For a year, I disconnected from politics. What was there to follow? Democrats were the party of power, while Republicans were the party of opposition, hoping to have some say in whatever legislation made its way to the President’s desk.
By the time I re-engaged, the US House flipped right, the left flopped out, and rightist outlook echoed ever louder, as if the 2008 election was water evacuating a harbour, sucked up into an oncoming tsunami that would overwhelm all in its path.
The left zigged when the right zagged, the product of this unwitting confluence not at all a pleasant sight to a person standing on the political town dock, observing. Where is there to run? And I’m there still, watching with a roiling mix of fascination and trepidation, deciding whether I should wave a middle finger, turn and walk away, or maybe combine the two.
I read today that Tea Party support is a consistent 30% of the American electorate. Well, that is good, since that means the inverse of 70% do not support the Tea Party. True, but that isn’t a good enough disarming of my concern. Looking closer, what I see are a steady flow of stories that shine a light on hardline Christian influence on presidential contenders, promoting outlook that seeks control of our government, with a lurking purpose of imposition. Choice, same sex marriage, even religious freedom could fall victim.
The right I grew up with is not the right of today. The radical right, which in fact is a percentage of the right and not the entire right, is far more sinister than anything I’ve seen in America in my lifetime, blowing away in sheer radical ideology the American left of the 1960s. In their argument for freedom from government actually lies the seeds of our demise, for it isn’t freedom from government they seek so much as use of it to reshape American society into some Christian fiefdom. When they denounce Islam and Sharia law, they fail to see how they mirror what they denounce.
My ancestors were persecuted. I wasn’t there,nor have their memories downloaded through 12 generations to me. Yet I can guess what it was like – imagine being threatened with death by someone accusing you of some witchcraft, an imagined, inane accusation that has its roots in ignorance.
Months ago, I would have laughed at the suggestion there was such a threat existent in this country. Now I’ve seen the Tea Party take the country to its knees to get what it wished. That isn’t rational political conduct, it is behaviour never seen in my lifetime. And it is only the beginning of what has been emboldened and inspired by their success.
Where is the America of the middle? For most of my life, Democrats and Republicans were a concentrated lot around the centre pole, the differences were by increments, not mile or kilometre road markers. Now, the right is scattered along a continuum that goes from conservative to out there. In this environment, with no clear, strong moderate right, anything is possible, and that scares me silly. I’d feel the same damn way if a bunch of socialists were lurking over a weakened left. America belongs in the middle, it needs the middle. I’m a former student of 20th century European history. I can give a reasonable accounting of how radicals gained power in Germany (hint, Hitler and his party never received more than 44% of the vote.) We need a strong middle. Without it, stand back.