Bloomberg offers hope for the political centrists
There was a time — it seems long, long ago — when those of us who like to think of ourselves as being somewhere between a little right of center and a little left of center on the political spectrum felt we had a voice in how government worked.
Then along came such things as 24-hour news channels and the Internet, both populated by idiotic talking heads whose mantra is win at all costs. And those of us who are driven, not by ideology, but by what works, found ourselves on the outside looking in. We were disenfranchised by the scorched-earth canon of the Fox News, MSNBC, Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin, Olbermann, Maddow, O’Reilly etc., crowd who believe, apparently, that compromise, civility and debate are to statecraft what wagon wheels are to sports cars. They are quaint and may at one time have served some useful purpose. But today they are relegated to the trash bin.
We of the center are left with no voice. The tea party is not our cup of tea, so we’re left with no party at all. We pine for the days when Sens. Orrin Hatch of the right and Ted Kennedy of the left could do battle all day, then find common ground and share a drink after work. (Well, Hatch probably didn’t drink, but Kennedy no doubt drank enough for the both of them.) Those days are gone. I doubt if two senators of two different parties today could agree on the choice of a drinking establishment.
But a couple of things are happening that indicate just maybe those of us who still value reason and good government may have had enough. Maybe we’re so fed up we just won’t take it anymore. That’s probably an overstatement, given the size of the megaphone employed by the lunatic fringes, but still, watch the news closely and there are a couple of faint glimmers of hope.
First, Jon Stewart, the comedian who we all should take seriously, has a permit for a rally on the National Mall on Oct. 30. His “Rally to Restore Sanity” most certainly will be a parody of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally last month, which drew half a million or so. At its core the “Rally to Restore Sanity” is a gathering to protest the fringes and their my-way-or-the-highway messages.
Stewart’s Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert, who has made a career of lampooning Bill O’Reilly, the reigning blowhard-bully of the right, will hold a faux rally at the same time. Both rallies are sure to be entertainment at its best, and may even swing a few votes away from the tea party in the mid-term elections that follow the next week.
Of more significance is the travel schedule of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this fall. The mayor is the consummate do-what-works politician. He’s been a Republican and a Democrat and is now an independent. Ideology doesn’t matter to the mayor. Good governance does. Anyone who wants to appeal to people of reason would do well to have the mayor of New York on their side. Ideologues need not apply.
But Bloomberg might help you get elected if you happen to be a candidate for office who believes, say, homosexuality is not a curse from God. Or if you don’t think all Muslims are willing to strap on bombs and blow themselves to bits. But you must also believe radical Islam must be dealt with forcefully. He’s willing to help if you’re a candidate who believes two people of differing points of view can and should try to find common ground. And he might help if you aren’t overly fond of the tea party.
Note that political affiliation isn’t a factor. It’s all about people being reasonable.
He plans to campaign this fall for candidates as disparate as Republican Meg Whitman, the eBay founder who is running for governor of California, and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada who is facing a tough challenge from a tea partier. He also has endorsed Democrat John Hickenlooper in the Colorado gubernatorial race, citing his record of getting things done without blindly following an ideology.
So it could be that maybe, just maybe, those of us who like to think of ourselves as centrists will once again be heard. And maybe, just maybe, the fringe groups that today are so loud will fade into history, as fringe groups tend to do. For good reason.