Since my life has gotten increasingly busy lately, you may have noticed my posts have gotten more informal and simply ideas, thoughts or observations. In keeping with the theme, I have another question that I’ve been trying to answer lately – how to mobilize moderates?
One of the basic ideas motivating my decision to write down my political thoughts in this way is the problem of representation in the middle portion of the political spectrum. My theory goes as follows: the party extremes have a good 30-40% of the two political poles, that leaves 20-40% who are either very extreme (beyond the poles) or more likely, remain in the middle and are not represented or courted by either party. The parties rely on party faithful to donate money, support them in the primary and volunteer to help pull in a few independents for the general election. In doing so, there is no incentive to be moderate either in fundraising or in the primary-based system. Moderates don’t get elected in primaries.
Once in Congress, the party leadership may allow individual politicians to be moderate in one key issue (say a Western state Democrat like Harry Reid who needs to be pro-2nd amendment to stay in office) but do not allow for anyone to actually be moderate across the board. Therefore, almost everyone elected to office, takes office as a party solider.
My first basic question is why aren’t more politicians representative of the moderate, common sense approach? When I say “moderate” here, I’m talking about someone who organizes and votes with a party but represents a centrist, even populist, agenda. One good example of attempting this, though not being particularly successful (until recently), is the Blue Dog Democrats. One way to incentivize politicians to speak for centrist/moderate issues would be to show these men and women that there are votes behind the agenda.
This leads me to my next question: are there votes for these types of candidates? Take Blue Dog Democrats, for example. Socially conscious, environmentally concerned Democrats who believe in conservative, Free Market fiscal policy. Or even socially liberal, environmentally conscious Independents who believe in conservative, fiscal policy. Do they have the votes to carry elections? House districts? State-wide, Senate elections?
If yes, what is stopping this type of politician from succeeding? The two-party system? The party organization and fundraising structure? Many people who have political beliefs similar to those described above don’t feel comfortable with either party often leading them to only vote in Presidential elections or not to vote at all.
If they do not have the votes to carry these elections, does that have to do with lack of public support or lack of ability to organize people? I’m suggesting the latter.
Moderates and political centrists (often registered Independents), by nature, are not easily swayed by extreme ideas, scare tactics or the “must-win” mentality. Republicans and Democrats can be extreme because winning a primary or simple majority in usually partisan districts is less difficult than state-wide/national elections. Scare tactics raise money and draw “the base” to the polls. Moderates are reasonable people, generally hoping for stability and little government interference. In fact, I’m willing to admit that many moderates probably aren’t as attentive as party loyalists who read partisan blogs and watch cable news. However, when asked, these voters (many my peers) do have opinions and interest in politics and societal challenges. They want social justice, lower taxes, fair policies and some general protection, but don’t want to get involved in controversial social issues or petty politics.
Are these voters worthy of representation? What if they do not organize, are hard to motivate and may not even vote?
The complicated issue is whether the moderates can be mobilized to support a campaign and rallied to ensure they will show up on Election Day. This more than anything else is the obstacle to a national third party and difficulty in using moderate votes as leverage against the current political parties. My response, though certainly not settled or finalized yet, is that it is up to a politician or an organization to come along and convince moderates/independents to get involved. Essentially, a tea party of moderates. I happen to believe, and I have for a while, that it just takes the right person or right message to reach this group. Too many groups look to the Presidential election every four years to be a platform for how to get minority groups represented nationally. In reality, strong, moderate voices in Congress could greatly affect the national conversation, policy debate and the way legislation is negotiated.
For now, I have the impression that I’m stuck deciding between my true political feelings and participating in politics. As it stands, there’s no place for me.