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The politics of finding middle ground

During this past political campaign there was a lot hysteria going around about “Democratic Socialists” and “Right-wing Extremism,” as if both the extremes of the right and the left were becoming a huge threat to the Nation. In my view, such fears, though real, should not be overblown.

The truth of our politics is that those legislators who are in “marginal” or “swing” districts, will continue to be the prime movers in how the country moves politically, and they are in the middle.

Take for example, the current House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in the House now have a slimmer majority than before the election. This means that they will have a more difficult time passing tough or controversial legislation. There will be no big liberal shift as some have feared. The House will not be following a course of Democratic Socialism.

In the same manner, in the U.S. Senate the numbers are tightening as to which party will control that branch of the congress. There is an outside chance (though, in my view, unlikely) that the Democrats will elect two Senators in Georgia. But, even if Georgia elects two Republicans, the Senate will only have a slim Republican majority. In either case, the U.S. Senate is not going to be passing wildly liberal or conservative legislation. Hopefully, they won’t just be a blocking force opposing everything.

What I am hoping is that the new Congress of the United States can begin to get back to what Senator John McCain often talked about–regular order. Instead of government by continuing resolution and temporary timeline extensions to avoid shutdown, the Congress should return to budget making through committee processes where spending and revenue priorities can be made through reasoned debate. That is what is meant by governing through the “politics of the middle.”

This won’t, of course, appeal to those who want to continue the culture wars. But, it is the way that the framers of the Constitution expected government to be run. It is also the way that we can return civility and mutual trust to our political institutions.

We are all creatures of our experience, and I am no exception. When I was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1974, the Democrats took control of that house of the legislature for the first time in decades. Some expected big spending and liberal programs would start passing the Assembly. It didn’t happen. The state was in a financial crisis and balance of power was with a group of upstate Democrats who were centrist in their political views.

In like manner, when elected to the County legislature in 1971, I became part of a first-time-ever Democratic majority in Mayville. Some thought the world would come to an end. Yet, the Democrats governed from the middle. Yes, changes were made like moving ahead on sewers, filling the empty Art Metal plant (Cummins,) and proposing a county charter. But, the horror of “big-spending” Democrats bankrupting Mayville never happened.

And, so it goes. Both parties, Republican and Democrat, can only successfully govern when they govern from the middle. That is the American story and that is the way it continues to be.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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