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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Don't Give Up Your Day Job

There are a lot of Republicans, even very conservative ones, whom I respect. I read their blogs and take seriously their comments and even criticism of liberals and progressives. One of their strongest objections is to the liberal propensity for, what they call, "political correctness." That's the attempt, in their view, of liberals to silence true diversity of opinion. For example, although liberals place a high value on racial and ethnic diversity, conservatives claim we are not so tolerant of differences of point of view, especially if it involves the views of conservatives. They believe this is especially true on college campuses, where they suspect leftists rule the day and prevent the expression any beliefs different from their own.

And there may be some truth to that. Many conservative blogs have posted videos and snippets of articles that they think illustrate their charges. But there is another side to this story.

It seems that both sides are equally guilty of intolerance. Indeed, it may be built in to human nature, but it's worth pointing out that liberals don't have a monopoly on political correctness on college campuses, as this piece illustrates.

Here's the other side of the coin. Gary Peters, a professor at Central Michigan University is running for political office as a Democrat. Dennis Lennox, a student, who is a self-appointed watchdog, has taken to hounding him, with a video camera no less. The problem isn’t that this student is simply following him and videotaping campaign appearances, which are public events and are fair game. But the student is following him all around campus, asking insulting questions, and setting up misleading situations to make the professor look bad. In addition, he is attempting to shoot situations that involve the violation of the privacy of students and campus employees.

Here’s how some describe the situation:

"Basically, he's just an extreme partisan. Anybody that's a Democrat, he's going to try to get at," said fellow political science major Eric Schulz.

Lennox's anti-Peters campaign shows no sign of slowing down, though his tactics have generated complaints.

Both Lennox and college Dean Pamela Gates filed police complaints against each other after Lennox requested Peters' e-mails under the Freedom of Information Act. At one point in the brief video, also posted online, Gates it seen gesturing into the camera at close range, and it then goes out of focus, as if it has been struck.

Lennox is heard saying, "Don't touch my camera," suggesting that Peters either touched it or attempted to.
Lennox claims he started doing this because Peters won’t choose between his teaching at the campus and Congress. The fallacy of that logic is that Peters has yet to be elected and observed that everybody had a right to earn a living even while campaigning.

It should seem to any decent and fair minded person that as long as Peters is doing his job, showing up to teach his classes, is presenting well prepared lectures, and meeting his professional obligation that he should be allowed to teach while campaigning. In fact, despite Lennox’s claims to be simply trying to protect taxpayers’ money, here’s Peters’ take on the situation:

"The bottom line is that people who run for public office still need to pay the bills and still need to work," he said. He drives 130 miles from a Detroit suburb to Mount Pleasant to teach class once a week.

"If I was running for Congress in a seat where I had no chance of winning, I probably wouldn't have any attention put on me at all," said Peters, a former state senator who lost a close race for Michigan attorney general in 2002.

He acknowledges it would be difficult to keep his $65,000-a-year job at the university if he gets elected to Congress, but says he will worry about that if he wins. Peters holds the Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government - named for a former Republican U.S. senator and Michigan Supreme Court justice.
Of course, Peters also pointed out that his salary is not funded by taxpayers but is, and this is a direct quote from Peters, “privately funded.”

This is nothing more than partisan inspired harrassment. The student should be jailed for infringing on the privacy of others – not Peters – but the dean and other students.

But more chilling is that this is a blatant attempt to intimidate somebody into not running for Congress. If everybody who decided to run had to give up their jobs, only the very rich would be able to do it.

That is the unintended consequences of this type of action by Lennox. At least, I hope it's unintended and this kid isn't attempting to deliberately create a situation where political office is open only to the independently wealthy who don't need day jobs.

I would hope, at the very least, that even my conservative blogger colleagues would join me in condemning actions like these. Until then, my advice to candidates is don't be intimidated by grandstanding like this. And above all, don't let actions like this force you into giving up your day job until after the election

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