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Archive for Saturday, October 6, 2012

Opinion: ‘I am one of the 40 percent’

October 6, 2012

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I am not the 99 percent. Nor am I the 1 percent. I certainly am not one of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent. I am one of the 40 percent of American voters who the Gallup organization said identify themselves as independents — a record high in the history of the its surveys.

It hasn’t always been this way. I was reared in a Republican tradition. As a youth, I volunteered for Republican candidates in my native state of Maryland. I suspended all political involvement during the years I was a working journalist. However, when I closed the curtain in the voting booth, more often than not, my votes were cast in the GOP’s column. During the seven years prior to my joining the University of Kansas faculty, I worked in the administration of a moderate Republican governor in North Carolina. He was a good, decent man who achieved a lot by building bridges across party lines.

With this history as background, I drove to the Douglas County Courthouse this summer and switched my voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated. It was not a decision made lightly. However, it was absolutely necessary. After four decades as registered Republican, it had become obvious that the political party of my youth no longer represented my values. It was not so much a case of me leaving the Republican Party as it was of the GOP deserting me.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Gov. Sam Brownback’s purge of Republican moderates during the recent primaries. Ironically, the self-proclaimed heirs of the Reagan revolution had forgotten the most important lesson left by the Gipper: You can’t lead (and win elections) without building a coalition. Many of the people who embraced President Reagan are now referred to as RINOs —Republicans in Name Only. As one who has been a Republican longer than most of the neocons now running the party, I find the moniker both insulting and un-American.

I tend to be a fiscal conservative and social moderate. That puts me in a position where I find myself sometimes agreeing and other times disagreeing with the GOP. There was a time in this country that these psychographics comfortably fit with the party’s structure. We were allowed to agree to disagree. It was our obligation to seek compromise. That was the American way. Unfortunately, that is not the case any more. The new “powers-that-be” demand political purity and blind obedience — an anathema to democracy.

I have not switched my party registration out of policy differences. In a healthy democracy, those differences can be resolved through creative debate and compromise. It is the unwillingness to seek common ground that caused me to exit the political party of my youth.

Some may ask why I haven’t rushed into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party? Sadly, it is, in many ways, a mirror image of the GOP. The Democrats are as intolerant of dissent within their ranks as are their Republican counterparts. The reality is that the party of Jefferson and Jackson is neither Jeffersonian nor Jacksonian. The tactics of MoveOn.org’s PAC are no less vitriolic and mean-spirited than Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC. There are no heroes in this morality play.

Now, I am a political free agent. And while the loss of access to party caucuses and primary elections has the effect of a self-inflicted disenfranchisement, at least I can look myself in the mirror in the morning with the knowledge that terrible things are not being done in my name. However, I also recognize the true tragedy of the American political environment. With 40 percent opting out of the traditional two-party structure, we are leaving the mechanisms of government in the hands of the polarized 60 percent more interested in imposing their will than leading by consensus.

— David Guth is an associate professor of journalism at Kansas University.

Comments

Rich Noever 2 years, 2 months ago

I really appreciate Mr. Guth's thoughts. I too have abandoned my party of my youth. I was a registered Democrat during the late 60's up until the Carter Administration. I agree both parties have abandoned their principles. The Republicans now take their marching orders from the Religious Right as espoused by Ralph Reed.. The Democrats are mean spirited and paranoid and take their marching orders from Move-On and George Soros. As Mr. Guth states, both parties are totally intolerant of dissent. The political system is broke and probably won't get fixed unless we have catastrophic events that force change.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 2 months ago

If the Tea Party members are claiming to be Libertarians, then they are confused as to what Libertarians are.

jaywalker 2 years, 2 months ago

Here here, Mr. Guth. Excellent contribution, couldn't agree more.

Liberty275 2 years, 2 months ago

"The straw that broke the camel’s back was Gov. Sam Brownback’s purge of Republican moderates during the recent primaries."

Are you blaming Brownback for something the citizens of Kansas did?

Greg Cooper 2 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, 3 citizens: Charles, David and Sam.

beatrice 2 years, 2 months ago

I wish more politicians were fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I consider myself a Democrat largely because of social issues, but if a third party came along that was viable (which is key) and had a strong middle ground, I would fully support it. I also support Republicans who are fiscally conservative and at least moderate when it comes to social issues. Sadly, they are rare.

jafs 2 years, 2 months ago

Me too.

