A what? By who?
From time to time I’m inclined to draft so-called opinion pieces, essays and other short articles on and around the apparent state of frustration of the American public with the results of our politics and, consequently government, and the rise of political Independents this has occasioned. Infrequently, I submit such materials for publication. Invariably it’s in vain. But I anticipate this. I never ask the question “why not”. I know why not. The answer is twofold: Firstly, there simply isn’t a Media platform today for what I tout as an Independent political point of view, not even a nascent one. Secondly, because the author is an unknown. Both reasons are understandable. But so being doesn’t necessarily make them justified.
Concerning the first point, almost all Media I can bring to mind have a political orientation and therefore an editorial policy both supporting and supported by such philosophy. It needn’t be blatant, though often it is. The same applies to most periodicals, not to mention “talk-radio.” They simply don’t want to see pieces contrary to their political orientation. Why not? Because, politically, these are forums to express support for either liberal or conservative points of view. A differing (Independent) political point of view—if acknowledged—might be in conflict with these traditional, ideological political positions—and to a large degree, it is. So, if that’s the case, why give it a platform to criticize the status quo? That’s the part that’s understandable.
Another rational for dismissing someone seeking to present an Independent point of view is that it’s held by most not to exist; that there is no such thing as an Independent political position. It’s difficult to refute this conviction because, if truth be acknowledged, today Independents have not been shown anything in common, politically, around which to rally; no philosophy around which they might coalesce. And as importantly, no leadership has emerged to direct them toward this goal. Thus, a view that holds there is no such thing as an Independent political position today is not unreasonable—it’s wrong, but not unreasonable.
Independents may comprise more people registered to vote than either the Democrats or the Republicans, but politically they remain a story in search of an author. Even that statement may be too optimistic: They are a huge un-aligned and/or lightly connected (“leaners”) national contingent of what appears to be mainly disappointed and/or disillusioned Americans who by the mere act of declaring themselves independent, signal they are not happy with either major (or any minor) party or the results of governments that today either forms. And yet, somehow the Media assumes they don’t have a political point of view? They must have: The very (political) act of rejecting either major party supports that they must have. Recognizing this reality seems to rule out ignoring at least the potential of an Independent political position as justified. It may not be explicit or all that manifest, but it’s there; it’s there.
What is this Independent political point of view I write about? Well, it’s not something esoteric or mystic, just something that has been suppressed. It’s what used to be called the goal of America’s political “middle:” Politics that delivers government that works for most of the people all of the time and all of the people at least most of the time. This is not Centrism, but a form of Utilitarian or consequential moderation. Today, the preponderance of Independents are a proxy for the political middle; the politically moderate plurality that is being ignored by the two parties in their ideological struggles against each other. Politics today has deteriorated into a Hatfield & McCoy-type ideological feud between the far Left and the far Right, with the result that many, perhaps most, feeling that the results of government being fought over by these two are unacceptable.
Ex-Senator John C Danforth has expressed the need to rebuild the political center better than I in his (2006) book, Faith and Politics:
“Now the collapse of the political center . . . has advanced to the point where it is a teetering ruin of its former strength. . . . Those who espouse the politics of sharp contrasts despise the political center. In their opinion, the center stands for nothing . . . The most important question in our national life is . . . whether there is any common ground for agreement on subjects critical to America’s future. . . . The reason many Americans are turned off to politics is not, as party ideologues lament, that they do not have clear enough choices between candidates. It is the opposite. They have extremely clear choices, but they do not like either of them. They do not like the candidates. They do not like either party. I have heard many people use essentially the same words in describing their election-day frustrations: I want to check a box that says, ‘None of the above.’ . . . It is important to rebuild America’s political center.”
Just who are those people Senator Danforth is speaking of? Not unrealistically they’re the only slightly committed, or “soft,” Republicans and Democrats and those Independents (“leaners”) we are speaking of. They’re the “moderate middle” that both Parties need to win elections, but which the Parties do not, and do not intend to, represent politically. They’re but a means to the parties’ ends: electoral superiority. Journalist Linda Killian in her recent book, The Swing Vote (2012), documents this national feeling of political exclusion and dissatisfaction.
At some point, leadership along the moderate lines of a Senator Danforth—to use an example— will come forward to reconfigure our political arena, and Independents will be a principle building block. What I write about is what Independents may well support—and why—and vote for: policies that are much less ideologically driven and more consequentially based; policies that provide Balance, with a capital “B”, as I describe in my books on this issue.
The goal of this endeavor is to help reverse an incredible shrinking democracy in the sense of its meaningfulness to our republic; to change the outcome of Government that today is responsible for generating the attitude of Americans that America is headed in the wrong direction; that we are on the wrong track. It could prove beneficial in this regard if at least some in the Media could see the merit of acknowledging (at least) the possibility of an emerging Independent political view point here.
As for the second reason, that’s likewise understandable: who is TR Harry to pontificate or lecture us on such matters? Well, he’s really just one of the Independent crowd; an average American of voting age (and then some!). Someone who has concluded from the evidence that political Independents are more than simply party apostates; they’re a political barometer, or pressure gage. Today they represent the tension for political change, revolutionary democratic change, or as some scholars would put it, a realigning: “a dramatic shift in the election coalition supporting the existing political system.” He has penned three books generally around this issue of what for many being an Independent means; why, politically, an Independent is an Independent. This should suggest some sagacity in his offerings, agree with them or not.
That he has a political bias is asserted: He favors an Independent political option to expand our political marketplace. His position is open and above board. That some of what he writes may conflict with accepted wisdom, or goes against the grain of the existing political experience is, he believes, not unhealthy for our political debate. That’s TR in a nut-shell.
When in 2000 he won a primary and ran for the US Senate, the Editorial Board of the Kansas City Star asked him why he was running. Was it to make some kind of a statement? His answer was no, he was running to win. He had considered the circumstances and believed, based upon his assessment of the race as a third-party candidate, that the probability was good enough to make the effort. He was naively wrong. As it turned out, rather than one of three candidates in the race, he was one of seven, and that, so to speak, “upset his apple cart.” The point is that now, as then, he continues to ponder the evidence—in this case surrounding the phenomenon of political Independents. They represent, as a nebulous group, why and what he was in the campaign for in 2000. His writings today on their behalf are but a continuation of what TR perceived was politically missing some dozen or more years ago. Does this history provide him with any credentials? Well, hopefully, it demonstrates some commitment, persistence and continuity in dealing with it.
He shall no doubt continue to draft articles and opinion pieces on and around what he champions and continue to submit some for publication. Though the circumstances for rejection set out herein will change only slowly, they will change. The perseverance necessary for this is reinforced by a smallish sign he keeps in his office: “You Never Fail Until You Stop Trying.”
Thomas Richard Harry
Author’s note: this is a revision/up-date of a piece originally penned in October 2010. Some things change slowly, very slowly.