A Party of the Center

A party of the center.

I don’t consider myself a centrist, I am certainly a liberal on most things political. I may not agree with the effectiveness of a third party of the center, but in today’s extremely polarizing political environment, a movement for such a party would wake the two parties towards being more reasonable about opposing viewpoints.

A centrist third party, or more realistically a political movement from the center could very well have the effect that the progressive movement of the late 19th, early 20th century had with the two parties, in that case especially the Democratic Party. In this case a centrist movement would make both parties look long and hard at itself and perhaps begin taking a more moderate approach to dealing with opposing views.

The problem of the two parties goes beyond the idea of both parties moving to ideological extremes, but rather neither party seems willing to look each other in the eye and work on the issues at the center of people’s lives. While fighting tooth and nail over more ideologically driven issues, they forget most people want a good job, access to health care, a retirement they can depend on, and home they can call their own. In other words, the people care about what I would call “brown bag” issues that more directly affect our day to day living. A lot of our elected officials have forgotten about that, and seem more concerned with just beating the other side of the political aisle.

How My Day Went

I thought that I may as well go ahead and describe the political side of my day. I voted late in the morning, waiting in line for about ten minutes. I was pleasantly surprised as how the voting officials explained to one voter that you can vote a straight ticket and then go back and make changes to the ballot before casting your vote. This means that if you wanted to vote a straight Democratic ticket but wanted to vote for a Green here or a Republican there, you can. I was a little disappointed that there were no “I Voted” stickers at the voting site.

Later in the day, after getting a iced mocha at a local coffee shop and seeing that the national media has called the Senate races in Indiana and Kentucky already, I drove to the election watch party for Nico LaHood, the Democratic candidate for Criminal District Attorney. As the polls in Texas began to close I began tweeting about the elections and got into a good conversation with a couple of people on voting rights issues as the results came in. I can say that I was disappointed in the results for Democrats in San Antonio, Bexar County, and all of Texas for that matter. It is hard for me to believe that the Democrats will have their act together in in Texas for 2012 or 2014.

I left the San Antonio Firefighters Union Hall and all the bored media and disappointed supporters soon after Nico LaHood spoke to everyone and gave a decent concession speech, reminding everyone in the hall that he was not done. From there I actually made the drive up to an all night diner in Austin and spent the time with a cup of coffee and “The Conscience of a Liberal” a book by the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

Now, sometime after 4 a.m., I am back home, typing away at a few thoughts before I get back to studying for a college class and maybe even getting a couple hours of sleep.

One More Thought

I was also paying attention to how the Green Party did in Texas and in Bexar County. I thought that one of the state wide candidates would do better at the polls and was perhaps disappointed at the vote totals of a couple of the local candidates in Bexar County.

I think part of this is due to the how the two parties and the media tend to marginalize third parties. I also think that the Green Party can also do a good job at marginalizing themselves with voters too. I think they tend to run more as a protest vote against the two party system instead of making a better effort at building up themselves though more strategic planning at both the local and state level.

While this party is no longer around, the early successes of the New Party in the early to mid 1990s could serve as an example of building and sustaining a strong third party presence. The New Party, I would say, represented the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, many of its members were in fact Democrats who were involved heavily in union and community activist politics. At its height they ran around 300 candidates, mostly in local races and won two-thirds of those races, while also cross endorsing stronger candidates, Democrats for the most part, who shared their beliefs on key issues.

I was a member of both the Democratic Party and the New Party through a large part of the 1990s. Among the New Party’s members during its heyday was a state legislator from Illinois names Barack Obama. I mention President Obama’s past affiliation with the New Party only because it can show that there can be relevance today for third parties in the two party system, but I believe you have to strategically work to win elections in order to be taken seriously and not become marginalized by the media and the two parties.

Following the Elections

Things did not go well for Democrats in San Antonio and the rest of Texas. Although looking at the rest of the nation, things went as predicted. The Democrats lost the House and maintained control of the Senate. A number of contested gubernatorial seats went Republican and with it probably a number of state legislatures. However many contested races have been closer than expected, which could be the silver lining that Democrats could use.

The problem this election year, from the primaries to election day, is the number of moderates and centrists that have been voted out of office by more conservative candidates. This will likely create a very polarizing environment when it comes time for the now more liberal Democrats and more conservative Republicans in Congress to work together on issues like the economy and jobs. This can be seen as a big headache created by voters in general, who went to the polls frustrated and angry and voted out many of the very congressmen we will need, on both sides, to begin moving forward on managing and lowering the deficit and creating good jobs.

We did not vote for what the late Senator Paul Wellstone called, the politics of the center. Not the centrist politics of tough compromise on some issues and tougher principled stands on other issues. Rather a politics at the center of the well being of we the people. Politics driven by the people that brings us all together, and leaves no one behind.

The next two years, Congress and the White House both have their work cut out with the weak economy, creating good jobs, and restoring confidence in our government. This election, at best is a wake up call to our elected officials to better connect with the people. At worse, we have created two more years of greater discontent in Washington, D.C.