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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Praising The Center

Lewis Donelson has an outstanding piece up at Newsweek, "In Praise of the Political Center", in which he espouses something I've mentioned many times, we need to quit playing to bases, regardless of party.

He gives great examples of how Tennessee was turned into a two party, bipartisan state in the 50's and 60's, with both Democrats and Republican's cooperating on civil rights, and educational reforms.

One problem he points out, that was exemplified in Connecticut this year, is the way our politicians work primaries, and how our middle of the road voters ignore them. Ned Lamont was a guy who the Democrats knew could win a primary of base voters, but they ignored every warning sign that he'd lose a general election to Joe Lieberman.

The party refused to believe Joe would buck them and run as an independent, even though the polls that normally govern them said he'd beat Lamont if he did. Had they put some thought into the process, they could have picked someone other than Lamont, who was moderate on many of the same issues as Lieberman, but against the war. They still could have won the primary, but then had a candidate that could have attracted more independent and GOP voters than Lamont was capable of.

On the opposite side of the aisle, the GOP would have been better served by tossing Rick Santorum under the bus, and asking Lynn Swann to run for Senate, not Governor in Pennsylvania. Santorum is a favorite of the socially conservative right, but had become such a big target based on a few views that everyone knew he was done this year.

How do we get back to the center for governing? That's a tough job, as Donelson points out probably the most important thing that's needed is an informed electorate. However, too many are, in my opinion, too lazy to get informed.

Take the stem cell issue from this year. The Democrats played it as though George Bush eliminated federal funding for it, when in fact for embryonic cells he was the first to ever allow it! The majority of voters also don't understand the differences in the types of stem cell research. The Democrats played on that ignorance to scare people into think EVERY type of stem cell research was going away if the GOP stayed in power.

The second step would be to get politicians, and their parties to be more honest on many subjects. There are no black and white, good or bad answers on many subjects. Abortion is a great example, the idea of all abortions being illegal is as distasteful to the majority of American's as the idea of 13 year olds getting them without parental consent. Yet those seem to be the only two sides of the issue the party's believe in. Both play to a base group, and leave the 50% of us in the middle of the debate on the outside.

One other way to help move the major parties back to the center is to include more of the minor parties in debates, which you can bet the GOP and Democrats don't want to do. However, if you include the Green's and the Reform Party (or what's left of it) in the debates what it does is force the GOP and Democrats away from the hard right and left issues those to push for. Instead, both would be forced to look more to the midde, since some of their base vote would be drained off.

If you get a chance, read Donelson's article, it's a great dose of political common sense in an era when both sides have none.

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