Someday, I want to vote “for” instead of “against”

Posted on Tuesday 24 October 2006

Evidently, independent voters are fixin’ to lodge a protest against the current administration (ABC News):

It’s two weeks away, and the 2006 midterm elections look like a referendum on Iraq, a war in which President Bush and his party have lost not just the political center but significant chunks of their base.

An improving economy notwithstanding, opposition to the war remains the prime issue driving congressional voter preference. And the war’s critics include not just eight in 10 Democrats but 64 percent of independents, 40 percent of conservatives, 35 percent of evangelical white Protestants and a quarter of Republicans.

But Polimom’s not happy — though it’s not what you may think, because I absolutely intend to register my very strong displeasure in the coming election.

My problem is that I’ve spent my vote this way nearly my entire life. It’s always a vote against rather than for, and I’m getting tired of it. Hopeful words from some to the contrary, independents are not necessarily moderates, and this doesn’t look like a revolution of the mighty middle to me (WaPo):

Independent voters may strongly favor Democrats, but their vote appears motivated more by dissatisfaction with Republicans than by enthusiasm for the opposition party. About half of those independents who said they plan to vote Democratic in their district said they are doing so primarily to vote against the Republican candidate rather than to affirmatively support the Democratic candidate. Just 22 percent of independents voting for Democrats are doing so “very enthusiastically.”

I understand their lack of enthusiasm. My hackles go up every time some version of “redistribution of wealth” hits the airwaves, and while I truly don’t think Nancy Pelosi eats babies, I worry about eating up precious time that should be spent fixing our disastrous foreign policy.

Where the heck is the Moderate Party we so desperately need?

The continued lack of a viable alternative in American politics is truly baffling me, folks. I talk to people all the time about this, and they tell me (overwhelmingly) that they want a smaller federal government and more local control; at the same time, they see the need for at least some social programs and assistance for the poor. They tell me that they know one cannot “catch” homosexuality, and whether they themselves are pro- or anti- choice, they do not think the government should be part of the decision-making process for an individual — at any level.

In a nutshell, most of the people I talk to are somewhat to the right fiscally while somewhat to the left socially, and they all agree that less is more in government.

Now, I realize that there are people in both parties who represent some (or all) of the views above, but they’re almost always described as moderates (or sometimes disparagingly as DINOs or RINOs) — and they’re at odds with “the base”. Not only that, but when folks like me do manage to find a candidate who actually represents our views, they’re part of a larger party with a much different agenda, liable to take off running toward some bizarre goal we didn’t want.

Nowhere is there a party that stands for the moderate positions.

Unfortunately, I don’t get the feeling that we’re going to have such a party any time soon, leaving me not only stuck casting a vote “against” — again — but starting to think that this see-saw we’re on is never going to improve.

Because if there was ever a time for that Moderate Party, it was now.

* * * * *

Update: E. J. Dionne Jr, at WaPo, suggests that there’s a “Rising Radical Center“:

The Democrats’ dependence on moderate voters and moderate candidates belies Republican claims that a Democratic victory would bring radically liberal politics to Washington. In fact, the first imperative of Democratic congressional leaders, if their party is successful, will be finding policies, ideas and rhetoric to allow the party’s progressives and moderates to get along and govern effectively together.


There has long been talk about the rise of a “radical center,” made up of voters essentially moderate in their philosophical leanings but radical in their disaffection with the status quo. This looks to be the year of the radical center. If it is, the Democrats will win. And if they win, their task will be to meet the aspirations of a diverse group of dissatisfied and disappointed Americans. Not an easy chore, but one that certainly beats being in the opposition.

Hmmm… Unlike Justin Gardner, I’m rating that as a maybe. Time will certainly tell, though.

More thoughts on this independent voter wave from Thought Theater, and TMV (here and here).

17 Comments for 'Someday, I want to vote “for” instead of “against”'

    October 24, 2006 | 11:10 am

    RINO? DINO? Sounds like a bunch of pseudo-prehistoric beasties.

    BTW, I wholeheartedly agree with your position (though I may be a bit to the right of your position socially.) I am pretty darned tired of always feeling like I am voting “against” – the only exception I can recall is during the 1994 mid-term, when I felt I could support the GOP and the Contract With America.

    I don’t think we will see another party rise, though – the media (all flavors) derives sustenance from keeping the battle going (sort of like that issue of Star Trek), plus the parties themselves are positioning things to keep others out of the process.



    October 24, 2006 | 11:19 am

    “(though I may be a bit to the right of your position socially.)”

    Just curious, Ed: were you serious with “a bit”, or do you think it’s dramatic?

    (Oh — and I probably should have spelled out the R/D INO “thing”.  They are R’s or D’s “in name only”)

    October 24, 2006 | 12:25 pm

    It’s tough to vote for any of these clowns for exactly the reasons you cite.

