Most Americans are not so caught up in politics that they have taken a firm grip on any particular issue. They mostly want what appears to them to be best for the nation as a whole.
And most politicians are moderates. What is a moderate? I will refer to Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas in their book, "Common Ground" for a definition:
"Moderates are not necessarily people without convictions, though some such species exist. Moderates may hold strong convictions, but they are often willing to compromise with someone who disagrees in order to advance a policy that benefits the most people. Today, polarizers would rather have no legislation at all than have a bill that does not reflect 100 percent of their views or protect 100 percent of their financial interests."
We saw polarizing to a tee when conservatives were adamantly opposed to any idea of amnesty, and liberals were adamantly opposed to closing the borders. Therefore, no deal was made to the benefit of most people.
We see this all the time in Washington. We read about things like this daily in the papers and on the Internet. Today, most votes in Washington are done along party lines. It never was like this in the past. President Clinton's 1993 economic package garnered not one republican vote, and President Bush's prescription drug package garnered only nine democratic votes.
One of the main reasons, as I wrote about (as I wrote about in a previous column) is due to a lack of communication across party lines, and where every one on the other side is considered as an enemy instead of as a "friend."
But this is how it is in Washington, the authors write, not among the people in general.
Bush and Clinton got caught in the height of partisanship, but both were willing and able to cross the line and negotiate deals with the other party. Clinton signed NAFTA, welfare reform, and a bill that resulted in a capital gains tax cut. Bush teamed with Ted Kennedy in the No Child Left Behind Act, signed the Prescription Drug program into law, supported amnesty, and increased government spending far more than his so called "liberal" predecessor.
So, while they both ran as partisans, they both acted as bipartisans. And that, I have to add, is one of the reasons why so many conservatives hated Bush, because he was too liberal in their view. Polarizers on the right were fed up that there wasn't more polarization.
It's also why they hate McCain, because he's too willing to compromise. Remember earlier in the election cycle when Conservative talk radio (Limbaugh, Hannity, Inghram) were talking about how if McCain was the candidate they'd vote for Hillary?
It's not that McCain is not a good conservative, it's that he is willing to negotiate to the benefit of the most people at the expense of getting 100% of what conservatives want.
Still, like Bush and Clinton, most presidents have not been partisan. Here are some facts as provided by Beckel/Thomas:
- The first president to publicly criticize welfare was not Ronald Reagan, but FDR.
- For most of the century, it was Republicans who supported tariffs and Democrats who strongly opposed them
- Speaking of opposition, Republicans after World War II opposed increases in the defense budget, while Democrats strongly supported increases in military spending
- Democrat John Kennedy attacked the Eisenhower/Nixon administration for allowing a "missile gap" to develop between the U.S. and Soviet Union. He said the U.S. was on the wrong side of the gap. Although the gap didn't really exist, JFK made it a centerpiece of his 1960 campaign.
- Democrat Jimmy Carter established the Defense Department's Central Command for the Middle East. It was under this command that George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush launched wars against Iraq.
- Democrat Bill Clinton negotiated and signed a welfare reform act that dramatically lowered the number of people on welfare by putting them to work.
- Conservative Republican David Frum wrote in his book my eight step solution to the energy crisis, of which I reviewed a few weeks back, that conservatives should work to keep oil prices high to because they make alternatives competitive. Yet polarizers on the right bash democrats such as Obama for wanting to keep oil and gas prices high.
Sure, you may say Clinton signed welfare reform for political gain, but he was willing to cross party lines, as was Bush.
The 2000 and 2004 elections ended in virtual ties. This goes to show that America is split right down the middle -- not so partisan.
As Cal and Bob write, "The polarizers, and their polarizing sympathizers in the press, academia, and lobbying and pundit communities, declared that the results proved just how polarized the country has become. Ridiculous. The vast majority of voters in both elections were neither polarizers nor polarized. For example, the vast majority of voters who supported Bush favored strong environmental regulations, as did those who supported Gore. The vast majority of voters who supported Kerry supported a strong national defense, as did those who voted for Bush."
Thus, Cal and Bob proclaim, "The country is not polarized. Polarizers and their amen corner in the press and among political elites are the ones who are polarized, and who have much to gain from continuing to stir the pot."