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Minding the Middle


I have always been a via media person myself; looking for common ground between two extremes, two contrary views always seemed a practical matter of living together. I probably learned that as a kid with a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, and that predisposed me to maneuver for the middle. But the middle has moved. As a conservative in a very liberal town, I have quietly held out hope that there could be a rational, reasoned approach to hot issues we face in this country, hoping for intermediary ways of grappling with the polarities, even if the truth of any matter is obfuscated by hyperbole from either corner. But the middle has moved. I am beginning to think it is due in part to undeveloped powers of discrimination. Now there is a loaded word! Discriminate. To someone my age, that word carries only one connotation: Black against White, White against Black—the kind of discrimination that led to segregation, race riots and the 60’s. It was not until recently that I redeemed that word from its singular connotation to include the valuable developmental faculty evident in the mature. This definition is glaringly absent from our social/political discourse. A word study from the online Webster dictionary:

  1. Discriminate • Verb: 1 he cannot discriminate between fact and fiction:
  2. To be biased against, be prejudiced against; treat differently, treat unfairly, put at a disadvantage, single out; victimize.
  3. To recognize a distinction—to differentiate
  4. To discriminate is to perceive the differences between or among things that are very similar; it may suggest that some aesthetic evaluation is involved (to discriminate between two painters' styles).

Without this faculty, we see in broad strokes, gross categories, and generalities. We view left versus right, democrat versus republican, conservative versus liberal with a one-size-fits-all simplicity that defies reality and belies our rationality. For example, as a conservative in Lawrence, I have suffered in silence over the misdirection of this country under the current administration. Then, not too long after the Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, I felt the boldness of new optimism that bubbled up to declare to a neighbor, “I love Glenn Beck! I love Sarah Palin! I love FOX News!” The response was a joke but telling, “Well then you won’t like this wine because it is organic!” I chuckled and said, “Hey, I recycle.”

Good neighbors, good humor, but still no middle ground because conservatives like me must all share the same characteristics, in this case not caring a whit about the planet like all the bad oil companies. See what I mean? How do we grow out of this? How do we grow-up in time for our kids to have a chance? I say the middle has moved because the political spectrum now blatantly includes Socialism and Communism as unabashed as the President’s inner circle. So, when the Left includes the Far Left, of course the Right needs to counter in loyal opposition--hence the ‘Tea Party’ movement.

Now after the Republican primary process, which at least has been a refreshing contrast to the media-endorsed status quo of a liberal agenda, we have an opportunity to research issues and engage our latent powers of discrimination, making certain to discriminate between the sound-bite presentations of a candidate and the actual man/woman, checking records against rhetoric, finding sources of contrary views to sift for the Truth—all vital responsibilities of citizenship that we accept if we intend to keep our republic. We are the government. If we abdicate, we deserve the tyranny that results. God forbid.


Patricia Davis 5 years, 9 months ago

What we have lost is a respect for compromise. We also have traded in facts for entertainment and what makes us feel like we are totally right without having to think. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Fox News are the poster children for this inane, dummy-down approach.

Socialism and Communism in the president's circles? I thought Joe died, but his evil word mongering mischief keeps bubbling up from the grave .

The irony that Obamacare came from a very conservative think tank and now republicans call it socialism is the perfect example of the party you so love.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 9 months ago

In your first sentence, you bemoan the loss of compromise, then proceed to condemn one side of the political spectrum and not the other. So much for respecting compromise.

grasslighter 5 years, 9 months ago

It is apparent from just a couple of comments already posted that only the "right" has lost the ability to compromise. If one could read the post through a balanced lens, the point being made is "the middle has moved". Some only see the opposition as "non-compromising", when the full agenda of their ideologues has not been allowed to come to full and complete fruition.

The new Conservative movement in America has begun simply because the "middle has moved" to the point that Liberal Democrats in the 50's and 60's would be branded as "right wing nuts" by Modern Liberals. JFK's famous speech could easily be the policies of a modern Republican candidate.

The reason that Conservative media has been so successful recently is because a great and growing number of citizens are finding their own views echoed in that venue; it is not the other way around.

As far as "Oxymoron's" statement about "Socialism and Communism in the President's circle", this is indicative of an ideologue's rhetoric; if you don't have a valid argument, label the messenger as "extreme", in this case, a "McCarthyite". These are not baseless accusations but self admitted statements from those within the President's circle. Just to name a few, Van Jones, a self described Communist; Sheila Jackson Lee, self described Socialist; Nancy Pelosi and the President himself, Socialists by practice and admission (desire to redistribute income, nationalize key industries and segments of the economy).

