Although there were some bright spots in 2010, this was clearly a terrible year for those of us who sit around the center of the American electorate. If there is anything to be happy about, it is that conditions have gotten so bad for moderates and centrist independents, that the sleeping giant in the center appears to finally be awakening.
2010 saw the Tea Party, a faction that represents the views of a fairly small percentage of the population and has very little in common with centrists, have a hugely disproportionate impact on the midterm elections. They helped elect what appears to be the most conservative Republican caucus in generations, and to take over scores of seats held by the Democrats - many of which were held by moderate Democrats that closely aligned with centrist ideals. With the loss of so many of these Blue Dogs, the Democratic caucus could be the most liberal we’ve seen in generations as well.
The most talked-about of these incumbent losses was Deleware congressman Mike Castle, who of course lost to Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell in the Republican primary. However, in my opinion, the loss that stings the most was U.S. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. He was one of the most influential moderates in Washington, and in deciding not to run for re-election, Bayh cited partisan rancor as his main reason for leaving public life.
These two examples are illustrative of what is wrong with both parties. Both are popular within their states, but had to bear the brunt of increasingly virulent attacks from inside their own parties because of a lack of ideological purity. In the next cycle, you can rest assured that similar situations are going to be thrust upon moderates like Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
I, for one, hope Susan Collins sees the writing on the wall and drops the Republican party (they no longer want her anyway) and runs as an independent. She could join independent trailblazers like Lincoln Chafee, who will be moving into the Rhode Island governor’s mansion next month, and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, as those who independents across the country are looking to for leadership in coming years.
One major silver lining is that, as ideologues push moderates out of each party and look to keep centrist independents out of power, more and more of us are finally getting fed up enough with the way things are going. Perhaps we'll start doing something about our frustrations.
As favorability ratings of both parties continue their decline, each cycle sees more of the electorate declaring political independence. And while the right has taken the lead in extremism as of late, the left is beginning to sound just like the far right did during the Bush years. They’re blaming their failures on their own moderates and calling for a more rigidly liberal and combative tact. With so few moderates left in the party, they are likely to get what they want.
If the efforts of groups aiming to organize the vast center of the electorate are not able to hit critical mass soon, what we see in 2011 may put the partisan rancor and ineffective governance of the last few years to shame. In a democracy, it is up to us to represent ourselves. Seeing what is wrong, and even declaring your independence, is no longer enough. Its time to put our money where our mouths have been and fight back.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.