Tired! That was all I could feel the day the Senate released its plan to replace Obamacare. Not only had Senate Republicans formulated their bill in virtual secrecy, they had somehow seen fit to leave out nearly every free market cost control idea that they had promised to include. No negotiation on Medicare drug prices. No interstate competition for insurers. Nothing to force hospitals to publicize their price structures. No tort reform to protect doctors and hospitals from spurious lawsuits. Nothing but a mildly saner version of the House’s previous work; in short, nothing to make their newly acquired blue-collar voters happy or to actually make the Affordable Care Act affordable, either for the country or its citizens.
It was as if Congress had determined to live down to its single-digit popularity rating. After facing for months the stiff and steady verbal breeze coming from Senators Warren and Sanders, et. al. about how the only real solution to the healthcare conundrum was complete capitulation to Big Government and Bigger Debt, I had hoped the GOP would counter with a remotely defensible alternative. Nope. All they did was infuriate half the nation and disappoint the other half.
And so it goes. Democrats and Republicans, apparently dedicated only to the preservation of their respective tribes, each more interested in blaming the other for the woes befalling the Republic than in fixing them. The political landscape has become a living civil war battle site; one army led by a clinically demented megalomaniac seemingly devoid of empathy and the other rendered virtually leaderless as its sclerotic old guard struggles against semi-anarchic newbloods for whom no amount of empathy is enough. As the war of words escalates with every rant and tweet, the temptation among the general populace to hunker down and disengage becomes stronger. Does anybody really want either of these two crews of zealots running things?
As I watched the tumultuous coverage of the rollout of Trumpcare or Ryancare or Whatever-Care-They-Were-Calling-It-That-Day, disengagement was looking more and more like the only sane option. I was duly and truly tired of partisan politics. I flipped off the TV and grabbed my iPad to check email. The first header that showed up read: “Are You Tired of Partisan Politics?”
Yeah! So? The email was from a group calling itself the Centrist Project. The organizers claimed to have a blueprint to break the Dem/GOP logjam. It sounded like the stirrings of a third party, and third parties have had very limited success in America since upstart Republicans, behind Abe Lincoln, elbowed the Whigs into the tall grass 157 years back. Since then, most challenges to major party hegemony have come from the somewhat ragged edges of the ideological spectrum, not the center (think Greens and Libertarians). I had heard whispers of a movement that sought to embrace the sensible aspects of both parties and to run the extremists out of the tent. The email contained an invitation to a meet-and-greet, where the group would elaborate on its plan to be the alternative to madness. I was skeptical, but feeling alone and mildly desperate I decided to see what the Centrist Project had to offer. Besides, the invitation promised there would be food.
Centrists, I was happy to learn, don’t hate anybody. They want to see the good in both the liberal and conservative platforms. They value logic and reason above rote ideology. And they are not above compromise. They want a government that does as much for the country as it can and does no more to the country than it should. The meeting room was filled with articulate, intelligent, passionate people who are tired of government by mutual assured destruction. They don’t necessarily want to start a revolution, but I got the feeling that if they have to, they will. The food was uninspiring, but the founders of the Centrist Project assuredly are not. And their plan is actually rational – with a lot of support and a bit of luck it just might work.
If this sounds like an endorsement, I guess it is. If you are as fed up as I am with the food fight that passes for political discourse in this country these days, I urge you not to just hunker down. Check out the Centrist website, centristproject.nationbuilder.com. Read the Centrist Manifesto. Attend an event. Talk to other fed-up people. Re-engage. Maybe there is a more pragmatic, less dramatic way to conduct the country’s business and if that path exists I’d like to follow it. Wouldn’t you?
After all, as the saying goes, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is a pretty clear indication of insanity. With both parties bent on backing themselves into tinier and more extreme tents, where can a logical, reasonable person go to seek solace among others of like mind? I’m thinking maybe somewhere in the middle.