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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Importance of the Political Middle

Once again those voters who either call themselves independent or are on the margins of either of the mainstream political parties will decide who controls congress after the votes are counted in November. These same voters from the middle are predicted to carry tremendous clout in state races as well.

Mark Halperin in a column in Time Magazine recently said, “Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November's elections.” He went on to say, “many members of the general public appear deeply skeptical of Obama's capacity to turn things around, especially, but not exclusively, those inclined to dislike him - Tea Partyers and John McCain voters, but also tens of millions of middle-class Americans, including quite a few who turned out for Obama in 2008.”

How did things change so quickly? How did those from the middle, the independents, come to dislike today what they so passionately supported just 22 months ago? It isn’t like the economy was good in 2008. My unqualified belief is that those not drinking the Kool-Aid (die-hard card carrying Democrats and Republicans) are those that truly want what is best for our country, our state, and our local communities.

Now before those of you who are more tried and true political party members of either party think I believe you do not want the same, hear me out. Those who belong to, support, and vote almost always along party lines do want what is best for your country, state, and local community. But you see the world through the paradigm of the party. It is my belief that those not affiliated or those that are loosely affiliated with one party or the other see the world from the middle.

So in 2000 after eight years of President Clinton and the left-leaning policies of his two terms, the middle voted with the Republicans to elect President Bush. And after eight years of policies from the right, the middle voters or independent voters elected President Obama. What is interesting as stated by Mr. Halperin of Time Magazine, is that after only two years of the current administration, many are calling for “change”. Many different political strategist, pundit, talk show host, etc. are predicting a Republican takeover.

I say all of this to say, in this complex, global, and flat world that we live in, can we afford this start and stop process of public policy in which the voting public has to settle for the same old tired ideas that the main political parties espouse. Can this political stalemate or gridlock enable the US, Georgia, or even local communities to truly thrive?

Recently a key Democratic leader was on a talk show and boldly pronounced that the Senate had to get rid of the filibuster rule that mandates 60 Senators approve of a measure to prevent a filibuster. His reasoning was that the filibuster rule was preventing the Democratic led Senate from passing legislation that they wanted passed.

I am not a political expert by any means, but eliminating a rule that has served our country well in preventing either party who finds themselves in the majority from running roughshod over the other party is sacrosanct to me. What if the current administration could pass card-check legislation or cap-in-trade legislation with only a simple majority?

Put the shoe on the other foot. What if the Republicans do take back the Senate and want to outlaw abortion, double the defense budget, or eliminate all entitlement programs without any consideration of the opposing political party or the 40% of the voting public who would oppose such measures?

In an ideal world, political parties and candidates would campaign hard, debate the issues, and then after the individual candidates are elected, these officials would exercise their judgment and vote their conscience. But what really happens is the elected official becomes a tool of the political party that they are members of and the party platform becomes the litmus test of what gets attention.

Independent voters have become, in essence, the filibuster of election cycles. As each party becomes the majority and tries to push the country or state toward its ideology, it is the middle or independent voters who prevent any of the political parties from “taking over” our country and our states.

If we truly want the US or the states that make it up to thrive, we must find a way for bipartisanship. We must hold our elected officials accountable to the office they hold and not to the political party they are a part of. We need our country’s best and brightest signing up to run for elected office and then using their talents to better our nation and our states.

And in the end, would not both political parties benefit or prosper over the long-term if they were more tolerable of those who reside in the middle of the political spectrum? I for one think so.

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