Asking for comments about anything on social media can be a double-edged sword. Thoughtful posts are often overwhelmed by the trolls and the bots who can bombard you with their drivel, provocations, and conspiracy theories.
I wasn’t terribly optimistic when I planned “A View from the Center” column around suggestions on political New Year’s resolutions for the U.S. in 2022.
Fortunately, I was wrong. As one reader, Steve Nicholas, wrote, “I came here worried this comment section would be a s*** show. Surprisingly, a lot of the thoughts portrayed here, I’m pretty in line with. Thanks people! Sometimes it’s nice to remember that not everyone is so one-sided.”
Here are some of the suggested resolutions. I’ve only made minor edits of the language to conform to AP style, and they do not change the substance of what readers wrote.
A Third Political Party?
Norma Lola Hernandez-Rios wrote: “Giving a third party, independent of agendas and that is actually focused on solving issues affecting Americans’ everyday lives, a real change at getting representation. A party that is beholden to no one, no history, no corporate money, no expectations or owed favors. A party that works for the people and that will not get caught up in political games.”
Norma is speaking for a majority of the American people. In a Gallup survey in early 2021, a record high of 62% said that the “parties do such a poor job representing the American people that a third party is needed.”
Meanwhile, only 33% of Americans believed the two parties are doing an adequate job of representing the public, the lowest percentage since 2013.
David Lantz writes: “The two major parties have spent too much time catering to their respective radical fringes, fearmongering, and dehumanizing ‘the other side,’ and not nearly enough working on solutions for the country’s other problems. Both are spend-happy. The Republicans just act like they care about deficits while Democrats are in the White House and vice-versa. Neither of them care. Sooner or later they’re going to have to start caring.”
Errol Schroeder agrees, telling both parties that they should elevate their conduct and be good stewards because “what goes around comes around.”
Could frustrations with the severe American political divide lead to a strong enough backlash that would make a third party realistic?
History teaches us that it’s probably wishful thinking: The best performance by a non-major party candidate in a U.S. presidential election over the past century was Ross Perot’s 18.91% of the vote in 1992. Even if a popular candidate were to emerge, the Constitution and the very structure of the government make third parties almost unviable.
Centrism Versus Extremism
I’m not sure whether this comment was aimed at me, but Mark Dougherty writes: “I would like a centrist analysis without the bothsidesim. Both parties are bad on specific issues, but I don’t believe both parties are equally bad on everything. Science and facts are not political.”
Centrist analysis is undoubtedly the exception to the rule in today’s media, and one of the many reasons I decided to create “A View from the Center.” While I certainly consider both sides in every column I write, I agree with Mark Dougherty that “blind” bothsidesism is worthless. On many topics, including climate change, socialism, and the 1/6 attack on the Capitol, bothsidesism will quickly lead to false equivalences. The opinions of climate change deniers, for example, simply do not merit the same level of attention as the overwhelming force of what’s nearly scientific unanimity.
I also agree that both parties are “bad” on specific issues, and I have called out both on frequent occasions.
Where I differ is that everything has become political. In many cases, the different sides can’t even agree on what the facts are.
Brent Gerken also weighs in here and calls for the press to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
Serious journalists always aspire to that, but much of the national media has abandoned traditional aspirations toward objectivity and fairness. Worse yet, the inability to agree on whether something is factual or true is a serious problem in American politics and media. I promise to address the issue more thoroughly in the near future.
I’ll quote another comment from Errol Schroeder to end this section: “Extremism results in stagnation. Compromise results in progress.” I couldn’t agree more.
To my surprise, the most frequently proposed New Year’s resolution called for congressional term limits. Danielle Witt, Deb Fernandez Dickerson, Jacob Marley, Brent Gerken, Erika Rowe, Teresa Beasecker, and Norton Pena all said the country needs to limit the amount of time someone can serve in Congress. The latter writes that “This should not be a career. You serve and you move on. Also, the salary needs to either go away or come down to a more realistic level.”
In the context of term limits, Benjamin Corey Feinblum is among those who raise concerns about the power of lobbyists. “Term limits put an end time on a member of Congress’s power, but don’t limit the term of lobbyist and corporate special interests,” he writes. “Term limits reduce the power of members of Congress, while increasing the special interest’s power.”
Poll after poll have shown strong support for congressional term limits across party lines and throughout the U.S. While I understand the concern over losing experienced public servants, the longer people spend on Capitol Hill, the more they’re likely to lose touch with the interests of their constituents. Intelligently implemented term limits should be a no-brainer.
However, I disagree with Norton Pena on congressional salaries. Members of the House of Representatives make $174,000, a good salary by almost any measure. The problem is that they need to maintain two homes, one in their district, another in the D.C. area. Two homes aren’t cheap, especially when D.C. is one of the country’s most expensive real estate markets. We don’t want the congressional “club,” already filled with a majority who are millionaires, to become even more exclusive.
Even though economic issues are far and away what surveys show most concern Americans, I received few comments on the economy. One, from Taj Nardozza, says: “Rip the Band-Aid off fast and raise the interest rate.”
I interpret that as calling for aggressive action from the Federal Reserve to fight inflation. The Fed did seem to be moving into inflation-fighting mode at its December meeting, announcing it would do less to stimulate the economy and taper off its bond purchases. That would put it in a position to raise interest rates, the Fed’s traditional tool to combat inflation. The problem is that rising rates also slow down economic activity, something that will not be popular, especially among Democrats, as the midterm elections near. Still, most economists expect rates to rise at least a little in 2022.
Mickie Murphy says she’d “like to see retired auto-enrollment in retirement plans at the federal level (not state-sponsored” plans) for employers with greater than 10 employees.” Knowing many people who have failed to take advantage of federal tax laws concerning retirement accounts, that seems eminently reasonable. Make people opt out, instead of opt in. As she adds, “Those who have an employer plan and are set up to start saving from the day they start working are more likely to have retirement savings to live off.”
Jane Halcomb wants to abolish the federal income tax, calling for “state income tax only, a portion of which could go to the federal government.” She adds: “Enough of this making so many people rich off of our hard-earned money, while they just sit around and think up ways to get more.”
Virginia Perkins worries about another insurrection. She asks, “What are those angry individuals hoping for? Do they really want to start from scratch rather than learn from history and build better on what is in place and [Americans] fought so hard to keep?”
Mary Whitson Hamilton, Jacob Marley, and Steve Nicholas all called for campaign finance reform, with the latter saying “the amount of money spent on each [presidential] candidate is preposterous.”
Danielle Witt brings up cognitive testing, saying candidates should undergo “significant” examination “for inclusion on any ballot.”
Paul Grubbs believes we need the transparency Obama promised, saying that “If we could actually see the sausage being made, we could get rid of the excess fat.”
He suggests both sides are getting away with putting pork in bills nobody has time to read before they are passed. He reminded me of the infamous quote from speaker Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass the bill,” she said, “so that you can find out what’s in it.”
Interestingly, no reader suggested resolutions on COVID or immigration. Nor did I get specific comments about race relations or family decline, all of which are among the top problems of concern for Americans, according to a recentGallup survey.
I’m also worried that nobody mentioned homeland security (with the exception of the insurrection) or national security, including the threat of international terrorism. The U.S. can’t let its guard down.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to my request on Facebook. I hope to increase reader participation in what I write.
Happy New Year!
Cover photo: The U.S. Capitol, seen from atop the Washington Monument on Sept. 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Al Drago/Getty Images)
Let me know what you think, here or on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/antoniomoraTV1/). Please subscribe (it's free) and share the link: https://aviewfromthecenter.bulletin.com/subscribe.