WORLEY - "America the gullible."
Bill Hall repeated the phrase several times Saturday at the Coeur d'Alene Casino, while speaking at the 11th annual North Idaho Democracy Dinner hosted by the Kootenai County Democrats.
Hall, a former political columnist and longtime editorial page editor for the Lewiston Tribune, said he's troubled by today's electorate.
"They have abandoned their homework as voters," Hall said to the roughly 150 people at the dinner.
Today's voters are less informed and more self-absorbed, he said, and it is the voters themselves who are responsible for breeding "uncommonly cowardly members of Congress," whose greatest fear is that they will have to leave Congress. It is a fear that causes the politicians to bow down to lobbyists and "group think" rather than stand up for what they believe in, Hall said.
People are too quick to listen to and believe information coming to them on the radio, television, the Internet and in chain emails, Hall said.
Part of the problem, he said is that it's easy to avoid the news, and there is an overabundance of "one-sided opinions peddled by extremists on the left and the right."
He offered some solutions to help solve our nation's economic problems and ease the divisive nature of today's politics.
Hall suggested the government levy a 10 percent surcharge on everyone's income tax every time the nation goes to war.
"Going to war should put everybody's skin on the line ... everybody goes to war or nobody goes to war," he said.
The states of Iowa and New Hampshire should be thrown out of the nation, he said tongue-in-cheek, suggesting how to level the playing field during presidential primary campaigns.
His real solution is to create a national primary day, so everyone votes at the same time.
Regardless of economic status, each individual has one vote, he said, and then questioned why it's OK for the rich to be able to swing votes with their money.
"Let's limit every citizen and corporation to no more than a $100 contribution per campaign," he said.
He urged the crowd to consider the quality of the news they receive, and where it is coming from.
Most commentators on cable news stations are "daylong, servile stooges of the Democratic or Republican parties," he said.
That type of information doesn't enlighten, he said, "it is a process of keeping minds closed."
He said he receives "massively assertive emails" full of lies, slander and misinformation, and they come from all sides of the political spectrum.
Hall takes greater issue with the individuals who created the messages than those who he receives them from.
"They are the gullible victims of those liars," he said.
Hall encouraged those at the dinner to check the facts, to use the Internet - fact-checking sites like snopes.com - to prove or disprove what they are told, or emailed.
"America the gullible has too many minds welded shut on the left or the right," he said.
When making decisions, Hall said citizens shouldn't think about what is the liberal or conservative thing to do: "Ask yourself, 'What is the right thing to do?"