Democratic Underground

The Emancipation of Moderate Republicans
June 4, 2001
by Maren L. Hickton

Many years ago, I was asked to do some volunteer work for a political candidate in a small community who was running against an incumbent in his own party for a council seat - a difficult feat. I was sent a copy of his resume which included an impressive track record of community service and other business achievements. When I met him, he wasn't the yack-it-up, flamboyant politico that I expected. He was, instead, a rather quiet and unassuming man, big in stature with a broad smile. My assignment was to put together a slogan and campaign brochure.

At our first meeting, I found myself in a situation where he was much more interested in what I thought about his community than talking about his own platform, so I had to switch gears in order to effectively prepare his materials. I suggested that we meet a handful of times in public forums so that I could watch him interact with others to better discern who he was and what his platform was really all about: what distinguished him from his opponent.

What stood out the most was the fact that he really listened no matter who was doing the talking. He had this endearing habit of jotting down notes on a small notepad with his head cocked to one side and his dark brown eyes darting back and forth from his tablet to his audience. After meeting with an individual or group of constituents, he would use his notes to clarify exactly what he had been told, often more clearly than the people said it themselves. In his own voice, he gave these people voice. "Yes, yes, yeah!" they would say. This candidate ended up winning the election by a landslide.

The national political game plan is far more complex. Rather than the political process being truly civic-minded, Party platforms single-mindedly direct Presidents who push-pull congressional party slaves in attempting to convince the people what is in their best interests. To make matters more complicated, Bush became a serf to his own constituent-contributors long befo re he took office. Then, while the ruling GOP was so busy getting all of their ducks in a row, making sure all bills would go forward at light-speed, they missed a goldeneye. Hence, the Jeffords' defection and the related fallout.

Despite all the contradictory finger-pointing, I believe the responsibility for the upset in the Senate rests squarely on the President's shoulders. He didn't care what Senator Jeffords had to say, what most of us moderates had to say. He failed to listen and, more importantly, hear and respond. His lack of attentiveness cost many hardworking Senators from my state, from other states, their seats on important committees that will impact our respective futures.

The reality is, most of us are a bunch of political hybrids anyway - somewhere closer to the center, with a range of views that cannot be contained within the precise confines of either platform, let alone the current GOP right extreme. I happen to live in a state with two distinguished Republican Senators who understand how important it is to pay attention to the views of Democrats and Republicans alike. Unfortunately, Senator Jeffords emancipation may have had to happen to give moderates a voice in other states where people were all but being ignored.

Along the campaign trail, George W. was asked, "Who was your favorite President?"

"Lincoln," Bush replied.

On August 21, 1858, during the Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Ottawa, Lincoln said the following: "Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed."

The people set the agenda; not the President. Moderates on both sides can only hope that one day, someday, President Bush will heed Lincoln's sage advice.

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