David Broder: New Wave Of Political Independence genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Waves of change

I've long believed that the easiest position to take in life is one at the extremes. I would equate that election with the notion of "black and white" thinking. The rush to choose one side or the other reminds me of life on a grade school playground. It's a rare child that takes the time to discern the nuances and settle somewhere in the middle. We're not conditioned to moderation...the simple notion of winning and losing demonstrates the basic construct under which we predominantly function...nobody likes a tie. Ironically, our society is also enamored with team sports; albeit still driven by the desire to win, yet dependent upon the acts of collectivism and cooperation. All of this is frequently found in its least admirable form within our political system. David Broder, in a Washington Post article, offers a relative analysis of U.S. politics that touches upon the obstacles to succeeding with a centrist's perspective.

The independence being demonstrated all over the political spectrum these days -- by Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, both in tough reelection battles, and by Republican Sens. John McCain and John Warner -- has its roots in American history. When they ran for the presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy defied the preferences of their parties' power brokers. And earlier, Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln did the same thing.

[...] if this year's election strengthens the hands of the independent members of both parties -- those who are prepared to defy the dictates of their interest groups and clamorous extremes -- the next presidential race may be very different from recent cycles.

But is this rosy scenario likely? Look at the powerful forces working against it. Congress is rigged to promote partisanship and extremism. Most congressional districts are drawn to favor one party or the other, and contests take place only in primaries, where low turnouts favor candidates who appeal to the motivated extremes. The flow of special-interest money into congressional races adds to this tilt, and now the bloggers are pummeling anyone who deviates from their definition of ideological purity.

The sequencing of presidential primaries, it is said, has the same effect on the race for the White House. Democratic aspirants have to satisfy the lefties to win Iowa, just as Republicans must placate the religious right to have a chance in South Carolina.

All that may be true. But still the forces of the independent center are gaining. The public disgust with the breakdown of Congress as a functioning institution has liberated more House and Senate candidates to challenge the status quo. They may be the same people, but they're not behaving the same way.

And the political environment is changing. More and more traditional conservatives are complaining that the Bush administration is wrecking their heritage, with its reckless military, foreign and fiscal policies and its disregard for the law. I hear this regularly and have reported it. David Brooks has been making that same point in his influential New York Times columns.

The tide is turning against dogmatism -- and toward political independence.

I agree with many of Broder's observations and I have some hope that we may eventually move away from dogmatism...but I'm leery that the extremist rhetoric of our current administration is moving many in our country and even more around the world in the opposite direction. I'm always looking for essence and I found myself unsatisfied with Broder's analysis...which led me to recall an email exchange with another blogger.

In our exchange, he asked me what led me to get into blogging and if I liked it. I read the question several times because I found myself struggling to offer what seemed to me should be a simple and straightforward answer. Regardless, I couldn't provide a response without delving into a much broader conversation covering a lifetime of thoughts and ruminations. As I attempted to understand my hesitation with Broder's remarks, and after the email exchange came to mind, I realized what seemed to be missing from the Broder piece.

We have adopted a language that removes us from the simplicity found in the pursuit of "truth". Ironically, as with my email exchange, while the pursuit of "truth" is a straightforward endeavor, the language of "truth" is complex when compared to the language of extremism. The dichotomy emerged and I realized what was troubling me. We no longer speak the language of "truth" and while Broder said as much...he did so in the language that has led us from it. Let me be clear. I am not saying that Broder wasn't speaking about "truth"...he was...but it was labored by the constructs that we have attached to expressing it and exposing it.

Within the independence that Broder embraces resides the "truth" upon which this country was founded and therefore his historical connection to that point in time is an attempt to return to the language of "truth". Sadly, we may no longer possess the means or the motivation to pursue it. In our pursuit of success...equated with our notion of winning as the ultimate prize, we have subrogated "truth" to the back seat in favor of the spoils that we believe can be achieved through the language of extremes. If we were to let the pursuit of "truth" dictate our existence such that finding "truth" was actually the essence of winning, the necessary language would emerge and the confrontational and convoluted communication we now cling to would be extinguished.

To that end, my answer to my fellow blogger speaks of the essence I long for and I offer it in hopes that it can be a step towards reconnecting with the worthiness of the pursuit of "truth" such that we can set aside the rhetoric of the extremes in order to achieve what should be our primary priority...embracing those "truths" that reside in honoring the sanctity of our humanity.

As to enjoying blogging, I would say that I do enjoy the fact that it allows me to put in writing thoughts that have been floating around in my head for years...that is fulfilling and perhaps cathartic at times. On the other hand, my curious mind is always attempting to see the big picture and unravel "truth"...and in that regard the blogosphere can provide some disappointment. In many instances, it has become the propaganda it once sought to usurp...and I find that disheartening.

As much as I repeat the fact that I am really only looking to find more "truth" and that I honestly don't have an agenda (opinions...yes, but they are all open to adjustment upon the discovery of more "truth"), most people don't understand or believe that anyone would actually be sincere in that construct. It is very difficult to bring people to an understanding that the pursuit of "truth" is not only a worthy endeavor; it is also, in my estimation, a selfish act. I present it this way because it provides a model that most people can understand (acting out of self-interest) and that therefore has the potential to help people understand my philosophy.

In saying such, I tend to confuse most people because "truth" doesn't have the attributes of those things we equate with "having, getting, taking, and winning". Sadly, few people are willing to acknowledge that at the end of our lives, all we really have is the "truth" we've been able to assemble...a process that I believe provides us with the ability to accept death. All the "things" we amass in this existence are meaningless as we lie dying...but the "truths" we have ascertained are priceless and sustaining. They provide us with the tools necessary to evaluate the living we did and to be able to accept and understand the ending to the story that we have created by our actions and our choices.

Additionally, the fact that I don't believe in God, religion, or an afterlife (something I had to train myself to accept because it, like most addictions, is a powerful enticement and an all encompassing rationalization) plays a fundamental role in my beliefs (my "truths"). In that regard, it is humanity that I make sacred...a concept that compels me to value other humans as opposed to measuring my potential for God's favor in comparison to my fellow world occupants...a practice that I believe results from the construction of religion.

Anyway, as you can see by my answer to your question, I see life as a complex puzzle...but as one that we are fully able to solve. Unfortunately, very few people are interested in that lifelong endeavor...they prefer the far simpler templates that require little effort and even less reality. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that my blogging will lead me to other like minded individuals and that makes it meaningful and enjoyable despite the fact that one must sort through numerous "straw beings" in order to find those with sincere human substance. Perhaps that makes me the proverbial elitist...but then as Horace Mann aptly stated..."We go by the major vote, and if the majority are insane, the same must go to the hospital."

Daniel DiRito | September 24, 2006 | 10:57 AM
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