Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 9:48 pm | Partly Cloudy 66º


Randy Alcorn: Where Is the Alternative Response from the Political Center?

It has become customary for the party not holding the presidency to be given air time to respond to a president’s major speeches to Congress. This practice underscores the broadly accepted belief in America that there are only two political parties, Democrat and Republican, and two schools of thought, liberal and conservative, worthy of consideration.

Increasingly, it seems everything and everyone is relegated to this simplistic political dichotomy. Entire geographical areas (e.g. blue and red states) and millions of people are casually categorized as liberal or conservative.

All it takes for anyone to be labeled as such is to disagree on any issue with someone who identifies as either liberal or conservative.

The intensity of ideological identification is turning fellow citizens — and even family and friends — into despised enemies.

And over what? How many people who shackle their minds to an ideology even know what liberal or conservative means?

The dictionary definition of liberal is “favorable to progress or reform; in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties. Favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.”

The dictionary definition of conservative is “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”

By these definitions, how many Americans are actually devout conservatives or liberals?

If you are pretty happy with your situation you probably want to preserve it and limit change to that which doesn’t threaten it. Does that make you a conservative?

If personal freedom and civil liberties, including freedom of personal belief and expression, are important to you, does that make you a liberal?

Most Americans, including conservative and liberal true-believers, likely straddle the line between these definitions. Yet, in great numbers Americans rally around one ideological pole or the other, and clenching it tightly believe that they grasp the answers to all of America’s problems.

If only their side was totally in charge, they could round up all the people from the other side and send them to re-education camps, and life would be perfect.

Would it? States where either party has long held a virtual monopoly on political power have not exactly become utopias.

California has essentially been controlled by the Democratic Party for decades now, and its public education is among the worst in the nation; infrastructure is inadequate and in disrepair; and local governments are sinking under the weight of irresponsibly generous public pension liabilities.

States, such as Texas, that have long been dominated by the Republican Party apply justice and civil rights unequally; use the Bible for a science textbook; and largely allow business interests to overrule environmental, consumer and labor interests.

The reality is that as they affect most people, ideologies fail to work in practice as well as they do in theory. Furthermore, both entrenched political parties are corrupted by forces of greed that virtually own them and benefit from the nation’s distraction with partisan ideologies that deflect blame for problems and for people’s dissatisfactions to the “other side.”

Ideology is a poor substitute for intelligence, but it does provide conveniently comfortable membership for folks with shared complaints, fears, opinions — and limited knowledge.

Egged on by partisan media gasbags, each side delights in heaping derision, insult and hatred on the other while discounting any exposed wrongdoings on their side by accusing the other side of similar transgressions. “They do it, too!”

There is rarely contrition, mostly only reciprocal finger pointing.

Catering to their respective voter bases of zealots, Republicans and Democrats slide governance deeper into dysfunction, each party focusing more on discrediting the other with endless partisan investigations of alleged wrongdoings than on solving the nation’s real problems.

There are plenty of issues over which Americans disagree, but the most serious problems confronting the nation are not abortion, marijuana or who can use which restroom.

One serious problem is the increasing polarization by wealth and education among Americans. That’s what got President Donald Trump elected, and would probably have gotten Bernie Sanders elected had the Democrat establishment not rigged the nomination process.

Americans are desperate for positive change and solutions. But, increasingly, the fractious partisan polarization is weakening the E pluribus unum and ignoring or repudiating Americans’ commonalities. Vladimir Putin must be watching with delight.

America needs a clarion, sustained, response from the center — from America’s plurality population of independents who comprise 42 percent of eligible voters. And, even though 72 percent of them hold their noses and vote Democrat or Republican, independents, along with the 93 million self-sidelined eligible voters, could form an insurmountably powerful new party.

America needs a party of reason dedicated to the general welfare of the nation; a party that, tempered by compassion and common sense, applies impartial analysis and science to address the nation’s real problems and challenges.

Such a party would be a true alternative to the entrenched, venally corrupt, ineffectual, partisan duopoly, and to the ideological idiocy crippling our country.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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