, I’m thoroughly prepared to tell you why I think the Democrats are wrong, at least on three key points.

First, it has become obvious to me that Democrats view an individual’s history of success and accomplishment as a strike to hold against them, not as a credential that qualifies one for higher office. Until the most recent presidential election, we would immediately disqualify a candidate if they lacked leadership experience in either the public or private sector. It would have been viewed as at least a minimum requirement to have been the governor of a state or chief executive officer of a successful corporation or the chairman of an organization as large as the Olympic committee. Today, someone with such proven experience is considered to be out of touch with the common man. Let me tell you, speaking as a common man, I don’t want someone who can truly identify with my situation to be President of the United States. I do want a president who cares about my situation, but I want someone truly exceptional, who has achieved success in almost every endeavor and can improve my situation, to be in charge. The stakes are too high and the issues are too complex for me to feel comfortable with Joe The Plumber at the helm. Give me the guy that has had to lay off a few people in his decades of experience running a successful business. Don’t give me the guy who has no experience running any sort of business at all.

Second, their assertion that it is time for the nation’s top wage earners to start paying their fair share of the tax burden is nothing short of class warfare. The facts are clear; the top 25 percent of wage earners in this country pay over 85 percent of the federal income tax. The top half pays over 95 percent. It is the people in these income ranges, are already burdened with footing the bill, who start businesses and create jobs and make payroll every week for their employees. It seems to me that before we tackle the tax code, we should have a serious discussion about what fair really means.

The third problem I have with what came out of the Democrat’s convention this week is the one that bothers me the most. As the lucky husband of a strong, smart, independent and successful woman and the father of an equally strong-willed, intelligent and capable daughter, I absolutely resent the claims made by Democrats that Republicans are opposed to women’s rights and their ability to earn fair wages or share in the same opportunities as men. I don’t know a single man, Republican or Democrat, who espouses that belief. In fact, I don’t know a single man, who would not fight tooth and nail in order for their daughters to be treated fairly, to be given equal opportunity, and to be paid according to the true worth of their work.

Women have struggled to earn equal pay for equal work. But that is the result of a workforce historically dominated by men, Republican and Democrat men, who until recent decades had not been asked to make room in the sandbox for their new female colleagues. Blaming Republicans for this discrimination, and therefore implying that Democrats didn’t participated in the construction of the glass ceiling, is not only a blatant misrepresentation, but also an obvious strategy employed to drive wedges for the sake of political gain. It is not just an unfortunate ethical lapse, but actually does further damage to the cause of equality in the workplace by leading young women to believe that there are obstacles in their way that do not actually exist.

We have pressing issues in this country that need solving today. Going on television for a week and telling everybody who will listen that they aren’t your fault isn’t a good first step towards getting it done.

I don’t delight in kicking the nest just for the sake of stirring up the hornets, although I suspect it won’t be long before I hear the sound of an angry swarm. But that’s okay. Because after a week of witnessing the Democrat’s national convention, I just felt like the nest needed to be given a good swift kick.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at