In Search of Solutions: Americans are Tired of Bickering

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

Democrats call for President Bush to use his conservative majorities to find common solutions to perennial problems that might find resonance with Americans tired of partisan bickering. There are plenty of places to start on a variety of different issues.

The Middle East

The isolationist right has not wished to risk much for anything abroad, while the hard left recently has been happy with any dictator that praised the “people” and professed anti-Americanism. Yet most Americans in between can conclude that Middle Eastern autocracy is the fuel that drives terrorism, and that the only strategy to prevent wider war later is to promote freedom over there now.

The way not to have to intervene militarily in Iran and Syria is to censure both diplomatically, elevate their dissidents to the world stage and cut off all commerce with these rogue regimes. Call the promotion of democracy a conservative desire for American security or a liberal move to promote the unrepresented. Either way, it alone offers hope for a safe Middle East.


It makes little sense to drive a 7,000-pound SUV down to the local grocery store. True, eventually the market would curb such extravagance — when gas climbs to $5 a gallon. But in the meantime, too many billions of petrodollars are going to too many terrorists in the Middle East.

If the conservationist left wins mandated fuel economy, then it should at least relent on nuclear power, which has evolved well beyond the scariness of the Three Mile Island era, and would encourage energy self-sufficiency without heating up the atmosphere.

No one wants to drill in Alaska. Yet unlike the sloppy Russian rigs in Siberia that nevertheless send their fuel to environmentally conscious Europeans, Americans can tap some of their own oil in a safe fashion. So it makes no sense to import petroleum under dubious conditions abroad, but not to drill safely at home — as if wildlife in Siberia or Nigeria has fewer rights than bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as if terrorists do not get hold of American petrodollars to kill our own.


The most critical but ignored issue in education is credentialing. One reason why teachers are so ill-prepared arises from the bizarre idea that after the baccalaureate degree, they still must be certified to “teach” — even though M.A.s and Ph.D.s seem to do fine in junior college and university classrooms without such therapeutic coaching. Something is wrong when a Harvard doctorate in physics cannot be left on his own to teach his discipline in an American public high school classroom.


Everyone realizes that a few million illegal immigrants are a problem, but perhaps as many as 15 million to 20 million become a tragedy. Deporting those who have resided in the United States for more than 10 years is unworkable and wrong. Yet rolling amnesty would only legitimize and encourage further illegality.

The ethnic left and libertarian right should concede to strict employer sanctions, real border enforcement, standardization of legal Mexican immigration in line with other countries, and an end to bilingual and ethnic separatism, all in exchange for the idea of one final — and only one — amnesty for those who have resided here illegally for a decade.


Federal payments to farms make no sense. A peach grower or strawberry producer gets nothing while cotton magnates earn thousands of dollars in federal funds at a time both of high commodity prices and record federal deficits. Conservatives who rail at welfare should recognize that if rewarding the lethargy of some of the poor could become counterproductive, then augmenting the income of well-off agribusinesses is ridiculous.

One cannot call for free markets everywhere except on the South Forty. Congressional members of the Midwest should recognize that “saving the family farm” is the cover used by agribusiness to tap into the myth that we are still a nation of agrarians. We are not — but we all are very much awash in debt. Most who garner subsidies are rarely either families or farmers.

Instead of ex post facto haggling over Bush’s reasons to depose Saddam or fretting about whether Europe is angry, happy or neither, plenty of things could be done right now — quickly, without rancor and for the public good.

©2005 Victor Davis Hanson

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