Ask Auntie Pinko
Dear Auntie Pinko,
I'm a moderate with no strong political ties to either party.
I believe that both parties have put forth some very good ideas
but I do not agree with either party completely.
For example I believe that welfare is a necessary program and
that it helps the people who need it, but it needs to be revised
to cut down on the abuses. I also believe that Bush's tax cuts helped
me a little bit but for the most part they helped the exceptionally
rich more than the middle class.
I believe that it is a woman's choice to get an abortion or
not but also think that if the adoption rules were changed it would
help out society as a whole. Many families who cannot have children
are willing to adopt but as it stands right now adoption is horribly
Now these are just a few of the things I believe and when I
run down the list of hot issues I often find myself in the middle.
It all depends on the situation for me. So here is my question...
why am I hated by both sides yet coveted as a voter?
I have heard and read so many mean, terrible things from both
sides. I get called a repuke and liberal whacko in the same breath.
Both sides have nothing but distain for people like me because I
do not fully support either side. Yet at the same time I read that
the middle will be deciding the election and both sides are trying
to find a way to woo the moderate voter. Why should I vote for either
party when I know that I am not wanted by either?
Thank you for your time,
It's very sad that people's enthusiasm for their own point of
view often translates into contempt and ad hominem attacks on those
with differing views. Even middle-of-the-roaders are sometimes guilty
of this, writing off those with strongly-held views as "extremist
crackpots." I would like to think that if they realized how thoroughly
they are alienating people who might otherwise help them or at least
listen thoughtfully to them, those rude people might think twice
about casually pouring scorn over those with differing views.
Pointing out quietly that although you don't share someone's entire
agenda, their expressions of contempt for those who differ discourages
you from participating in achieving the goals you do share,
might help in the long run. I'm not optimistic about the short-term
effects, though. How much does the cause of civility and productivity
in public discourse mean to you? Are you willing to persistently
draw attention to the issue and offer alternatives, even in the
face of the additional scorn you may evoke?
One thing that reinforces these misguided enthusiasts' behavior
(at both ends of the spectrum) is their perception that, because
they have spent time examining the issue and educating themselves
about it (some thoroughly, some fairly superficially, but still,
they do invest time and effort) they "know more about it" than people
who express moderate positions.
Of course, this is a faulty assumption, because many who hold
moderate views do take the trouble to inform themselves thoroughly
about the issues - but, unfortunately, many don't. And that reinforces
the "experts" with the strong opinions, who can often go into wearisome
detail quoting statistics and studies supporting their views. (Which,
of course only turns the moderate folks off even more, because
they suspect, usually accurately, that there is just as large a
body of statistics and studies and illustrations supporting the
opposite view, and they're only hearing what the enthusiast has
selected to support their own view.)
Still, folks with moderate views often assume that "common sense,"
"fairness," and their "feelings" about "how things work," based
solely on their own experiences or biases, are sufficient for them
to make sound judgments about public policy. And nothing could be
further from the truth. Almost every public policy issue
has complexities and implications that go far beyond a simple statement
For instance, you state "welfare is a necessary program... but
it needs to be revised to cut down on the abuses." You may know
a lot about this, have specific abuses in mind, and be aware of
operational modifications that can be made to the program that will
curb those abuses for a cost less than the cost of the abuses themselves.
However, Auntie has heard very similar statements from other
people who have never really thought beyond the vague notion that
"some people are gaming the system and they shouldn't be allowed
to get away with it."
Which is a notion that appeals to everyone's sense of fairness,
and seems hard to refute. But if we look at the whole general concept
of "welfare abuse" - parsing it out, looking at who, how, how much
it costs - and compare that to the overall effects of the program,
the cost of eliminating all of the different types of abuse (or
catching all of the abusers - and then protecting their vulnerable
minor children from the consequences of the abusers being caught
and perhaps jailed) the bottom line might be surprising. Then if
we look at those cost trade-offs against the ultimate goals of the
program (saving money that would have to be spent later on the jails,
health care expenditures, social decay and other human misery caused
by persistent child poverty) it might change how we look at the
tradeoff between short-term "fairness" and long-term outcomes.
Even those enthusiasts of strong views who wouldn't dream of rudely
berating someone with moderate views can get frustrated by what
seem like simplistic, thoughtless assumptions, and tired of saying
"Well, I understand your views, and agree that they need to be considered
in crafting our approach to this problem or issue, but it's really
far too complex to be able to 'solve' that way. I worry about the
impact of X, the cost of Y, and the potential for unintended consequences
This, by the way, is the essential problem that Mr. Kerry's campaign
is having in communicating. No matter how clearly an issue seems
to be A vs. B, there is always an X, a Y, and a Z to be factored
in. Ignoring the Xs, Ys, and Zs, practically guarantees unintended
consequences that can be as bad or worse than the original problem.
Promising simple, unambiguous, feeling-based, black-and-white A
or B solutions has gotten us into a lot of messes, but people still
don't want to hear about the Xs, Ys, and Zs much.
Finally, while I do sympathize with your unhappiness about the
level of incivility on both ends of the spectrum, I can't offer
much of an answer to your basic question: "Why should I vote with
either of these nasty, rude groups?" You can always cast a protest
vote with the third party of your choice - but very few of those
third parties have agendas that are friendlier to a moderate viewpoint
than the Democrats or the GOP. You can stay home - but then you're
letting everyone else decide for you.
If you're really committed to a better future for America, pick
a party (heck, flip a coin if you have to) and start participating
actively and working to change it from within. You can accomplish
a lot more that way. Remember, the world is run by those who show
up for meetings! Thanks for asking Auntie Pinko, Kurt!
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