    Don’t laugh, but I twice voted for someone: Ross Perot.

    October 24, 2006 | 12:45 pm

    “in name only” – that makes sense.

    Just curious, Ed: were you serious with “a bit”, or do you think it’s dramatic?

    I’m always serious — or is that never serious? :-)

    Actually, I would say I lean toward being a conservative – while at the same time I am not one who wants the government involved in peoples’ private affairs any more than is absolutely necessary (and IMNSHO, very little of their current involvement is absolutely necessary.)

    Dramatic? Gosh, I have been called many things, but very seldom has “dramatic” been among them.


    Gene in Dallas
    October 24, 2006 | 2:24 pm

    I can understand some of what you are saying, but I just don’t see that the Democrats are so far to the left. I am a former Republican and Rush Limbaugh listener(religiously!) who has become so sickened by the Republicans almost ceaseless march to the far right. Nixon would NEVER make it past the primaries of these Neo-fascist clowns because he would be too “liberal”. I am no lover or defender of liberalism or the Democratic party, but this President wanted to invade Iraq and used the thinnest, most ridiculous “intelligence” to justify getting us there, and damn what the real facts were. I just missed seeing the McCarthy era in the 50s(I was born in 1957) but I think the Republican party is reliving the McCarthy era, lying like dogs and just pandering to big corporations and the extremist right-wing of their party. Where will it end, with waves of jack-booted soldiers marching in our streets, off to “defend freedom” in some other far-off place that serves the interest of Big Business and a corrupt Bush administration? I have NEVER been more enraged at ANY party in all of my 49 years as I am at the Republicans, and it is my fervent prayer that these pseudo-christian crackpots are eliminated from power with this next election. I am a Christian and regular church-goer as well.
    Thank you

    October 24, 2006 | 3:37 pm

    Put me down as a Road Kill Democrat (i.e., I was in the middle of the road but the big, mean Republican 18-wheeler has squashed me flat.)

    October 24, 2006 | 3:41 pm

    FWIW — I just came back from early voting, and I did the best I could with my conscience, and the mess. I’ll post something later today or tomorrow about what I did if anybody’s interested.

    Gene — Thanks for the comment, and the encouraging words, particularly since I think we’re going to have a Democratic-majority congress in two weeks. For any number of reasons, I think that’s a good thing. The current configuration is an abomination.

    October 24, 2006 | 4:43 pm

    Moderate parties in America come when one of our Big Two lose enough times and reform themselves to the wants of moderate people. Only then does it occur to that party that paying too much attention to extreme voters does not keep you in office. But that party has to show that they have changed, otherwise voters have the impression that you just have two parties of the extremes.

    I do feel that the republicans have lost sight of their moderate voters, but I do not yet feel that the democrats have had any interest in reclaiming moderates either. If the democrats take the House this year, it will be the anti-vote, not because more people really value the democrats, and sadly they will not take it as a time to reform.

    If keeping the democrats out of a majority for one more race gives them a clue about appealing to moderates, then I am all for it. If giving them the House would bring republicans back to wanting the moderates then I am for that too. But I am not going to vote for the opposite party of my true concerns in hopes that they way other people vote makes my decision a strategic success.

    Gene in Dallas
    October 24, 2006 | 5:09 pm

    You make some good points, but I still don’t see what makes the Democrats as far left as the Republicans are far right. Just because the Republicans say someone is a “Liberal” doesn’t make them one. I don’t think “conservative” applies to Republicans anymore. My dad used to use the term “Reactionary” to apply to anyone on the far right, like Hitler or something, and I am beginning to think that this term is correct for most Republicans. My father is still a Republican, but I can see that he is a very, very disgusted. No matter what someone says, if the Republicans don’t like them, they slander them by applying the term “Liberal” and saying they favor “Big Government” or are “Tax and Spend”. I’m not gay nor do I especially care for gay interests, but I don’t think a Constitutional amendment banning Gay Marriage is anywhere near the top of our Govt agenda these days. Nancy Pelosi is strident and a feminist, but give me her anyday over this moron in the White House who calls anyone who disagrees with him a “cut and run” coward. And I haven’t even begun to talk about Tom Delay, the Terri Schiavo affair, the environment, what this war will cost my young son, etc. etc. etc….I’ll shut up now and listen, but thank you for the opportunity to vent in this forum!

    October 24, 2006 | 5:54 pm

    I find it funny that people think the Democrats are “too liberal” or even just saying that they’re not moderate. Granted, I would classify myself as very liberal, but I have been having conversations with friends and parents (democrat and republican), and we all seem to agree that the democratic candidates running (at least in my state of GA) are just republicans in disguise. I have never seen such conservative democrats in my life, and frankly, as far as I’m concerned, I’d like them to be more liberal. But being moderate is the only way they are going to win any elections, and I think they’re taking the moderate stance to an extreme level.

