Recently, I’ve been talking with a lot of my friends and colleagues about the state of modern politics in America, and how the official and time-tested political parties of “right” and “left” are, for the most part, so polarized that it hardly seems that they really cater to the needs or concerns of their constituencies at all anymore. Instead, they seem to have become the strained and bulging carriers of an excessive amount of special interests, in addition to brandishing views and values that are more often in the ideological extreme, so as to cater, apparently, to large swaths of would-be voters, rather than standing on principle and logic.
I had been discussing political issues this morning with one of the listeners of my weekly podcast how, a sweet gal (and former Government employee) named Betty June. While she is far-left, she supports Second Amendment rights, and she agrees with me on virtually all the different scores of topics we addressed. These days, I call myself primarily a centrist, espousing obvious conservatism when it comes to economic issues, while by the same token, remaining vigilant over human rights issues that some would call politically “left.” I call them common sense, and to date, I’ve found no issue in American politics–either on a state or national level–that has ever caused me to want to change my party affiliation… then again, I’m registered in the State of North Carolina as an Independent. It has proven to be a decision I’ve never come to regret.
During my conversation with Betty June, a friend and political mentor came to mind suddenly in relation to the state of party politics in America today. Dr. Carl Mumpower, a former member of city council in Asheville, NC, is someone whom I’ve always managed to learn from in our conversations and interactions, and though we may not agree on every minor detail at all times, I have always admired his resolute and reasonable disposition. He is a man who, if anything, grounds himself intellectually, and enough so that his interpretation of political happenings also remains unshaken.
I also recall Carl telling me a few years ago, in response to my observation that he often seems to espouse more Libertarian viewpoints, that he is “a Republican to the core,” and that his feeling is not that his actions remove him from his party, but instead that other Republicans, especially in Washington, are not carrying what he would all true conservative values. Again, this is an attitude I admire; however, in my own personal view, while conservatism (especially in the fiscal sense) is something that resounds with my philosophy, I am not one who would be comfortable, in any sense calling myself a “Republican.” Much the same, you won’t find me putting a “D” by name name on any voter registration cards either… call it Libertarianism if you like, but I think that the true conservative must also take human rights into serious consideration, and whether the situation calls for fair treatment of individuals based on race or color, sexual preference, or anything else. We are all human, and unless revoked by their own choice through illegal or wicked action, a person should always be afforded the sovereign right to treatment as an equal.
It is funny, in retrospect, that Dr. Mumpower had come to mind during my exchange with Betty June, since by the time I got around to opening my emails, I found a press release from Carl, which included a very provocative statement in the title: “Mumpower threatens to leave Republican Party over water.” What, I wondered as I continued to read, could have caused such a sudden (and bold) change in his attitude?
The contents read as follows:
The Republican majority in Raleigh, under the local leadership of Republican State Representatives Tim Moffitt, Nathan Ramsey, and Chuck McGrady are in the process of conducting an act of malfeasance meriting challenge. “The unprecedented use of eminent domain to seize a city owned water system reveals a party power structure indifferent to the principles upon which that party is founded,” says Carl Mumpower, a former member of Asheville’s city council and his district’s 2008 Republican nominee for congress.
“This action is a follow-up to earlier misbehaviors by State Representative Susan Fisher (D) and Senator Martin Nesbitt (D) who led the charge to pass Sullivan Acts II & III which effectively seized control of the City’s water system, but fell short of transferring ownership,” says Mumpower. “Moffitt and his colleagues are simply finishing the job that their colleagues started.” “I expect political opportunism from the left, but to have members of my own party act with such indifference to our principles requires more than a passive response.
I was shocked, to say the least, that Mumpower, one I’ve known (and respected) for his resolute “they’re the ones who are wrong” attitude toward his own party, was now stating such antics might push him to leave the Republican party. However, I don’t view this as mere histrionic sensationalism (but just wait, because I’m certain others will). Instead, I applaud Carl for making such a threat, since this only illustrates more clearly the fact that the actions of the political parties in America today are seldom meeting the needs of their constituencies. Politicians and lawmakers aren’t upholding the values of the individuals who put them in office, and yet they wonder why centrist groups continue forming, and marvel over the popularity of Libertarian and Populist viewpoints, as well as politicians who seem more comfortable taking stances that are firmly planted between the extremities of “right and left.”
All this brings to mind something included within the mission statement of National Review Magazine, penned by the late William F. Buckley in 1955. The relevant excerpt is as follows:
The most alarming single danger to the American political system lies in the fact that an identifiable team of Fabian operators is bent on controlling both our major political parties (under the sanction of such fatuous and unreasoned slogans as “national unity,” “middle-of-the-road,” “progressivism,” and “bipartisanship.”) Clever intriguers are reshaping both parties in the image of Babbitt, gone Social-Democrat. When and where this political issue arises, we are, without reservations, on the side of the traditional two-party system that fights its feuds in public and honestly; and we shall advocate the restoration of the two-party system at all costs.
I have always pondered this statement, coming from Buckley–someone whose intellect I’ve always admired–as it seemed to make a case against having “third parties” in American politics. However, when we look back at the political atmosphere in 1950s America, we see that the looming threat of Communism, as well as the potential dangers a 1950s conservative might have seen looming on the horizon with the creation of globalist organizations such as the United Nations, and later on groups like the Trilateral Commission and others, certainly would have caused Buckley (and others) to be wary of any sort of faux-moderation in politics, which sought to sweep the decision-makers of both sides, right and left, under a pair of all-encompassing globalist wings. Put into proper context, Buckley wasn’t warning against centrists, populists, or even Libertarians (though I seem to recall him speaking out against the latter at some point as well, only to be revealed as the arch-Libertarian himself in retrospect). He had been warring against the looming conspiracy of his day, which sought to remove the political power of individuals through processes of election and proper legislation, and instead filtering the desires of both parties through motivations that were far more “worldly,” in a sense.
And hence, the caution Buckley had expressed becomes evident today: people who once considered themselves “liberal” or “conservative” find themselves appalled with the positions their parties are taking. My friend Betty June, a liberal and proud leftist herself, is befuddled by the insistance espoused by her party with regard to regulating guns, if not what some perceive as a legitimate move toward banning them altogether. And tried-and-true conservatives like Dr. Mumpower are becoming troubled by the actions of members of the Republican party, which Mumpower says, “reveals a party power structure indifferent to the principles upon which that party is founded.”
When our political parties are acting against the desires of the people it represents, and more importantly, are operating in a way that has questionable moral implication, it is made clear why political centrism has become so popular in America today. People aren’t changing, and their values remain largely the same; but the parties, just as Buckley warned, are moving away from their base philosophies, and toward their own individual brand of totalitarianism. Additionally, people’s values and logic is oftentimes less polarized then our political parties would like for us to think, and hence we have resolute thinkers on both sides finding fault with their party’s actions, which seem to move against of the very public they are intended to govern.
Perhaps this apparent move toward the political center among Americans recently has less to do with “changes” taking place amidst people and their attitudes. Instead, it more likely highlights the fact that our two major parties are drifting away from their foundations, and thus further away from the values of the American people.