The Dirty Words of politics
For 52 years I have followed the way our country selects people to run for President and then elects them. I watched George Wallace and Ross Perot run as third party candidates and influence the ultimate election. I have seen incumbent Presidents be defeated after their first term. I have seen little known candidates catch fire and almost become a movement without reason. But never, ever, have I seen anything like the way we are choosing our President in 2016.
Given the hundreds of millions of dollars already spent on this election cycle, you almost have to be a hermit or recluse to not have heard the many reasons to vote for this candidate or that candidate. Actually, that is not true. Most of the advertisements are why you shouldn’t vote for Candidate A, without giving good reason why you should vote for Candidate B.
However, the things that cause me worry about our country are the dirty words of this year’s election. I am not talking about the childish comments about the size of Trump’s hands or how much Rubio sweats. I am not talking about socialism or private email servers. These awful words I speak of are much more serious than the zingers designed for cable news and 15 second sound bites.
I hesitate to even mention these words in a family newspaper, but I feel it is my obligation to point out the depths to which we have sunk in our discourse about selecting the most qualified person to lead our country in these dangerous times.
The first word that causes parents of the far right and left to put their hands over their children’s’ ears is “moderate”. There is no word that brings more disdain in a primary. It is almost the kiss of death to an aspiring politician. It causes them to move ever further to either edge, avoiding this label at almost any cost.
It is ironic that in most things in our everyday life, moderation is a goal. Eat in moderation. Drink in moderation. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, supposedly said these often repeated words; “Moderation in all things”.
Cal Thomas, a conservative columnist and commentator, says that “in today’s vernacular, ‘moderate’ has come to mean that you have no fixed principles, that everything can be negotiated away because all that matters is ‘the deal”. I agree with his assessment of today’s politics and also consider that belief to be hogwash.
The second word that can’t be muttered in most political circles these days is “compromise”. Dwight Eisenhower said “Compromise is like the middle of the road; always safer to walk on than the edges”. Today, compromise is derogatory term indicating weakness, driven by politicians that would rather lose an election than give an inch on their ideological positions. Imagine if compromise was as negative in marriage as it is in government.
Another word that has almost been driven into political extinction is “non-partisan”. The only time it is used in the toxic atmosphere surrounding this election is as a negative, like evidence of a character flaw. Zealots proudly boast of the purity of their ideology without giving one bit of thought to whether their beliefs have the slightest chance of being implemented, much less how these beliefs would impact the governing of this nation with its increasingly diverse population.
It is interesting that local politicians increasingly want their local races to be “non-partisan”. Is it any secret that mayors and school boards and judges want to be free of party labels? The public wants their pot holes fixed and their children educated regardless of the party in power.
I remain convinced that the vast majority of our great nation resides in the middle of this political quagmire. While I long for a candidate that can unite us all, I recognize how difficult that will be given this convoluted political primary system we have allowed to evolve.
Give me a thoughtful person running as a moderate, willing to compromise to produce non-partisan solutions that work for most Americans regardless of their party and I will show you our next great President. In the meantime, I will hold my breath and pray for the best.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org