The silent majority needs to find its voice right now, because I don’t know how much more I can take hearing only the noise from the fringes. This bus is all over the road, and we need steady hands at the wheel. But the only ones at the front are hell-bent on taking us to places we most of us have absolutely no interest in going.
Not too long ago, in an online discussion with what I thought were sensible conservatives, I made the bold statement that I didn’t think Betsy DeVos was a good choice for Secretary of Education, simply because I felt the position should be filled by someone with more experience in the public school system. That is sorta what that job is about. The backlash for my insolence and lack of faith in the wisdom of those who clearly are my intellectual and moral superiors was pretty shocking. So after a few attempts to clarify my opinion – we all know how comments on the internet can be misinterpreted – I tucked my tail between my legs and snuck away.
More recently, in yet another chat room, this one on the other side of the fence (you really do have to seek out other opinions), I reacted to a spirited call for an increase in the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. And no, I did not post a meme that said, “Suck it up, snowflakes.” I merely suggested that doubling the minimum wage in one stroke would have profound effects on the economy, many of them quite bad, and that starting with a lower number, say $9 an hour, would be less disruptive but still provide some relief to the working poor. Admittedly, I went even further with a claim that the lower number might actually get accepted and passed into law – I am kinda hung up on this tangible change concept – but the higher number was never going anywhere, so it was pointless to suggest with any sincerity. The results were pretty similar: butt crack… meet tail.
The fringes continue to whip themselves up into increasing fervor, the magnitude of the perceived injustices and insanity growing every day, filling the airspace with electrified tension. At present, it is emanating from the left, Donald Trump acting like a lightning rod, a completely predictable scenario. (I repeatedly ask, what did you expect? I never get an answer). Meanwhile, most of us in the middle are trying to block out the ruckus and get on with our lives. Because this all sounds very familiar. “No! You don’t understand! This is so different from the Benghazi thing and those emails, and that meeting on the plane! Don’t you see!?! This is… it’s… well… it’s just so… different!”
Is it? Is it so different? Let me make something abundantly clear to the fringe on the left: you are the primary reason Donald Trump is the president. It is you, along with the more moderate liberals who didn’t stand up against your polarizing positions. You didn’t bother to find a candidate that was worthy of the office. 350 million people, and Hillary Clinton was the best you could do? To everyone who is gasping, clutching their chest in horror at my indignant accusation, let me hit you with another important lesson: you won’t unify the country behind a person that half the country despises, no matter who they are. Sweet cheese and crackers, pick someone else, anyone else. Even if she had won, we would be in exactly the same boat, listening to exactly the same crap. It is just that all the names would be changed and everyone would be standing on the other side of the room. And we would still be getting exactly nothing done.
At least on the right there was a level of resistance. I lost count of the number of people that said the more Donald Trump pissed off the Republican Party, the more they liked him. To many, Trump represented an extended middle-finger to the whole system. Because the right is just as guilty of the same mistakes, and the right side fringe is near-on equally responsible for the Donald. Ted Cruz? Are you freaking kidding me?
I also lost count of the number of times I heard that John Kasich was the best choice of all of them, but that he was unelectable. Why? I will tell you why: He didn’t appeal to the fringes, and we are letting the fringes steer our bus. And if we don’t figure out a way to put sensible people in the front seats, we are going to crash. The bus is going to sail off a cliff with a chorus of it’s-all-your-faults and I-told-you-sos while we claw at each other’s throats and none of it will make a shit bit of difference.
And no, this is not the same as in the past. The internet combined with changes in the way our media is presented to us has forever amplified the impact of the rhetoric from the wings, and the back-and-forth oscillation is a growing crescendo.
It is time for the typically silent, I-just-want-it-all-to-stop majority to stand up and respectfully but firmly state that we have had enough. How ironic is it that we are usually quiet out of respect; we don’t like to insult people, we were taught not to talk politics or religion in public. That trait that is uniformly absent from those on the edges, who instead thrive on spouting out their ideals to the world, which never actually changes anyone’s opinion, but instead just widens our divide. And they will toss around accusations and insults – serious insults, the kind you can’t just pretend you never said – like it’s nothing. But it’s not nothing. That our country is so divided is vastly more frightening than any of the supposedly horrific issues being paraded about by either side. And it’s up to those of us who actually harbor a vision of unity and harmony and collective prosperity to stop shrugging it all off as a necessary evil.
