Where's the Center?

Shep Rose

Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”


Surely I’m not the only citizen of this great country to writhe in disgust about democracy in America today. I’m especially not the only one in my voting age bracket to be turned off by the whole political process and the horribly out-of-touch law makers that sit in D.C. Studies show that 45- to 65-year-old citizens make up a significantly greater percentage of voters in relation to their percentage of the population; and that the 18- to 35-year-olds generally aren't motivated to “vote with their feet”. I submit to you that this trend will persist as long as the two-party system continues to be radically polarized along party lines to where common sense legislation is eschewed simply because it doesn’t jibe with party leadership. The first pragmatic and sensible candidate(s) that come out of the woodwork will see a groundswell of support from the younger generation and enjoy political success for years to come. Because here’s the thing, what my generation and our predecessors are interested in is open-mindedness and prosperity without greed. That might be a gross generalization; but I’d be willing to bet that it rings true for many of my peers. Distilled even further, I think that we are looking for social liberalism and fiscal conservatism. What some might call the middle ground, or the center. Taking the best and most fair ideas from both sides and transmogrifying them into one party or movement. It would be imperfect, like everything else, but it might just inspire the upcoming generations of voters.


My family is made up of both sides of the political aisle. My dad’s side is made of staunch Republicans and my mom’s family is almost all Democrats. But they have one thing in common that they taught and preached thoroughly: always understand and listen to the other side of every argument. Of course this crucial and salient advice was meant to encompass all of life’s little circumstances, but sitting around the thanksgiving dinner table it always seemed to turn to politics. And because we had a table divided, the conversation might get spirited, but the mutual respect for each other’s beliefs would always shine through, narrowly avoiding a pecan vs. pumpkin pie rumble. I grew up siding mainly with my dad. The democrats in the '80s were just wimpy, Dukakis being the main flag bearer for dorky so-called compassionate wussies. Then there was Clinton, a man who will be seen in the history books as one of the most centrist presidents we’ve ever had. His personal life and “slick-willie” persona notwithstanding, that SOB was one hell of a politician and he danced the Potomac two-step like no one’s business. He wasn’t interested in sticking it to Republicans, he wanted to pass legislation and that meant compromising at times, finding the middle ground. But his personal deficiencies marked the beginning of the moral high ground, far right wing, “family values” Republican movement that eventually led to the party faltering after the W. Bush presidency. It was only a matter of time before people discovered that claiming moral high ground in Washington is like saying you are the least slutty of all the whores in the whore house. When the Republican leader Newt Gingrich left his wife while she had cancer, well, come on. Family values my foot. It’s all about power and money, nothing more.


Which reminds me of the joke, “Politicians are like hot dogs, if you like them, it’s better to not know how they are made.”


All the guys on Capitol Hill and in the White House have more skeletons in their closet than a catacomb. The trick is finding someone with a sharp mind and new, strong ideas. 


So after Republicans dominated the '80s with Reagan, then Democrats ruled '90s with Clinton, then we got Bush, and now Obama. The vitriol and high stakes political maneuvering has reached a Hatfield’s vs. McCoy’s level. Our politicians are so concerned with smiting their opponents, they’ve forgotten that they are supposed to be serving in the best interest of the country. The sad thing is I think some politicians know their side is wrong, yet they keep pulling the lever. It's insane!


I had been thinking about writing this blog for a while now, and not only because my friend Thomas Ravenel is running for U.S. Senate as an independent. I’ve had the opportunity to attend some of his speeches and also discuss his philosophies and, honestly, I agree with many of his libertarian views. Perhaps independent is the only sensible option left, maybe we have to erase the madness espoused in the other two parties and start anew.


So I was driving down the highway trying to find ESPN radio and came across Rush Limbaugh, I listened for a few minutes and was just totally turned off, not just by him and the thought of his cohorts Hannity, Glenn Beck, etc. who I view as entertainers first, commentators second, but the hordes of people who take what they say as gospel. Here is my quick flash view on the Republican Party as it exists now and for the last 20 years: (this is meant to reflect a very broad stereotype, but stereotypes come from somewhere)


  • Mostly old politicians and old constituents who yearn for the Eisenhower 1950's. They are intolerant of gay people and support the draconian criminalization of drug users. I see them as killjoys who were probably not very popular in high school and college. (Think the turtle-esque looking Mitch McConnell) They unabashedly pander to the Religious middle American, God-fearing Christian-type people who think the world is going to hell in a hand basket and who haven’t been to a big city since Uncle Darrel got married in Kansas City 20 years ago. 


