If you are like us, you are equal parts bored, enraged and sickened by political ideologues and extremists. They are literally ruining government, which we suspect might be their goal. One could rightly ask, where have all the moderates gone? Where are those for whom “compromise” is not a word on par with “capitulation” and “cowardice”?
Our system of democracy was crafted assuming its elected officials would in fact compromise on matters of public policy and law so that progress might be meted out in a way that is not too much this or too much that. Particularly within the legislative branch, government works best where a majority of moderates are present. They are the adults in the legislative chamber. They are the ones who can think, take the long view, and are more calm and rational. They are the ones who own up to the reality that you can’t always get what you want, but within the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, you’ll get what you need. These days there are too few of them to make a difference. They used to represent what is now the neglected middle.
Those who vote don’t seem to want moderates. Reliable voters are mostly comprised of extremists. So, we get what we got. Red states, blue state, and a United States Congress that is incapable of exercising its most basic duties.
What do we do about it, fellow benevolent Machiavellians?
Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer, in his New York Times opinion piece, End Partisan Primaries, Save America, writes, “The partisan primary system, which favors more ideologically pure candidates, has contributed to the election of more extreme officeholders and increased political polarization. It has become a menace to governing.”
At both the state and federal level we ought to have open primaries. Anyone and everyone can vote, regardless of party affiliation for any candidate in the primaries. The two top vote getters then face off in the general election. As Sen. Chuck points out, “[T]o finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.” At least, we believe, there would be an increased incentive to do so.
Only about 20% of Americans bother to vote in the primaries, and they tend to be at the polar ends of the political spectrum. The middle, which is disenchanted and/or uninterested and uninformed, stay home on election day. Let’s do what Australia does. You either vote or are fined. Australia typically has about a 90% turn out, and elects candidates with broad appeal. Only North Korea, at 100%, has a better voter turn out.
Though some states do have open primaries already, we are not anticipating that it will become the national standard anytime soon. Mandatory voting — forget about it. Forced voting would be an infringement on personal freedom, the tinfoil hat brigade would scream, pointing at North Korea.
Those things would require a meeting of the minds to become reality, and for the most part, in this polarized atmosphere, there are simply not that many minds that are capable of meeting.
There is a third way, and we call it the “nuclear option”. Warning! What we are about to suggest may cause gag reflexes to activate and stomachs to lurch.
A fraction of Team Absurdum resides in one of the reddest of all red states. The house of representatives, senate and governor’s office are all occupied by Republicans. Many of them are certifiably extreme in their views and opinions, and the laws they enact reflect that. We predictably elect far-right ideologues to federal seats. If you vote democrat in our fair state, your vote is nothing more than a whimsical supplication that will most definitely go unanswered.
Have you considered changing your party affiliation to republican? We told you that you might hurl your gluten free parfait and kale chips at the thought, but think about it. If there were enough of us left leaning and centrist constituents to make a difference, someone — a republican candidate to be specific — would have to pander to us. We could be a moderating force in an otherwise magenta red political landscape. Some semblance of sanity could be restored to governance. It would serve the greater good.
We can conceive of no other way to more effectively pull our politics from the fringes and towards the pragmatic and sensible middle. It’s what a caring Machiavellian would do.
Worry ye not, though. Come the general election you can vote for the democrat and salvage at least a portion of your dignity.