With apologies to the Doobie Brothers, who took “What a Fool Believes” to the top of the charts in 1979, here is what I believe moderates like me want. I’m not going to tell you what political persuasion I favor, but maybe you can guess by the end of this piece. Hopefully not. The political fringes of both parties get all the attention, but I firmly believe that most Americans, largely silent Americans, fall somewhere in the middle.
As a moderate, I believe both sides get the benefit of the doubt until they abuse that privilege. How can they do that? By denigrating and demonizing the
other side with a wild-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth kind of glee. This is rampant today and gets us nowhere. Clearly there are patriots on both sides that care deeply about their country and fight ferociously for what they believe in. Unfortunately, there are also politicians, consultants, lobbyists, TV and radio personalities, and even ordinary Americans who see this as a big game that must have clear winners and losers. I hope we can start to aim higher than that and that moderates can lead the way. I’ll take a look at just three issues — gun safety, immigration, and health care policy.
Moderates do not want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens. Why would we? By definition, they are good people. I don’t see the attraction in guns, but then again I don’t see the attraction in kale and quinoa. But I have family and friends who enjoy guns immensely for sport and self-defense, and that is fine. What moderates do want is sensible regulation of guns that brings ownership up to the same standards as automobiles — meaning licensing and registration. It also means closing gun show loopholes, universal criminal background checks, limiting new sales of assault weapons and other guns of war, and emergency confiscation of guns by family members of troubled individuals. Is that really too much to ask? I guess I’m asking responsible gun owners to take a small hit for the American people so there is less chance of random gun violence and saying unexpected, sorrowful goodbyes to loved ones. I believe the fact that the GOP-controlled Virginia legislature would not even discuss gun regulation during a recent special session called by the governor has sealed their fate in the next election. Moderates will put up with a lot of nonsense, but not dereliction of duty when people are dying.
Moderates believe in an immigration policy that meets migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers with kindness, not vitriol and hatred. It is the height of arrogance to deny or forget that we are all sons and daughters of immigrants that benefited from open borders. There but for the grace of God go I. We don’t want open borders, but we don’t think a wall is the answer either. We wish for the Statue of Liberty, not a steel wall, to remain the symbol of America. We want orderly immigration that is administered by more judges. We want more aid to Latin American countries so that we tackle the problem at its origin, helping their citizens have a chance at a better life in their own country. Ask yourself how desperate people have to be to set off on a 1,000-mile trek with small children to an unfamiliar land with no promise of a better life at the end of it. Immigration is a vexing problem, but unsolvable? Of course not. We simply need to take the emotion out and demand our politicians meet in the middle.
Moderates believe that quality health care is a right for all and not a privilege for only those who can afford it. We also don’t believe that Medicare for All is the answer. Medicare and Medicaid are already underfunded and rife with abuse. It’s difficult to see how this could be sensibly financed and managed despite what the politicians say. Overall reform of our health care system is sorely needed. It does not work well for many of us. “Obamacare,” while not perfect, was a step in the right direction. Threats to repeal Obamacare, with nothing in the works to replace it, are irresponsible. Most Americans seem to sense this, yet the threats continue.
For all issues, moderates want our best minds to come together and, in the best case, reach consensus or, if need be, compromise. We are tired of all the rancor and political scorekeeping. Words are cheap. Reasonable politicians who can show the maturity needed to build consensus and reach compromise should get our vote no matter the party affiliation. It won’t just happen. The message has to come loud and clear at the ballot box. Please join me in telling the two political fringes that we’ve had enough. This won’t be easy, but as John Lennon said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Search out candidates who don’t spout the party line automatically and don’t seem to have all the answers already but show thoughtfulness and a willingness to learn.
And one final thought: If you think your side is always right and the other side is always wrong, I congratulate you for having life figured out better than the rest of us. The freedom this affords must be quite satisfying. But just consider for a moment all the damage you are doing if you really are wrong after all.
Gary Bennett serves as the director of marketing at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington. Before that, he has served in similar roles at other trade associations, including a stint as an editor at Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs, a publisher of business-to-business notification and references services in the fields of business, tax and law. He’s lived in Frederick for more than 30 years.