Editor's Note: Wanted: passionate moderates

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate August 06, 2012 05:45 pm

Frank McNamara is a survivor. He came home unscathed from the World War II bloodbath of Okinawa as a Navy Seabee. He emerged damp but unhurt from the Crescent City tidal waves of 1964 as a downtown merchant.

So when Frank, now 91, passes along a piece of writing and suggests it be shared with Triplicate readers, who am I to quibble? Especially when I agree.

In the July/August edition of AARP Bulletin, editor Jim Toedtman evokes the memories and motivations of four of our nation’s founding fathers, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

“In life these four great men did not like one another,” Toedtman wrote. “Journals of that time are full of their conniving and their bitter rivalries.

“Yet look at what they accomplished when they set aside their vanity, ideology and shortsightedness: a federation of distinct regional and economic interests bound by core principles and liberties upon which a carefully balanced national government could function and thrive.”

Exactly. If you think today’s over-arching political issues of taxation and the power of federal and state governments are new, you aren’t a student of American history. And if our current leaders are not willing do what the founding fathers did — make some concessions to opposing points of view in the spirit of compromise — then they’re part of the problem, not the solution.

When “compromise” becomes a dirty word, we’re in trouble.

Ever since I was writing a political column for the Spokane Spokesman-Review, I’ve blathered about America’s desperate need for passionate moderates — people who feel just as strongly about making things work as those on the political fringes do about exclusively pushing their own causes.

Maybe it’s not as sexy or satisfying to wholeheartedly embrace consensus-building. It’s certainly easier to sign a pledge to never raise taxes or, conversely, to blithely support spending whatever it takes to prop up bloated bureaucracies.

How simple life becomes if all we ask of voters is to choose between the radical views that pretty much all government is bad or pretty much all government is good. Those are the stands that grab the media’s attention and arouse the electorate, while the actual problem-solvers in the middle feel the squeeze.

For the sake of America, those moderates in political life had better get passionate about what they do, and the voters had better get passionate about supporting them at all levels, from the White House to the City Council.

Toedtman put the polarization in a national perspective, calling it “hardly an atmosphere for confronting a gigantic challenge to our federal finances. Consider the context: At a time when the federal government is spending $3.6 trillion a year, just over $1 trillion is on the table before Jan. 1. Tax cuts and tax breaks expire, a financial supplement for doctors treating Medicare patients ends, automatic cuts take effect in domestic and defense programs. And the national debt limit must again be addressed, an event that virtually paralyzed Washington a year ago. To do nothing all but guarantees a second recession, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”

The extremists? They’re hunkering down, convinced that preserving the purity of their ideologies is more important than keeping the trains running on time.

With passionate moderates working to solve problems rather than allowing them to fester, we can get back on the right track.