White-supremacist nuts protest the removal of monuments to the civil war – not historical reminders, understand; big, elaborate celebrations of a fight to maintain slavery – and we either do nothing or nod and say, “It was part of our history.” Yeah, a part of our history we should all be ashamed to admit. And it’s critical that we call out these idiots, and state with conviction that these people do not speak for us. Or we risk following the lead of Donald Trump when he made what has to be one of his most egregious mistake by not calling out David Duke for being one of the worst people on earth.
And similarly, when Black Lives Matter activists call for violence, even those who empathize with the persistent racial divide can’t use that as an excuse to avoid vehemently denouncing that action as equally reprehensible. A crime against an innocent person cannot be justified by any past action. Period, end of story.
So we in the middle are really the ones to blame for all of this, because our complacency is more than a facilitator, it is being exploited to manipulate us. By not speaking up, we are being fed ideologies that are superficially compelling but extreme, and we begin to believe that not only are they reasonable, anything less is unconscionable.
Don’t believe me? Stew on this a bit: my plodding ramble started when I was struck by the realization that no truly impressive people would ever be on the presidential ballot, that our country was never going to be led by someone that I actually looked up to; someone with the wisdom and the innovative, progressive thinking of our founding fathers. In fact, it is unlikely that any of them will be more capable than – gasp – me. And that’s not intended as a boast, but more as an indicator of where we have set the bar. It’s also stated as a heartfelt plea: prove me wrong. How arrogant, how naïve can I possibly be? Because, surely, it’s not as easy as it seems. Though they appear to be crooked and self-serving with every action calculated to favor a boost at the polls, there must be a myriad of hidden talents necessary to effectively operate the White House.
Uh, which talents would those be?
Is it millions of dollars? I sure don’t have scratch like that to blow on a campaign, so if being uber wealthy is a presidential must-have, you won’t find it here. In fact, if any significant wealth is a necessary trait, I am out, since I would need that salary to pay my bills while I was in office. It is not very presidential living paycheck to paycheck.
Is it ties to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party? Do we need someone to be in lockstep with one of these two platforms? I personally despise the two-party system, and the idea that a politician should be encouraged to think along some bulleted list of positions, many of them inserted by a far out faction that really shouldn’t have a seat at the table. And most importantly: no presidential candidate from either party will ever again unite us. Ever. Because the other party will simply not allow it.
There are those that actually believe that the influence of money and special interest groups is not just necessary, it is preferred. In this, I will also come up short. I am not beholden to any corporate entity or other powerful special interest, and I firmly believe that money has absolutely no business in the running of our government. Even worse, I have no skeletons in my closet, no illicit videos of hidden controversial or morally reprehensible acts or statements to emerge at some inopportune time. No civil suits, no bankruptcies, no defaulted debts. ( I do have a big fat mortgage, leftover from that real estate thing back in 2006).
Here’s something refreshing: I have all of my tax records going back 17 years (I just checked, they are all in a file cabinet around the corner; it’s not like I have to call my accounting firm). Not only would I let you see them all, I would gladly submit to an IRS audit, because that is what I believe we should expect from someone who would step into this ring. Most people actually pay their taxes according to the law; I don’t think it’s too farfetched that we pick our president from that batch.
Are speech writers and handlers necessary? I can write my own speeches, thank you very much, and I can prepare for debates all by my lonesome, I don’t need someone else to tell me my own opinions. Why does a candidate need to have someone else tell them what they should say? Oh, that’s right, because they aren’t supposed to actually tell you what they believe, they are supposed to tell you what some analyst or strategist says you want to hear. Well, I am not playing that game either, so if that’s a necessary skill, I am not your man. Along the same lines, I don’t understand why a president needs a press secretary to tell the people what he or she thinks. Why can’t they do that themselves? Clearly there is something that I am missing…
Oh, and I would expect to work. Like, in the office provided. Because I am pretty sure that’s what you expect. Actually that’s not true, you don’t expect it, but maybe it would be a nice bonus? My seemingly ridiculous vision of the role is that it is a pretty much 24/7/365 x 4 kinda position, and there really isn’t any guaranteed vacation. Lots of people work hard without much or any time off…funny that I yearn for a leader that at least projects the image that they work as hard as the rest of us. But maybe that’s where my fundamental ideology differs: I think of it as a job.