  • Their strengths lie in the fact that they purport to be proponents of low taxes, limited government, and free enterprise. They celebrate personal success and put as little barriers as possible for personal and corporate prosperity. They support the American dream to anyone who works hard and they vehemently oppose anyone who stands in the way, especially beaurocrat-filled government agencies. 


The problem is that their laisse faire policies and wink wink buddy relationship with Wall Street, Country Wide Loans, AIG, etc. nearly caused a total world-wide financial collapse. No regulation of esoteric financial instruments spawned an avalanche of greed and deception by Wall Street that was catastrophic. So it’s hard to argue total non-regulation. The crooks just exploit less smart people so they can take their mistresses to Cabo on private jets.


Let’s tackle Republican’s social stances…basically they are archaic. Almost Stone Age. Most people in my generation can say they know several gay people, think they are fine human beings, and are horrified that they are considered by some on the far right to be second-class citizens, or that being gay is a learned behavior (which is a particularly mind-blowing and imbecilic stance). Additionally, the majority of this same group have either used some form of illegal substance or have a cadre of friends that have. We know how prevalent drugs are in society and we don’t really care if someone uses drugs as long as they don’t harm anyone else and we certainly don’t think people should be sent to jail for having small amounts of contraband. We are realistic, pragmatic and socially progressive. We think it’s time to change old uninformed stances about many of these issues. How can a group claim to want everyone to prosper in a free society and then clearly have rules about who can be happy and live their lives in quiet enjoyment?


Now to the Democrats on the far left, because let’s face it, the extremists drive both parties these days: (again, a broad caricature, but it’s my blog damnit, I can do what I want)


  • The typical far left Democrat drives a Prius, hates corporations and high profits, feels guilty about success, and (deep down) thinks America is a justifiable enemy for many evil countries around the world. They are passive weenies and apologists. They think there’s an answer to every problem in this country with more taxes to “help” those who are struggling by creating more government-run programs, which in no way could be efficient. They’re pie-in-the-sky idealists. The most troubling thing about this policy is the recent exodus of American companies to other countries because of high corporate tax rates. Burger King just merged with a Candian company and is moving their headquarters to Canada. We complain about a lack of jobs, but increased taxes on companies makes it less desirable to stay. So as failed as total non-regulation proved to be, over-regulation can be just as crippling for a country. The funny thing is, the great paradox that I’m convinced is the truth is, the “compassionate liberal” is just as slimy as the guys across the aisle. If they can personally pay fewer taxes, get a bigger beach house, and creatively write off a net jets trip, they will. To sit and pretend that they are selfless people trying to help the little guy is laughable. They’re bought and paid for same as Republicans. Wolves in sheeps' clothing. By the way, I think the Carl Rove creation of the “compassionate conservative” is totally laughable as well.


  • Their strength is their progressive social views. Just no brainer 21st-century stances, things that the Republicans shout in to the wind about, that they correctly don’t see as very important issues to fight over. They might not strictly believe in things like medical marijuana but they are smart enough to know that most well-educated and worldly people don’t waste time and effort opposing its use, so they don’t. They’re for gay marriage…why? Because they don’t see any real reason to deify an institution that is so often treated with no sanctity by straight folks (vis-a-vis the fact that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce). And believe me, young people are listening and voting for Democrats based solely on their social positions, because the other side is just embarrassingly wrong-headed.


That why I’m wondering, where are the Centrists? Where are the folks that are smart enough to see the merits of both sides and present another reasonable and desirable platform. Chris Christie was leaning that way until he massively fumbled the ball with petty politics that sufficiently scared away many progressive voters. Right now I’m politically agnostic, and I’m not alone. I wish my friend Thomas the best of luck for many reasons. Not the least of which is that it will signify a sea change of public opinion when it comes to our two parties' dogmas. We’ve had enough. Now we’re waiting and wondering when someone will have the balls to come to the center, and more importantly, if our citizens have the guts to elect him or her.



Mitch McConnell photo source

Nancy Peliosi photo source