I think a serious candidate who combined fiscal conservatism/common sense with social liberalism would find a pretty large constituency - I wonder why they're so rare.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 2 months ago

Neither political party wants to live within their means. Tax and spend, borrow and spend. Spend and spend.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

You wanna talk about living beyond means? Any honest such discussions would have to include an extractive economy based on energy systems that are unsustainable, and will lead to an unlivable planet for the great majority of the human population within a few decades. When that happens, and we're driving towards that cliff at a rapid pace, concerns about "fiscal conservatism" will be seen as nothing more than fiddling with the deck chairs on the Titanic. (sorry about the mixed metaphors, but the coming disaster defies metaphor.)

jhawkinsf 2 years, 2 months ago

I happen to agree with you. That said, just because we have a global climate catastrophe looming doesn't mean we shouldn't solve the fiscal problems of today, if we can.

verity 2 years, 2 months ago

Beatrice, I agree completely with you.

imastinker 2 years, 2 months ago

There's no room for a fiscal conservative in Washington these days. It doesn't do any good to be a social moderate if you run out of money to pay for the programs we have. It is a good letter though. I just think his anger at the GOP is slightly too focused. The Democrats are just as bad and possibly a little it worse.

verity 2 years, 2 months ago

Very well said, tange.

Can I quote you?

verity 2 years, 2 months ago

You're encouraging me to be dishonest? Oh, tange!

Of course, prefacing something with "an anonymous poster on LJW said . . ." does tend to detract a bit from credibility, no matter what wisdom is henceforth imparted.

tbaker 2 years, 2 months ago

Excellent letter and precisly why I am not voting for either of these clowns.

tbaker 2 years, 2 months ago

Cute Tange. Keep'm coming. I can always count on you for a good chuckle.

tbaker 2 years, 2 months ago

Come on tange! You're a lot funnier when you at least try to make sense! You can do better than that! Try harder!

Linda and Bill Houghton 2 years, 2 months ago

Brownback directed the available special interest money (Koch, etc.) to make sure that the moderates were defeated. He did not defeat them himself, but made sure that they were defeated. An imbalance of advertizing money usually means an imbalance at the voting booth.

2 years, 2 months ago

There was no imbalance of money - in fact, in the first time in forever, there was a balance:

"State Sen. Jean Schordof was a pretty typical victim. She was challenged by Witchita city councilman Michael O'Donnel...Schordof outraised O'Donnell, $115,000 to $72,000, but the Kansas Chamber PAC spent $36,000 to help the challenger, more than eight times as much as a teacher's union spent to help Schordof. So O'Donnell won, and won easy -- 2,745 votes to 1,897 votes, in a district that's home to around 70,000 people." http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2012/08/08/the_great_kansas_republican_purge_of_2012.html

Schodorf's race was typical of moderate/conservitve races this year - she enjoyed a huge advantage in money until Brownback's legions arrived. In the end she still spent more money than her opponent. The difference is that when conservatives got competitive moneywise, they slaughtered the moderates.

It was, in fact, a balance in advertising money that allowed the imbalance at the voting booth.

del888 2 years, 2 months ago

I agree completely. I am 54 yrs old and have voted in every election since I was 18. This election is different. Neither choice is a good choice. If I vote it will only be to vote out all incumbent congressmen - both democrat and republican. The average pay for a congress person is $174,000. The speaker gets $223,000 and the minority & majority leaders get $193,400 (2010 figures). I think for this amount of money they should actually do something. If they are not working they should be replaced. I am voting out all existing congress persons. As for the president, I am undecided between frick and frack.

lunacydetector 2 years, 2 months ago

i was thinking about switching to 'independent' so i don't get rounded up by obama's secret police IF he becomes our first dictator....but i probably should register as a democrat just to be safe.

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 2 months ago

The old false equivalency argument again. Democrats are just as bad as republicans.

I do not fault you for not registering as a democrat, but to say that comparable intolerance and extremism is found in the democratic party is just a silly false equivalence.

Then again, this is an easy go-to strategy for many journalists too lazy to get at the real truth through facts and investigation. The false equivalency argument is just too easy to resist.

beatrice 2 years, 2 months ago

The Taliban, on the other hand, has always maintained God in their platform.

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