I agree there are individuals on the "right" who depend on rhetoric and hyperbole of others to take a position. But to those on the "left" I ask, could it be possible that some of your cohorts are doing the same thing? How about some honest self examination and evaluation here from everyone? Is MSNBC, NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS your source of hyperbole? (I don't watch any of them) The Left has owned the networks for long enough now, that when one so called "conservative" network becomes successful, they are "dumbing down" the public. But of course, that is not a hyperbolic statement, simply because it aligns with your view. And of course, YOUR view is always the correct one...because that's what the "mainstream media" your Poli-Sci Professor says.

Polarity has not come to America because the "right" has found its voice and feet. Polarity has been brought to America because the "left" has had its way for far too long...America has awaken.

Who's rhetoric are you making your own?

Patricia Davis 5 years, 9 months ago

The liberals have not signed pledges to vote no new taxes, taking an oath to an unelected godhead. The conservative move toward a theocracy scares the little bejusus out of me.

Katara 5 years, 9 months ago

"still no middle ground because conservatives like me must all share the same characteristics"

Have you noticed the comments from people who claim to be conservative on this site? People who said outright that they were conservative and Republican were told they weren't because they didn't agree lockstep with the right wing views those folks put forth. There's even a name used for those who believe that all Republicans must agree on everything - RINOs. And it is a label that is slapped onto any conservative or Republican who voices disagreement with even the smallest of policy ideas in the GOP today.

The GOP now expects loyalty oaths. You can't vote in a Republican Party unless you are a registered Republican. Republican candidates are harassed into signing pledges that are extreme (Grover Norquist anyone?). The Republican Governor of Kansas has all but outright stated that if you don't agree with his agenda (which is not even remotely conservative), he is not interested in you or what you have to bring to the table.

The middle hasn't moved. It has just been kicked out by the extremes in both parties. Moderate is considered an insult now. As one of the extremes on this site stated - moderate is mooshy.

The GOP tent has gotten smaller and smaller. I don't know if the size of the Democrat tent has gotten smaller but you do have such creatures as Blue Dog Democrats. The GOP has no equivalent and really isn't interested in having one.

I speak as one who has been registered unaffiliated since I was eligible to vote. We aren't important until election time and then there are the demands that a side must be picked.

Fossick 5 years, 9 months ago

Hitler: kill all the Jews Lots of other people: kill none of the Jews. What is the moderate, middle, halfway position? Just kill half the Jews?

While there is plenty of "team sport" aspect in American politics - which is what ought to be bemoaned - the fact is that both American political parties are quasi-capitalist, progressive (in the original sense of the word) democratic parties who believe that the government ought to structure the markets, trade freely with other nations, care for the poor, and muck around in other countries who are too stupid to see that we know what is best for them. Our arguments are about how best to reach the same goals, over who is to tell us to buckle our seatbelts. We do not really argue over whether the government has the responsibility, much less the right, to tell us to buckle up. No one denies that we ought to have elections. No one threatens to overthrow the government if they lose. No one beats up opponents at the ballot box or assassinates the other people on the ballot. Our politics is peaceful, predictable, and reassuringly unimportant.

When viewed in the context of all the world's political positions, from monarchists to anarchists to communists or Fabians, both American parties sit firmly in the center. As one wag noted about university politics, "the fights are so bitter because the stakes are so low." So it is with national elections. Obama/McCain was a choice between two men who, at the bottom, believed essentially the same things. The 2012 election is no different. No matter who wins, the budget will expand, the wars will go on, the deficit will increase, the economy will flounder, Gitmo will remain open. So spark a doob, knock back a few shots, and watch some rasslin'. The election is not worth giving yourself an ulcer over unless your job depends on your moderate winning.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 9 months ago

I think that any citizen concerned about the neglected middle in the coming months before the election should go to every possible candidate forum and ask the following question:

"As an elected official, will you be willing to consistently cross the aisle and look for common ground with the other party, looking for opportunities to co-sponsor bipartisan efforts to address the issues of our time? And are you willing to vote independently based on your conscience and representing the common ground interests of your constituency instead of just voting the party line?"

Then based on the answers--and record--of that candidate, say that you will only be voting for a candidate who is willing to walk the walk on the issue of creating a healthy common ground, and that you will be actively opposing any candidate who is too lazy to do anything but vote the party line.

It is only after citizens decide that they are not going to put up with polarized politics on either side of the aisle and demonstrate that they are willing to put their vote where their mouth is, that we'll begin to see any changes. That, and a serious re-vamping of our political fundraising system that makes candidates beholden to the monied interests that fund their campaigns will we see anything begin to change.

Jana Rea 5 years, 9 months ago

Thoughtful, but still misses the point that it is our responsibility to research, discriminate and then engage in the policy making process; only to that degree will the officials be accountable. Stop with the blame game. We get who we elect.

