“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” –James 1:8
In the movie All of Me the soul of Lilly Tomlin’s character is mistakenly trapped inside the body of Steve Martin’s character. Anyone who has seen this movie has witnessed one of the great masters of physical comedy do some of his best work as his body lurches around, trying to obey the two wills trapped inside it.
It’s funny when it’s Steve Martin, but it’s not so funny when it’s your government.
With the money coming from the extreme wings of each of the two major party—and the influence that it buys flowing back out to them—our federal government and some state governments resemble Steve Martin lurching and tripping around, pushing agendas each farther from the center than the last set of representatives did.
Cover the kids’ ears
As most of the country pleads for reason and cooperation, the word “compromise” becomes a weapon in the arsenals of politicians: “I won’t compromise my principles of [fill in the superficial political objective]”; or “The other side refuses to compromise [while our side is giving up SO much ground]”.
But compromise is exactly what we need for the government to “govern”—and a centrist third party is the way to get it.
We’ve all heard the term “coalition government” but many of us don’t know what it is because it doesn’t really exist in the U.S.
A coalition government happens, primarily in parliamentary systems, when a party wins a plurality of the representative seats, but not a majority. In order to create a majority and get anything done, the party that won plurality must form an alliance with another party.
This requires some give and take—or compromise—to align their priorities on which to base their agenda. And this is what the federal and state governments are missing in most of the U.S.
In the U.S., “to the victor go the spoils,” and to the financer goes the influence; the winning party doesn’t have to compromise because they are a majority, and their money sources don’t want them to compromise, so they don’t—not even if it’s the best thing for the people.
When this happens, ideology rules. It reminds me of another comedic movie, Erik the Viking, in which, when the island of Hy-Brazil begins to sink into the ocean, the government’s official line is to be calm because “This is NOT happening.”
On the other hand, parties in a country where one party rarely gets a majority know that compromise is inevitable. And the inevitability of compromise makes it a fact of life rather than a flaw or a weapon.
Most of these coalition governments are either center-right or center-left, but the center is almost always a part of them. Why? Because that’s where the people are.
This centrism brings stability to the system. None of the parties can take the government and run hell-bent for the fringes. No center-whatever coalition will quote the refrain from Washington every other year, “The American people have given us a mandate . . .,” and take the agenda to the extreme.
So what do we do?
- Support centrist candidates
- Encourage existing officials to become independent (but you have to have a lot of support in your back pocket to convince him/her)
- Influence your chosen party toward the center
- Find a friend from the other side of the aisle whom you can talk to respectfully and intelligently about the issues
- Support third parties (through activism, funds, and voting)
If we want a country that is not controlled from the fringes like a double-minded man, we must bring the agenda to the center. And that requires people pulling the influence back from the fringes and into where the citizens are—in the center.