It has been almost one month since I finished third in the 5th Congressional District primary election. The weeks of feedback and reflection since then have provided both instruction and perspective. Despite the disappointing outcome, it was a great experience.
As a politicale newcomer, I not only learned a lot about campaigning, but was reminded how good and decent most people are. Although the vast majority of the thousands of people I talked with are fed up with Congress, they still care deeply about our country. Overall, this experience has made me more optimistic about America, not less.
However, I also learned that too many voters are discouraged or upset with Congress and are ready for change. The near-stalemate conditions in Congress prevent a serious discussion of the things we value most. The longer this drags on, the more citizens will feel ignored or neglected, and the more disillusioned they will become. Voter frustration or apathy is a dangerous diagnosis for democracy.
Unfortunately, there is a steady drumbeat of arguing and bickering over the same old issues, with very little compromise. If we can’t end the gridlock in Congress soon, we may start to lose credibility as the leader in the world’s economy and as the strongest government. There is no other country to step in and replace the United States as the world leader. As we see in the Middle East and Ukraine, a weaker America leaves the world a less stable and more dangerous place. We need to end the gridlock and start working together to keep our country strong and make the world safer.
How’d we get into this mess? My theory: Congress is controlled by a small number of radical ideologues. Compare the political spectrum to a football field, with the 50-yard line representing the center. Conservatives would line up on the right side of the field and liberals on the left. If we lined up all of the voters on the field, most of us would be somewhere between the 20-yard lines. However, the radicals of the far right would be between the 20-yard line and end zone on the right side – the Red Zone; and the radicals representing the far left on the opposite end in the Blue Zone. The radicals in the Red and Blue zones have too much influence. They are keeping the political process on the far ends of the field, and the majority of us between the 20s stew.
Congress should be working between the 20s, where responsible, effective and bipartisan legislation can get made. Currently, small minorities in Congress can hold up the whole government. In many cases, radicals can do so with high confidence they will not be politically punished, and may even be rewarded. When the radicals feel insulated from playing by the rules, namely majority rule, and we do not defend those rules, our republic is endangered.
Another thing that I learned during my campaign: The radicals in the Red and Blue zones are very small in number. When I started my campaign, my perception was the radicals might make up as much as 10 percent to 20 percent of voters. After talking with thousands of people, I now believe they are more likely 1 percent to 2 percent of voters, but the most vocal. And they have megaphones, i.e., pundits, political commentators, talk radio, etc. Hence, their influence is in far greater proportion to their numbers. We should not let the very vocal minority of the Red and Blue zones hold this kind of sway. Many are nothing more than blowhards, bullies or kooks. There are far more of us between the 20s.
Good government is not rocket science. Good government is not stalling, obstruction or shutting it down. And good government is not over-regulation, bigger government, nor over-spending.
Good government is working together, not expecting to get our way on everything, finding common ground, compromising and moving forward.
There are several other things I learned during my campaign, but the primary lesson is that we need to wrest back control of Congress from the radicals. We need to demand that our elected officials stand up to these bullies and put them in their place. I believe the time is right, and it should only take a handful of courageous people in leadership positions. It is my hope that the leaders in the next Congress will have the backbone to do just that.