We scan the political horizon line for a glimpse of people we believe can save us: Moderates. We watch, yet few souls appear. While the horizon remains largely empty, the ground between is cluttered with extremists of all persuasions — those who offer easy and often empty ideas, who craft barricades with bricks of emotion and disinformation, who feed a venom-rich environment that harbors few solutions to a growing number of problems.
Our nation’s track record has been dismal for some time now. We continue to fight wars, with one — in Afghanistan — that has persisted for nearly a decade without yet accomplishing the goal of defeating Al-Queda and the Taliban. Check out the financial crisis: we bailed out banks too big to fail (and, thus, too big to exist) and provided money that allowed figures and institutions key to the collapse of the system to profit mightily, while we failed to employ any meaningful regulation of the practices that are at the greed-riddled center of the problem. An oil spill off the coast of Louisiana could be the nation’s greatest environmental disaster and what have we done as a nation and as individuals to deal with our dependence on oil? What are we doing to counter the broader environmental problems faced by everyone on the planet? Jobs and a shrinking middle class? Any real progress closing what is a dramatic and growing gap between the very rich and the rest of us? A public education system falls increasingly out of local control, crippled by budget, state and federal mandated practices. Debt (considered in a realistic light, i.e. in terms of the entitlement and defense spending that those who yell loudest about the problem ardently want preserved) plagues us. Effective campaign finance reform?
When we look at these situations and others, it is clear we are relatively helpless, foundering in troubled waters.
And what are we offered in broad political terms? Extremism, from both sides of the political spectrum; increased polarization, fertilized by unscrupulous political party and media sources. We get loud name calling with few concrete proposals for solutions. And now, as we approach the primary and general elections, we hear “throw the bums out.” The knee-jerk response worms into the process and many people retreat to the comfort of slogans. We are mired in the political world of “no” — no cooperation, no compromise, no deal.
Next November, if champions of extremism take seats in government in larger numbers, only one thing will certainly happen: even less cooperation, less compromise, a continuing and strengthened stalemate marked by loud, childish nonsense. And few solutions.
This is not to say change in the makeup of governing bodies is not desirable, that many incumbents, of all political stripes, should not be replaced.
It is to say that thoughtful analysis of candidates and their ideas is needed. A superficial, partisan analysis will not do the trick.
Which means that not only must moderate candidates step forward with workable ideas, but moderate voters must go to the polls, in elections at all levels.
One thing is clear: people motivated by anger, frustration and the confidence born of oversimplification will show up at the polls. What about the moderates?
We believe the majority of our fellow citizens are, in fact, centrists — be they Republican, Democrat or unaffiliated. And we believe it is necessary in the coming months that this moderate majority prepare itself to push government from the world of “no” to an arena in which problems can be dealt with in a rational way.