Katara 5 years, 9 months ago

This is an odd reply. DougCounty offers several suggestions on how we can research, discriminate and engage in the policy making process and you tell him//her to stop with the blame game?

jaywalker 5 years, 9 months ago

I second Katara. What was that? Doug's post was rational with a direct and specific action that addresses exactly what you espouse.

grasslighter 5 years, 9 months ago

Compromise for the sake of compromise is the deadly game that has brought us to where we find ourselves precariously perched. Historically, compromise has always brought us "Leftward". (I will agree that women's right to vote was good, but abolition was a "religious right wing movement", civil rights began in the Church, and as I recall the Democrat controlled South was the major battleground of the latter, and the first Republican president signed the Emancipation)

But a pledge such as to "fundamentally transform America" is a compromise that mustn't be broached. America has some problems but the fundamentals are not among them. A turn away from those fundamentals has resulted in a "Balkanized" culture, which focus so heavily on "diversity" that little if any "unity" can be reached. Borders mean nothing, citizenship is cheap, fiscal and personal responsibility has become a fond memory, patriotism is viewed as "rightwing extremism" and American exceptionalism is now vulgar language.

No, we did not arrive here just since the current President took office. But what took the previous three presidents and the US Congress 20 years to weaken, this man and 2 years of Liberal dominated Congress have broken, hopefully not beyond repair.

But compromise on the part of those desiring to repair and rebuild is not an option. I'm sick of voting for "moderates" who are compromising my home and family into a black hole of debt and moral depravity.

The nature of Conservatives, just by definition, has been to elect a candidate and trust them to do what's right, believing that most people want the same thing. Freedom and peace. A conservative, historically, has been reserved, quite, and minding their own businesses and want to be left alone. They'd rather stay at home and tend to enjoy their work much more than being active in politics and the public scene. By necessity this has changed. No longer do I trust government to use the public trust in a wise and prudent manner. No longer will I hand my future and that of my grandchildren over to people who are willing to compromise, simply for the sake of compromise. Compromise with the devil and you still wind up in hell, although you may have an easier ride on the way. There is no virtue in this.

The activation of the conservative masses in this country is something that is long overdue. The Left and the "moderates" have become very comfortable in the halls of most of our major institutions, and the peasants are looking for "pitchforks and torches". The Oligarchy has been exposed and the conservative masses are rallying. This recent primary is a harbinger.

If an outspoken and politically active conservative public make you uncomfortable, I suggest you get used to it. Don't worry though, we won't eat your children with cabbage and rye, or kick your dogs. We do like clean water and safe food, and we're not going to starve your Grandma.

But we are not going away.

jafs 5 years, 9 months ago

The above is a strange mixture of things.

First, it argues against compromise, and for ideological purity. Then, it attempts to soothe readers by claiming that they won't harm the environment, or Social Security.

Since conservative are continually attempting to weaken the EPA, and cut SS benefits, it's hard to believe that an unadulterated conservative agenda won't harm the environment or grandma.

jafs 5 years, 9 months ago

And, of course the FDA as well.

Any large administrative agency comes under attack from "principled" conservatives.

grasslighter 5 years, 9 months ago

Don't forget the DHS, DOE, USDA, IRS, DoEd, USPS, ICE, CBP, FBI, DOC, DOJ. So much clean up, so little time! SocSec? Only US citizens need apply.

But don't forget that Obamacare has already begun to gut Medicare...my elderly father has already lost some Medicare coverage due to diversion of funds. But don't you fret now; I'll make sure he doesn't have to eat Alpo!

Then there's the real estate tax written into Obamacare which penalizes mostly elderly folks who have lived in the same house for decades and such resale value "profit" shall be subject to 3.8% healthcare tax. Now who is looking out for Grandma there?!

jafs 5 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for confirming that your agenda is in fact one that would negatively affect many people if we allow it to be implemented.

What "diversion of funds" exactly? The Medicare changes I'm aware of have to do with "overpayment" to private insurance companies.

grasslighter 5 years, 9 months ago

In case you haven't noticed, the government is broke and unless a tourniquet is applied to a bleeding budget, our financial system is going to succumb. Our economy is a shambles due to many failed government policies, and "many people" have already been "negatively affected". You've seen what happened in Greece when austerity is applied. If you want to get to that level of negativity affecting more people, continue on. Personally, the short term negative for the long term positive is always preferable.

headdoctor 5 years, 9 months ago

That real estate tax does not penalize most elderly. Very few actually. If a married couple makes over $250,000, Single $200,000 and if your house sells for more than $500,000 profit, $250,000 for single, you may owe the tax. Just the perpetuation of more fear mongering lies. The overall non wage tax for people in the $100 to $200 thousand range will pay a whopping $235 a year extra.


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