Voters avoiding political affiliations

June 13, 2012


In his 2007 book, “The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800,” historian Jay Winik writes that among Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, none “believed in political parties, which they feared would lead to ‘rage,’ ‘dissolution,’ and eventual ‘ruin’ of the republic...”

The latest poll from the Pew Research Center, “Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years,” seems to indicate that the American people have come around to their way of thinking.

The poll, writes The New York Times, found that “the share of self-identified Republicans has declined over the last two decades to about 24 percent of the country, from about 31 percent. The share of Democrats has stayed about steady — to 32 percent, from 33 percent — while the share of independents has risen to 38 percent, from 29 percent.”

And while “Americans of different races are no more polarized in their political views than they were 25 years ago,” suggests the Times, the poll indicates that “Republicans have moved farther to the right — on economic issues, at least — than Democrats have move to the left” and the parties “appear to have lost some of the people who were closer to the middle of the political spectrum and retained those closer to the extremes.”

In short, more Americans are ditching the big two political parties, leaving hardliners behind. The result? Political stagnation. So much for well-reasoned debate and consensus. So much for moving the country forward.

What appears to frustrate voters is that not enough members of either party seem capable, or interested, in solving our problems. Instead, their primary concern appears to be achieving and holding onto power and the perks of office. Democrats answer the problem of increasing debt with more debt. Republicans want to reduce the size and cost of government, but won’t make meaningful cuts. The media play a major role in perpetuating the gridlock by mostly ignoring solutions, focusing instead on the political horse race and the names politicians call each other.

The response from Democrats to a serious proposal for repairing health care as proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was a TV ad in which an actor portraying Ryan tossed an elderly woman in a wheelchair over a cliff. This is not a serious response to a serious proposal. It is street theater.

A major reason for government’s inability — even unwillingness — to repair its own dysfunction is that we are still living off the inertia of government’s central role during the Great Depression, and later “The Great Society” in which government presented itself as everyone’s savior. Personal responsibility for one’s life and accountability for wrong decisions took a back seat.

“A Time for Governing: Policy Solutions from the Pages of National Affairs,” a new book compiled by the quarterly journal, National Affairs, contains essays that address credible solutions to our major economic problems that nearly everyone, regardless of party affiliation, acknowledges must be solved for a stable American future.

In his essay “Beyond the Welfare State,” National Affairs editor Yuval Levin addresses the heart of the problem: “Human societies do not work by obeying orderly commands from central managers, however well-meaning; they work through the erratic interplay of individual and, even more, of familial and communal decisions answering locally felt desires and needs.”

Levin adds, “In our everyday experience, the bureaucratic state presents itself not as a benevolent provider and protector, but as a corpulent behemoth — flabby, slow and expressionless, unmoved by our concerns, demanding compliance with arcane and seemingly meaningless rules as it breathes musty air in our faces and sends us to the back of the line.

“Unresponsive ineptitude is not merely an annoyance. The sluggishness of the welfare state drains it of its moral force. The crushing weight of bureaucracy permits neither efficiency nor idealism. It thus robs us of a good part of the energy of democratic capitalism and encourages a corrosive cynicism that cannot help but undermine the moral aims of the social-democratic vision.”

Is it any wonder the public decreasingly identifies with either party and that a growing majority wishes to be “independent” of both? It will take more than the election of a new president and Congress to fix this. It will require a new way of thinking — which is really an old way of thinking — by “we the people.”

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"The response from Democrats to a serious proposal for repairing health care as proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was a TV ad in which an actor portraying Ryan tossed an elderly woman in a wheelchair over a cliff. This is not a serious response to a serious proposal. It is street theater."

Although the ad is a bit melodramatic, millions of elderly people would be effectively cut off from access to medical care under Ryan's proposal. If street theater can counter Republican propaganda to the contrary, we need more of it, not less.

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 11 months ago

The devil is in the details and as usual, Cal leaves out the details to hide his real agenda.

These kind of politically biased columnists thoroughly disgust me in the way they sell their product.

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

The first half of this column seems right on.

The second half, not so much.

Abdu Omar 5 years, 11 months ago

I think we need a constitutional convention of delegates elected by the people with two representatives from each state and none of them to be current or past congressmen or senators or govenors of their state. They would meet in the heart of the USA with closed doors and determine our direction from here after a great amount of polling of the American People and the absence of the press. Let them work without outside pressure and come up with proposals that would be a yes or no by the people. When they finish, their proposals will be voted on by the people=1 person 1 vote.

If you have a better idea, let's hear it. Let's get something started and throw the inactive congress out the door.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

A Constitutional Convention would bring everything into play. Freedom of speech may or may not come out of such a convention. Freedom of the press, the same. Same again for freedom of religion. Every single thing currently in the Constitution could be changed, eliminated or expanded upon. Basically, the whole United States would be a do over.
Is that really a place you want to go?

Abdu Omar 5 years, 11 months ago

Now that you knocked down my plan with many "maybes" what is your plan? I don't know why you would expect to lose these freedoms as they would be voted on by the people registered to vote. Or, perhaps we keep the bill of rights and work on other things, namely stopping our reps from getting reimbursements from lobbyists and special interests. I don't know the perfect plan, I am sure, but we have to do something in my opinion. This lockup in Washington is going to destroy the country and our freedoms are being erroded daily. Bush did a good job of that.

So what is the plan? Regardless of political, religious, social persuasions, we must turn the country back to the people.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

1000 + days without a federal budget now. What's Harry Reid been up to all this time?

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