As even casual observers of this blog know, I truly am a moderate Independent when it comes to political ideology. I voted both for Republican Pat McCrory for Governor of North Carolina, where I have lived for nearly 25 years, and to re-elect President Barack Obama.
To me, they are both moderate realists, a group that could be credited with making a significant difference in their election victories.
I frequently read commentary on both the right and the left to keep informed, but I personally identify with one published last week by Rob Ellsworth, a moderate and former Republican.
We share links with my native state of Idaho and adopted home of North Carolina as well as a love of English bulldogs and I too have been disturbed by hyperbole on both the left and right following the outcome of the Presidential election but more so with that coming from the right.
Exasperated with his former colleagues Ellsworth lamented that:
“Your inability to reason, compromise, or let new facts and evidence challenge your predetermined outcomes led millions of moderates to no longer be able to stand on stage with you.”
But he also cautioned that “there isn’t a mandate for Democrats in this election. Liberalism wasn’t rewarded in this election. However, calm pragmatism, compassion, working together, compromise and sincerity were rewarded.”
Nor was there a mandate for Republicans in 2000 when they lost the popular vote and only won the White House via the electoral vote aided by a determination from the US Supreme Court that split along party lines. Liberals then may have only been slightly less disrespectful than conservatives are today who are now as they fly the American flag upside down to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with last week’s election.
I have no doubt that Mitt Romney, who was a college classmate of mine, would have made an excellent President. Both he and President Obama are moderate realists.
In the end, I was ultimately swayed not by any particular difference between these two gentlemen but by the fact that I just felt less comfortable with extremely partisan forces surrounding Romney. I doubt that even the seemingly more resolute Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush could have survived the drag created by these “wackanoodles,” to use the term used by a Republican operative attributed to their ilk.
I grew up a Republican when a moderate Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was President, but in the 1960s I supported both a Democrat, John F. Kennedy, and a Republican, Barry Goldwater, both of whom were more moderate than either is often portrayed.
In the 1972, the first election in which I was eligible to vote, I supported the late Democrat George McGovern because I thought he was more sensible and moderate, especially about the war in Viet Nam.
There is some substance to the perception that I became Independent because, in my 40-year career in community-destination marketing, it was a wise career choice and a way to avoid the ebb and flow of local partisanship, even in communities where elected office is supposed to be non-partisan.
Once or twice over the years, in places where registered Independents were not eligible to vote in primary elections, I’ve even briefly changed my affiliation so that I could vote. I’ve probably supported as many Republicans as Democrats, with moderates always being the common denominator.
I truly wish the value political parties bring to the electoral process could be supplanted by a “No Labels” approach to which I subscribe, but that paradigm-shift will take decades if ever it occurs.
Voting itself, which was one of the first moves by government to be participative (the creation of trial juries by England’s King Henry II being the first) is too slow and infrequent. Social networking initiatives such as crowdsourcing is being used by the US Patent office and may provide a window into what to expect in the future.
Moderates dating from George Washington, our first President, have cautioned about the dangers of hyper-partisanship. I am persuaded by pieces such as one posted by Dr. Robert Reich a day before last week’s election and entitled “We the People, and the New American Civil War.”
While America is known as “the land of opportunity,” the emergence of the middle class is a relatively recent phenomena as shown in this Pew Research Center graph published last summer in The Atlantic.
The middle class emerged in the 1950s and 1960s during a time of moderation and bipartisan cooperation. During the 1970s, it sputtered for a decade, fueled by the inflation created by the war in Viet Nam and two oil crises.
During the 1980s and 1990s, tax cuts and technology fueled the markets and the growth of the investment class but not the recovery of the middle class.
I agree with Reich who summarizes his election eve assessment by writing that:
“So we come to the end of a bitter election feeling as if we’re two nations rather than one. The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.”
However, I am even more persuaded by a post-election assessment by conservative columnist David Brooks. After a wonderful job of giving historical context to the obsessive suspicions many Americans have over the size of government, Brooks makes an observation about the values of some Americans who made a significant difference in last week’s election:
“The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.
Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.
Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.”
Numerous sensible and moderate solutions (many by Governor Romney such as capping tax deductions) have been proposed to each of the problems and challenges our country faces if as Americans we can rise above the only obstacle, partisanship.
Maybe we should also listen very carefully to some of our newer Americans who made the difference in this election.