Emancipation of Moderate Republicans
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
"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
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.