The bewildered center

In the aftermath of this year’s presidential election, the nation’s major political parties may want to review their fundamental approaches to the selection of candidates and the determination of positions included in party platforms.

On the Republican side, there are obvious deep divisions between traditionalists and the more ardent conservatives who have flooded into its ranks as part of what amounts to the total takeover of the GOP by the Tea Party Movement.

Once people talked of “the party of Lincoln” and of being “Rockefeller Republicans,” fiscal conservatives with progressive leanings when it came to social issues and the sanctity of personal freedoms. Those days are obviously long gone, as a wave of newcomers enamored with getting government out of people’s lives paradoxically seems to embrace strict federal control of a woman’s reproductive rights and what happens between consenting adults behind closed doors.

On the Democratic side, that party has seemingly abandoned its everyman roots, as the usual names and faces of perennial candidates resurface over and over again. As each election cycle brings another round of defeat, a lack of deep introspection results in the elevation of what amounts to “retread” candidates, rather than a soul-searching review of what issues and problems truly resonate with the electorate.

Other parties that have developed a presence at the national level, such as the Libertarians and the Greens, only widen the margins and do nothing to serve and reflect the values of the great, bewildered center.

Certainly, fundamental issues such as climate change and social policies are important, but seem to be esoteric and superfluous to people who are without jobs, who cannot afford homes or college tuition for their children, or who live in constant fear that they are only one health care crisis away from personal financial ruin.

The truth is that there are too many wingtip-wearing, flashy car-driving lobbyists and fat cat contributors in both parties huddled around the seemingly bottomless pools of cash that flow into campaigns and political action committees. Money, it now seems, not popular appeal, has become the primary route to power.

The largest voting bloc in Maine, and indeed nationwide, is made up of unenrolled voters, usually referred to as independents. If this country, this state, is to return to a more moderate political zeitgeist, then it may require the creation of a new organized movement in the middle, one that can offer a solid, moderate alternative to the increasingly diffuse fringes.

As evidence of the disconnect, one need look no further than the fact that some 44 percent of people in this country didn’t even bother to vote on Nov. 8. Just 26 percent of eligible voters chose winner Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton got 26.3 percent, coming out ahead in the popular vote but failing to garner enough Electoral College votes.

Unless both major political parties can steer themselves back into the mainstream, they run the risk of being sidelined by the vast middle of the body politic, which, at this point, hungers for a new, organized political affiliation that reflects their beliefs and values.


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