The president is not elected as a ruler. A public election may select them, but they are put in that position by the people to do a job, as an employee of those same people, who are quite literally the employer. Being an inspirational leader that unites and steers the country along a path for the greater good, that’s sorta implied in the job description. Whereas ostracizing half the population, I think that’s to be discouraged. And I think all this needs to be written down, just to avoid further confusion.
The actions and demeanor of the person in the office set the tone for the nation, domestically and abroad. So are flamboyance or boisterousness or condescension required? I fear passionate is the only characteristic that I possess that might bear some resemblance.
But wait, what possible platform proposal could I possibly have that would be superior to those produced by either political party? Each is a huge machine with enormous financial and and intellectual resources that no individual could possibly hope to match.
How about this: our single most important issue is that we need to come together as a country. Our second most important issue, and one which is actually interwoven with the first one, is poverty. Because poverty is the heart of our healthcare crisis, our economic issues, problems with our education system, our racial divide, even our debates on immigration. And we can use our failed past attempts to prove that you can’t fix poverty by throwing money at it, you have to come together collectively with innovative strategies to build connections and pathways and interlink resources to needs within communities. And because I believe completely in this tenant, I have immersed myself in my own city’s poverty initiative to try to learn everything I can and contribute as much as possible to this essential effort. At the very least, we will do good things locally. And I would ask, what are the other presidential hopefuls going to do over the next few years? Campaigning, of course! And by the time 2019 is in swing, those campaigns will be hopping! If only that process actually made someone better suited to the job…
I know exactly what you are thinking now, because it’s what we all think, it’s what we have all been told, it’s what we all have been encouraged to believe: it’s never going to happen. Why? Simply because it doesn’t appeal to the fringes. Sure, it would be effective, genuine progress would be made (and we wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by our leader or cringe at the next news announcement). Fixing poverty with real solutions may be extraordinarily important, but it’s not sexy nor polarizing. In fact, it’s not inspiring in the least. It’s certainly not prone to the inflammatory meme’s that drive the current election process. Unless you twist it to the radical views: that people in poverty are there of their own accord and nothing needs to be done for them but to allow them to die off, preferably someplace where we don’t have to interact with them; or that people in poverty are there because of oppression from the ruling elite, and the only viable solution is to take the ill-gotten wealth by force and spread it amongst the unfortunate. Those are ideas that the vocal can rally behind, dragging the silent, submissive masses with them.
But the reality that lies in the middle, in the acceptance that it is the responsibility of the more fortunate to find solutions through actions and funding to assure that any citizen who would strive for the opportunity to improve themselves and their situation has access to those opportunities; commiserate with the understanding that individuals bear the responsibility of seizing those opportunities, recognizing that the inherent unfairness in life is not to be blindly blamed on those deemed more fortunate. That reality? Even if those statements resonate with the majority of the population, they don’t with the people who actually speak up. Radicals want no part of this realty.
Moreover, the fringes are going to say it won’t happen because it simply can’t; that tremendous wealth, ties to a political party, backing by some massive industry or motivating special interest, a team of experts to re-interpret image and message, an ability to redirect answers to catchy short slogans that have no substance; these are all requisite qualities in a president.
And are they? If we the people, who make up the bulk of this nation, who want to end the bickering, who want to work together to mend our fences and our problems; if we really believe that, then we need to prepare to continue living in this toxic environment we have allowed to fester. We need to get used to not having solutions for all of the problems that confront us. We need to learn to tune out the shouting from one fringe element at the other, as each tries to impose its own distorted ideology on the rest of us, compromise be damned.
Or we can overcome our fears and speak out, take the wheel away from the fringes, and kick them to the back of the bus where they belong.