Now that may surprise some of you, but our Republic requires strong opposition. When one party completely dominates the legislative, executive, and judicial branches debate, problem solving, critical thinking, liberty, society, and the nation suffer. This goes for both parties. Our greatest asset is our diversity and when there is no opposition to provide alternative ideas or proposals, group think takes over and suddenly a mob mentality ensues.
I am an independent because I believe no party today best represents my views on the role of government, economics, and globalization and based on the growing number of unaligned voters I tend to believe I am not alone. In Arizona, local and state government is now dominated by ultra conservative politicians having purged Republican moderates from office. The impact? The opposition voice is often muted and ineffectual resulting in social and fiscal dominance from one party. The same is true on the other end of the political spectrum where excessive government regulation and dominance can cause irreparable harm to civil liberties.
Our social, racial, economic, ethnic, and education diversity are our strength; inclusion over exclusion. This is why I vote left of center on most occasions and why I am dismayed and worried about what has happened to the Republican Party. When conservative senators such as Dick Lugar and Bob Bennett are forced out because they only have a 95% conservative score, because they are unwilling to HATE the president, and because they dare call senators from across the aisle ‘friends’ the GOP has indeed lost its way. The same is true for Blue Dog Democrats who felt the same persecution from their more liberal caucus members. But is the job of a congressman to represent his district first or support a greater political or party agenda?
Democrats loved it when former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel spoke out against the war or when Maine Senators Collins and Snowe broke ranks to work with Democrats in 2009 and 2010. But in the same breath we castigate Senator Joe Manchin for opposing the president’s agenda and say good riddance when conservative Democrats lose general election. We tend to think of these things in terms of sports teams and athletes. Everybody hates LeBron (Heat fans excluded), but they would give their right nut (or lady ball) to have him wearing their colors. The late Arlen Specter is a great example of that dynamic.
I want solid opposition and yes, even the voices of the wilderness, because all voices must be heard and the debate lively and all encompassing. But the debate needs to be respectful and focused on the specific issue and business at hand. The hate and personal attacks are toxic to having a proper debate and it is incumbent of that party’s leadership and members to straighten the haters whether they are elected officials, pundits, or media personalities.
So as we enter Fiscal Cliff avoidance mode, I hope the can isn’t kicked, I hope all sides are heard, I hope Simpson-Bowles, Dominici-Rivlin, Gang of Six, and other plans are assessed, I hope demagoguery is extinguished, and I hope the adults in the room put country first. The best solutions come from debate, compromise, balance, and diversity.
As someone who is still smiling from the Tuesday victory, I want the GOP to get its act together for the future of the country.