Searching for political common ground in the age of chaos

Politics and government touch everyone, whether it is welcomed or not.  Lives are busy and difficult enough for most Americans without having to deal with political turmoil, which is nurtured by the fringes of the spectrum.

A reader of this blog recently offered up an assessment of where things stand and how they might get better:  Past elected officials were often willing to reach across the aisle to do the work of the ” people.”   That is not today’s government.  We are way too partisan and way too divided.  The rhetoric needs to change…we need to be 1 nation not divided. Clearly the far left and far right have too much to say. 

The solution is setting standards and rules in political contests.  Without these rules, we have gotten extremely negative campaigns.  With such negative campaigns, nominees are pushed to the far left or far right, the electorate doesn’t know what is true and what is exaggeration.  I believe that if we had reasonable rules …. if we had positive campaigning …if we stuck to the issues…we would have greater voter turnout and once again the majority would prevail.

My correspondent is a local political leader who routinely lines up on one side of the aisle.  There are undoubtedly many such active participants in the world of politics who may upon reflection feel the same way about how things might get better.  But most folks are too busy going about their calling in life.

We have just finished what seemed like an endless primary season.  Early voting is starting in some states on September 23, so the finish line of the mid-term elections is in sight.  It doesn’t look anymore like there is going to be a wave but more like ripples, and they won’t be all moving in the same direction.

In the Democratic Party the primaries, for the most part, produced November candidates who are tacking to the middle.  The progressives and Democratic Socialists had some wins here and there, but not many.  Even in sections of New York City their results were meager.  In some cases, such as in Manhattan’s 10th congressional district, they could not unite behind a single candidate and then saw Daniel Goldman, a more centrist candidate, win the primary with less than 30 percent of the vote.

With the help of Donald Trump, Republicans throughout the country made a sharp right turn.  In many of the primaries multiple candidate fields allowed the Trump-favored choice to eke out a win with about a third of the total vote.  The Republican victors were often election deniers espousing all sorts of radical political positions.  The tickets were left in many cases with the likes of Herschel Walker, Blake Masters, and Sarah Palin.

It’s fun now for a Democrat to watch some Republican primary winners struggle to purge Trump from their campaign websites and to try to find their way closer to the middle.   Take, for example, this dialogue from Trumper election denier, Don Bolduc, who won the Senate primary in New Hampshire: “So, you know, we uh, you know, live and learn, right?   I’ve done a lot of research on this, and I’ve spent the past couple of weeks talking to Granite Staters all over the state, from, you know, every party and I have come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this.  The election was not stolen.”  Sometimes schadenfreude is just too hard to avoid.

Political campaigns always hope that the opposition puts up an awful candidate who will shoot themselves in the foot with foolish policy stances or election activities that offend the general electorate.  I’m inclined to question the wisdom of Democrats investing large amounts of limited campaign cash trying to manipulate Republican primary voters into choosing the worst possible candidate for November.  I’m afraid we will see more of this.

The question that now remains is how will the general electorate respond?  Will the Dobbs abortion decision continue to energize the Democratic base?  Never underestimate the power of determined women.  How will the January 6 hearings and Trump’s growing legal problems play into turnout?

It is not likely, in the middle of this current political storm, that there will be the time or inclination on the part of the citizenry to reflect on where things stand.  I do believe that there is actually some common ground where most of us could come together, but the current climate precludes the kind of calm, reasoned discussion that could bring us there. 

It is interesting, however, that in at least one recent poll, “threats to democracy” has risen to the top of voter concerns.  Hopefully the election results could encourage the reflection that is needed to get the largest possible number of Americans on the same page, or at least in the same chapter or book.

Going forward, the 2024 election cycle will begin just milliseconds after the polls close on November 8th.  That is a sad development.  It’s one of the current “rules” my correspondent might seek to change, to settle things down, to reflect, to reset.  Hope is eternal, but so it seems is political chaos.

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