    October 24, 2006 | 6:50 pm

    Democrats are no more “left” than the republicans are “right”. Campaign rhetoric used by either party tends not to be true and serves no more purpose than sound bites for the small bit of news that most Americans watch each week.

    Generalizing people based on their party label is not making an informed decision. If this is all you care about, then you don’t care to pay much attention to what is going on in the world. When you restrict yourself to party labels, you miss the moderates that people so desperately crave today. It may turn out that you don’t like anything a party candidate has to say after all, but at least you listened to the candidate.

    The Master
    October 24, 2006 | 8:08 pm


    It’s too true that most elections turn into “who do I dislike the least?”, and relentless pandering to the base (by both parties) has helped assure candidates with little appeal to moderates. However, don’t give up hope! Moderates are reasserting themselves . . . just not within the two parties. See this article for an example.

    If the parties don’t want to suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs, at least one of them will have to reach out to the middle, and away from its base.

    First one to offer a welcoming home to the middle will likely govern for some time.

    Robert A.
    October 24, 2006 | 8:59 pm

    As I read the comments, I noticed a few comments about whether Democrats were or weren’t more liberal than republicans were or weren’t conservative which, to me, is part of the problem. Both parties have to attempt to be too much to too many people. (I will get to the current state of affairs in a moment.)

    Our current political system is the equivalent of having a league with two baseball teams, two football teams, or worse having only two stores you could buy groceries at, etc. There really isn’t enought competition. But since the parties control all the funding, the ability to get their stories int he news, etc. The situation is unlikely to change.

    Given that, the best governments we have tended to have are split governments. Reagan and Bush 1 with Democratic congresses and Clinton with a Republican congress. It tends to take the rough edges off of each party and you end up with decent, fairly centrist governments with both parties fighting to prove that they are the most centrist.

    Contrast this with the two worst periods of American government in my lifespan. The Johnson administration in the 60′s and the current one. In both cases, not did one party hold all the reins of power (spelling was never my best subject). But they had lost their fear of the other party. Johnson had not only a democratic congress but one with such a large majority that he did not have to fear oposition. As a result, we got a lot of bad legislation. Today the majority is not so great but the republicans hold such an advantage in fundraising and can win elections just by crying “liberal” that they have seen motivating the base as more important than attracting the center.

    As disgusting as this might sound to loyal democrats and republicans and definitely moderates and independents, if you want good government, look at the President and vote for the other party. At least, that has a chance of keeping them from drifting too far to either side.

    This comment falls under the title of “Survival Guide for the Moderate” recognizing that as a moderate neither part y is likely to represent your views.

    Gene in Dallas
    October 26, 2006 | 8:59 am

    Robert A.
    I like a lot of what you said, although voting for “gridlock” is a little bit sad to me. I guess that is what we are going to have to hope for, that and a return to a “bipartisan, put the country first” attitude. I just find it funny that some on the right refer to Democrats as Commies or socialists, when I think both forms of government are extremely discredited. I am certainly a capitalist, but I believe in capitalism in which the Government serves as a referee, not a bought and paid for tool of big business as it seems to have been in the last 20 years. This government is to me MORE screwed up than anything LBJ and co did in the ’60s, and the sad thing is that Bush didn’t learn ANYTHING from the Vietnam experience. Maybe I am the smartest person on the planet, but I thought the invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake when I first heard about it, and I thought at the time that the “intelligence” used to justify the invasion was wafer-thin. I’m not at all surprised at what has happened there. I strongly identify myself as a Democrat and “Liberal” now, because I am so sick of the AM Radio attacks on “Liberals” and the shenanigans of the Republican party since ’94, but I also voted for Reagan in 1980, and identified myself as a Republican in the ’80s and early 90s, before they became the flat-earth society they now are…
    And I truly believe that Geo. W Bush is not smart enough or disciplined enough to be the president. I think his presidency will go down in history as one of the worst ever. God save us from this mess!

    October 30, 2006 | 10:21 am

    [...] Coming in right behind a great dialogue we had here last week, the Houston Chronicle has an article (originally in the NY Times) up this morning about the Democrats, and some of the candidates they’re running: In their push to win back control of the House, Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party. [...]

    November 7, 2006 | 9:30 am

    Election Day coverage from…

    The polls opened at 7:00 AM.
    At 7:03 AM, CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN all projected the Democrats to win 95% of the contested House seats, and declared Nancy Pelosi the next Speaker. We are now being taken to the House banquet room, where Rep. Pelosi and h…

    February 1, 2007 | 9:18 pm

    [...] Polimom writes about something that’s always gnawed at me.  The polarized 2-party system we have in this country doesn’t allow enough candidates whose views are actually in alignment with their constituents rather than the party bosses to make it through the process. [...]

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