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Independent center decides elections

link Tom McDonald

State columnist

People don’t listen like they used to, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the world of politics.

I’ve heard it said that we’re now in an era in which Americans can go through their entire day plugged in to the media and hearing only that which supports their viewpoint. Conservatives have Fox News and Rush Limbaugh; liberals have MSNBC and Ed Schultz.

It’s taken a toll on our ability to converse without knee-jerk reactions or partisan hyperbole. Consequently, Americans now surround themselves with biased media sources and, as much as they can, like-thinking friends and family.

But instead of looking at these “two Americas” on the right and left, let’s frame it as two sides against the middle, where the real political distinctions are between the partisans and the centrists.

The partisans are those who see the issues from the prism of being either a Republican or a Democrat, and they’re ridiculously predictable. A diehard Republican loyalist, for example, would rather defect than credit President Obama with any sort of worthwhile accomplishment, while an accomplished Democrat will badmouth the “1 percent” all the way to the bank.

Both sides gave up on free thinking years ago, because to do so might force them to step across some sort of party line in the sand.

I miss the David Cargos of the world. He was a Republican ’til the day he died, but he spoke progressively about the issues facing New Mexico and the nation. In his day, he was a liberal Republican, back when there was such a thing.

And on the other side of the aisle, there are conservative Democrats — blue dogs, they’re called nowadays — but they’ve been on the decline in recent years as both parties entrench themselves for the prevailing winds of their political bases.

Which brings us to the rest of America, where the centrists reside. That’s a good place to be. It’s liberating. You can think for yourself instead of falling in line behind party platforms. As an independent, you get to speak truth to power.

Plus, between the primaries and the general election, the candidates will zoom in on your interests.

The partisans may have an impact on the vote by turning out their base, but most of the time it’s the independent center that decides the election. And the candidates know that.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at: