Thank you, Jeb Bush for putting into words what I have been thinking for quite some time! How exactly to express my frustration with a National Leadership that is getting absolutely nothing done. Nothing fair, nothing honest ... simply nothing at all.
Washington, D.C. is broken. And while Jeb Bush touched on one aspect of the problem - the severe hyper-partisan divide, my frustration is centered on another cause of this political stagnation.
What has happened to the Moderate Middle in American politics?!?
First off, allow me to lay the basis of my beliefs for this post:
- Hyper-partisanism is a problem with BOTH political parties. The Democrats in Washington are just as hyper-partisan as the Republicans. A point which former Florida Governor Jeb Bush acknowledged in his e-mail to The Associated Press this week.
- There is no such thing as RINOs (Republican In Name Only) or DINOs (Democrat-INO).
I have a HUGE issue with this blatant misrepresentation, intended to do nothing more than silence all but those on the extreme Right or Left of the political parties. This is also problem relevant to BOTH parties, although RINO seems to get much more play than DINO. In my opinion, Liberal Dems are simply more subtle in their efforts to trample over The Middle.
There was a time when the Democrats included conservative elements, such as those in The South known as Dixie Democrats. There was also a time when there were Liberal Republicans, those who were more liberal on social issues while sticking to the economic virtues extolled by established GOP Conservatives.
Barry Goldwater, a stalwart Conservative Republican in the '60s and '70s was more tolerant in his views on social issues. Goldwater even appreciated the need for Liberal viewpoints as a counterweight to conservatism. Anticipating that Somewhere in the Middle the two would meet!
Well, that's simply not happening anymore ...
- The true and proper context for these misleading labels - assuming we even need them - is CINO (Conservative In Name Only) or LINO (Liberal-INO)
- The Political Middle is the real issue here. Moderate political viewpoints and participation serves as a buffer to the far edges of the political spectrum. And it offers a middle ground for the germination of political compromise.
- The problem? The Political Middle has all but disappeared in this country!
I consider myself a Moderate Conservative Republican. I believe in Smaller Government, reduced Government spending, and a strong National Defense. But I also hold more moderate views on Social Issues (e.g. poverty, illegal immigration, LGBT lifestyles, education, and women's rights). I believe there are times when increased Government spending is both necessary and unavoidable (e.g. economic crises, disaster, military conflict, international leadership).
I have a pragmatic view about taxes. I hate like hell paying them. I despise paying more of them. But at times you simply have to cringe and bear it. And yes, some people should pay more if their financial means allow for it, especially when the condition of the fiscal house rivals an EPA Superfund site.
The spread of views I possess apparently classifies me for the title RINO. Not that I care ...
Yet this explains exactly how we have gotten to the point in this country where no National Leader will dare make compromise or reach "across the aisle" to work towards solutions to our very real problems.
- It led to President Obama's decision to throw his own debt reduction plan - Simpson-Bowles Commission - under the bus, because - God forbid - we can't deal with the specter of social benefit reductions at a time when the federal deficit is roiling out of control! Don't want to get on the wrong side of the Liberal political base!
- It led to the recent attempt to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for nothing more than his desire to reign in state spending and break the cycle of union-politician cronyism.
- It led to the rejection by every single Republican Presidential candidate of the very pragmatic suggestion of increasing tax revenues by $1 for every $10 reduction in government expenditures. Because - ya know - you don't want to piss off the Tea Party or Grover Norquist ...
I wholeheartedly agree with Jeb Bush's statement, “If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 in spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, coach.”
Dealing in absolutes in politics is a recipe for stagnation. Stagnation in Leadership, stagnation in developing solutions to real problems, stagnation in progress, stagnation in a much-needed, too long developing economic recovery. What you get - what we have now - are both the Left and the Right burrowing down and digging in behind jingoism and intransigence.
So how did we get here?
In essence, the Political Middle has abandoned the political field of play to both political extremes. It's simple really to understand. Most people disdain or - perhaps more accurately - are apathetic towards politics, especially given its hateful tone in recent years. For those with no hard and fast anchors on the more edgy political and social questions of the day, politics are just nasty, dirty, aggravating ... a waste of time better spent elsewhere. In some ways, it's hard to blame The Middle for its retreat.
On the other hand, those individuals who possess solid political and social issues anchors, see politics as a Means to their Ends. And this is magnified in those who willingly describe themselves as Ultra-Liberals or Right Wing Conservatives. For instance, they recognize the importance of the primary vetting process for weeding out Presidential candidates they perceive as weak on their respective anchor issues. This is why the early primaries in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire receive such out-of-proportion attention. By the time those of us in Pennsylvania get the chance to cast a primary vote, the candidate list has been pared down to one or two candidates. Indeed they will simply be the candidates who could repeat their talking points without making the Left or the Right throw up in their mouths.
This explains how we so often find our National political choices limited to Evil and The Lesser of Two. It explains why many well-qualified individuals will forego involvement in politics and the responsibility of civic leadership. They simply won't subject themselves to cannibalization by those on the edges of the political spectrum.
Yet few of those who survive this vetting ordeal can be elected without the votes of the Political Middle. And so we see, as soon as the primary process ends, the rush by the annointed candidates to appeal to The Moderate Middle. Their sole objective: to win a general election so they can continue to pander to the only segments who will pay attention to what they do and say afterwards - The Left and The Right.
And so the cycle repeats.
What has happened to the Political Middle?
I guess they think they have better, more important things to do. They do not appreciate that crucial decisions on issues and problems that could potentially affect them for years are being made without their input, long before they - The Middle - even realizes another Election Day is coming. And these decisions are not limited to the social issues that drive stalwart Liberals and Conservatives to action. They include decisions critical to the economy, to education, to fuel and energy prices, the environment, the deficit, and ultimately their futures and the futures of their children.
The Middle's political apathy is - mildly put - mind-boggling!
So while we wait for America's Political Middle to wake up to today's reality, the partisans dig in and refuse to budge, refuse to solve, refuse to govern. The economy continues to falter; the federal deficit continues to grow. We wait for yet another Presidential election where our choices are weak and uninspiring; all the while knowing, nothing's going to change regardless of the outcome.
Jeb Bush recognizes part of the problem. When will we recognize the solution is a formidable, continuous presence of Moderate political voices?