TALLAHASSEE, April 17, 2015 – People seldom see it coming. I didn’t. Over the past several years, I had become complacent about my political beliefs.
It didn’t start that way.
It was an insidious process of wearing down. I was never a preacher or a firebrand, but I always spoke my mind in the interest of stimulating conversations and an exchange of ideas. In recent years, the way we report reality and discuss it, engage in problem-solving and communicate about it, have changed in many ways. It turns ugly when the national dialogue has morphed from problem-solving to whining, and now that the media is available 24/7, it is continuous whining.
The opinions I held fervently became diluted from the constant barrage of misinformation that pervades the internet. The stance on issues that I took for granted began to grate against positions taken by both major political parties. To maintain my integrity as an American, I had to make a profound change. I made the decision to leave the only political party I had claimed as my own, the party of my father.
When I was a kid, Dad knocked on doors of my neighborhood in Flat Rock, Michigan, campaigning for Richard Nixon in his run against John F. Kennedy. This was agonizing to watch, as my father struggled with a lifetime of extreme shyness. To walk up to the door of a stranger in a bedroom community of union autoworkers and attempt to convince them to vote for a candidate with Nixon’s magnetic lack of personality was a daunting task for our father, but he believed.
In the end, Dad was rewarded with a trip to the Republican National Convention and became a delegate, and we were glued to the black and white TV, watching in anticipation until it was time to go to bed.
It was expected that I would become a Republican, and when I was 18, I became a Republican.
It is not inconceivable that if Dad had been a Democrat, I would have become a Democrat. That is how political affiliations are forged sometimes. If that had been my course in life, I would be in the same position today, leaving a political party in order to stay true to my core beliefs. In a nation of disparate extremes, this is a difficult place to be: The liberal Left and the conservative Right have demonized each other, with Republicans claiming the conservative wing, and Democrats claiming the liberal one.
I had enough. My voice, and the voices of like-minded people, were being drowned out by two extremes with an audience. National politics has reached a new low. We no longer look at Democrats and Republicans as two teams fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way. Now they are doing battle with their own kind.
Conservative Republicans attack their own for positions that differ from the party platform, referring to them as RINOs (Republicans in name only). Liberal Democrats simply refer to anyone who differs from their own platform as stupid.
Both ignore the middle.
While most of Americans scratch their heads at the antics of politicians expounding extreme nonsense in front of the lights and the cameras, it is the lifeblood of the 24/7 continuous loop of the networks, and the insidious distortion of common sense continues every minute of every day. It pervades our lives whenever we access the internet or turn on a TV. They used to call it News. Now the mass media call it Opinion.
As a problem-solver and a mediator by trade, this places me and people like me in the middle. It’s a massive middle that we occupy. In spite of the reality that we are the majority of Americans by a huge margin, we place ourselves in the crosshairs of attacks from both extremes. If you want to deviate from the party line on any issue, you have stepped at the back of the line for an ugly, no-win debate, and nobody wants to be called stupid or a RINO.
Political opinions speak loudest at both ends of the spectrum. Let’s take, for example’s sake, our national policy on illegal immigration and undocumented aliens:
We don’t have one.
If we were honest about it, we would call Wannabe Citizens for what they are: people and entire families who sneaked across the border to have a better life than they had. How does the United States of America, a nation founded upon the concept of “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free” transform to a world where the borders are closed?
On the left, we have a policy designed to making the Wannabes legal citizens who will most likely vote for the party they identify as the one that was most responsible for their elevated status as U.S. citizens. To entice them, politicians offer benefits that will be administered by a government program. Existing citizens need not apply.
On the right, we have a policy of packing the Wannabes up and sending them home, presumably back to Mexico and other Central American countries. To make them stay in their native countries once we bus these over 24 million “illegals” across our southern border, how do we enforce and seal our border? We extend a big wall, approaching the size of the Great Wall of China. That will keep them out. Want to be legal? Go home and do it the right way. It takes ten years or maybe never, but we’ll get to you.
Don’t heed the lesson of history that the Chinese couldn’t keep out the Mongols once they figured out how to build ladders, ramps and tunnels. Remember, our borders are guarded by government employees who have been ordered not to shoot. And don’t forget that everyone we will be taking that free bus ride home has already devised a way to get over, under, and around that big wall. Just like the Mongols. We can assume that the Mongols were made Chinese citizens when they came over the wall.
The reality in the middle is the radical idea that every problem has a solution, and some solutions may be unpleasant. Some will refuse to respect reality and continue to complain. Neither of the solutions proposed by the left and the right is feasible, and we need to look beyond liberal and conservative politics to devise a solution that is workable. It serves no purpose to whine about a problem, offer no solutions, and take a deaf ear to the middle of America. They are the voice of reason, and both liberals and conservatives will need their votes.
The message that we as a nation have received from the president and Congress is clear. They are very talented at saying “No,” and love to talk incessantly about it. They are unable or unwilling to propose change for the better. That should be a clear signal that they are fresh out of ideas.