FLORIDA, May 2, 2012 — Over the last several years, the media has placed great focus on the fact that moderate Republican politicians are not only becoming a rare breed, but in fact stand ripe for extinction during low-turnout primary races.
As an Eisenhower-Rockefeller Republican myself, this has come as news of only the most unwelcome variety. However, I have also been perplexed that news of centrist Democrats being targeted and defeated in a similar fashion has not been in the news. Last week, said puzzlement waned as two prominent Blue Dogs from Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation, namely Representatives Tim Holden and Jason Altmire, went down to defeat at the hands of left-leaning, if not outright left-wing, challengers.
Finally, the unfortunate reality that independent thinkers in both parties are under fire came to prominence. In Holden’s case, the Republican-dominated state legislature gerrymandered his district so that his predominately rural constituency of swing voters would include less pasture and more asphalt. Slated to represent the economically leftist cities of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Easton, he became extremely vulnerable to the likes of activist lawyer Matt Cartwright, who bested him in a closed race. Altmire, meanwhile, saw his Metro Pittsburgh district be combined with fellow Democrat Mark Critz’s due to population loss. Relentlessly attacking Altmire’s record of fiscal conservatism, which entailed voting against the healthcare reform package, Critz shored up support from organized labor and scored an unexpected win.
“Redistricting and a broken, polarized Congress have made it tough to be a moderate,” Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas, the House’s leader of Blue Dog Democrats, observed. Chris Stirewalt, a writer for FoxNews.com, dug a bit deeper: “Three consecutive wave elections have left Americans with the most conservative House since the 1930s, the most liberal president since Lyndon Johnson and the Senate at a standstill. With so little middle ground, voters will face a stark and decisive moment this fall.”
These are very interesting times, no doubt. I believe that America’s political polarization can be accredited to our increased cultural fracturing. Since the social revolution of the 1960s, the country has been split into separate macro-cultures; one traditionalist and the other progressive. From my experience, too much of either is a bad thing, and this is why most people are relatively moderate. However, as one end of the fringe lashes out, the other responds with quickened time and hits twice as hard. The cycle continually repeats itself and we have what we have; an atmosphere which is dominated by radicals who constitute roughly 20 percent of the population, but nonetheless receive 80 percent of air time.
Should our indisputably broken political process ever be placed back together, it will require a strong coalition of unabashed moderates to do so. With the conditions that Ross spoke about, though, this appears to be a feat harder to accomplish now than ever before. What a shame that is.
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