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Abandoning the middle ground

American voters face critical decisions in November and it would be a refreshing change of pace if they think carefully about issues and are afforded accurate information prior to the day they make a decision. Such a move might engender moderation, for a change.

One of the main reasons this scenario will likely not take place on the large stage is that a torrent of political noise blinds people to arguments and evidence that do not harmonize with their established beliefs.

Much of the noise is produced by slanted and often false information foisted on the electorate by some of the “news” media and by campaign advertising — as well as by the use of banal and emotional terms and concepts by candidates and their minions. The task of thinking clearly about issues prior to a vote is rendered difficult; the middle ground is lost.

A good example of crippling cognitive dissonance (as well as the effects of slogan-laden rhetoric) can be seen in the results of a recent poll of Colorado voters taken by the AARP regarding the November election.

Those polled (and we must remember who commissioned the poll and that organization’s interests) were non-retired voters age 50 and older. They were asked about concerns related to the upcoming vote.

As could be expected, economic concerns topped the list. A majority of the Boomers are worried about prices rising faster than incomes, about health care costs, about a lack of financial security concerning retirement and about paying too much in taxes.

Three of four polled believe they will have to delay retirement. Well more than half do not think they will have enough money saved for retirement. The majority believes they will have to rely on Social Security and Medicare.

Ninety percent of those polled think the next president and Congress need to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. The overwhelming majority believes this can be done only with bi-partisan effort (wishful thinking is not always a bad thing, though most often misguided). On a more realistic note, they state candidates have not done a good job explaining positions on Social Security and Medicare.

Blindness and the loss of moderation? Remember, the majority of those polled also think they are paying too much in taxes.

“Strengthen Social Security and Medicare” at some point means bolstering funding. All federal programs and departments should be made more efficient, with every attempt made to cut waste. But revenues are also key to the survival of vital programs and their effective application.

The answer lies on the middle ground, but misinformation and partisan rhetoric keep too many voters off that turf.

Some suggest drastic cuts to other federal programs will be necessary. Surely this is the case, but a significant number of people who push for stronger Social Security and Medicare refuse to accept cuts to defense. We’ve lived in a culture of fear since 9/11, foisted on us by members of both parties, and the thought of not spending more than most of the rest of the world’s military powers combined is unacceptable to many voters.

What, then, is left? Education? Aid to the infirm, the destitute? Infrastructure?

It is going to take cuts everywhere, and it is going to take additional revenues. The answer is in the middle, on moderate ground.

We believe this holds true on any issue.

But, no. The sloganeering is too intense, the spurs to extremism and partisan responses on both sides of the political fence are too great. The middle ground has no slogans, no recourse to patriotic songs, to empty, emotional rhetoric. And yet, it is the only ground on which all Americans can survive. With all the dissonance, how many of us realize this?

Karl Isberg

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