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The Moderate Independent (MI): A rag-tag collection of lethargic naysayers with no passion for any issue; nontraditional ne’er-do-wells challenging the traditional political system; despised by Reds and Blues alike for unwavering indecision; the bane of today’s electoral process. I’ve heard all the stereo-typed descriptions on the major networks, from my friends, neighbors and even family. Yet I remain steadfast in my commitment to be noncommittal. I’m one of a growing number of non-card-carrying centrists who have absolutely no loyalty to either main stream political party. Hi, my name is Clarence and I’m a Moderate Independent.

Political Moderation: A Newfangled Concept in the New West

The Moderate Independent (MI): A rag-tag collection of lethargic naysayers with no passion for any issue; nontraditional ne’er-do-wells challenging the traditional political system; despised by Reds and Blues alike for unwavering indecision; the bane of today’s electoral process.

I’ve heard all the stereo-typed descriptions on the major networks, from my friends, neighbors and even family. Yet I remain steadfast in my commitment to be noncommittal. I’m one of a growing number of non-card-carrying centrists who have absolutely no loyalty to either main stream political party.

Hi, my name is Clarence and I’m a Moderate Independent.

This is a statement of political sacrilege coming from a man who was born and raised in Southeast Idaho, the geographic heart and soul of the Republican Party. But like millions of other voters, I’m sick and tired of drinking two party Kool-Aid and I’m not going to take it anymore.

I’m not trying to convert anyone, I promise. I’ve experienced enough proselytizing to last 10 lifetimes, of both the political and religious persuasion, to the point I once had a T-shirt made that read, “If you talk to me about politics or religion, I’ll strangle you with my bare hands.” Not surprisingly, very few people made eye contact with me when I did my grocery shopping. Hey, I was younger then.

It’s been my experience there are only two political views in SE Idaho or in most the rural Mountain West for that matter. The correct one or the one of the goddamned liberal; no gray area there. Pushing folks to think beyond black-and-white boundaries can result in long-lasting hard feelings and physical retribution, in my world anyway.

These days, when the subject of politics rears its ugly mug around the campfire or at my favorite watering hole, I usually keep my mouth shut. I was an expert at stopping fists with my face during my early years of adulthood, and at my current age, I’m getting more selective about the beatings I’m willing to take by daring to question the beliefs held by the regional political majority.

But every now and then I forget myself…

I was in a bar in Grace Idaho, not long ago enjoying some delicious Canadian craftsmanship with my core group of bow-hunting buddies and getting stoked for the morning hunt. As the night progressed, we found ourselves making new friends and getting the lowdown on where to hunt in the morning. We were having the time of our lives: swapping hunting tales, exchanging stalking techniques and generally delighting in hanging out with a group of like-minded folks.

And then the conversation turned.

A camouflage-clad kid from Utah started in on gay marriage and the entire bar erupted in drink-to-that’s and here-heres. I could have ignored the remarks, breathed deeply and simply floated downstream. But alas, no, I made a snide retaliatory remark and before I knew it, I was in the final scene from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” with every patron in the bar pointing a finger at me and shrieking at the top of their lungs-LIBERAL!

No gray area there – I gotta remember that.

MIs supposedly live in the middle of the political arena and don’t feel strongly about any issue, so why on earth would I feel the urge to get my ass kicked by 30 drunk bow hunters defending an ideal that essentially has no effect on my day-to-day life? As my buddies vehemently reminded on the way back to camp after being run out of the bar: I’m not gay, no one in my family is gay, I don’t even know anyone who’s gay. Why can’t I let things go and keep my big friggin’ mouth shut?

Because the truth is, Moderate Independents really aren’t in the middle of anything. They are identified as being in the middle because the two party system left them with nowhere else to go. For the record, MIs may not conveniently align with the clearly divided ideologies of the Republican or Democratic parties, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean they don’t feel strongly about a personalized set of rights and wrongs. It’s just that they’re expected to keep those feelings under control and verbalization to a minimum. They’re moderates for heaven’s sake; outbursts aren’t permitted. What would the neighbors think?

From my perspective, folks declare themselves MIs after becoming disillusioned with the Red and Blue parties’ failure to practice what they preach. Unfortunately, both parties have political tenure, so regardless how poorly they perform, the parties know the American public has no other viable choice and will vote one side or the other back in, every single election.

Although there are many websites claiming to represent Moderate Independents, there is no formal association with established political parties. It’s more of a movement than an organization–kind of like the Tea Party, but without the anger, misspelled protest signs and extremist spokespersons.

MIs generally vote for the candidate who offers the most believable rhetoric, and hopefully, causes the least amount of harm while in office. Party affiliation takes a back seat to picking the candidate they feel will address current issues employing the powers of logic and reason, as opposed to divine invocation. But not always: MIs are predictably unpredictable.

Granted, there are other choices besides the GOP and Dems in national elections.

The three minority parties–Constitution, Green and Libertarian–offer no realistic alternative to the majority parties. A vote cast for one of these candidates is one of conscience, and perhaps a noble act, but the odds of Ralph Nader or Bob Barr winning a presidential election are about the same as me beating up a bar full of pissed-off bow hunters in Grace, Idaho, because I don’t agree with their stance on gay marriage; it ain’t never gonna happen.

There are as many micro parties in the U.S. as there are extremists to start them. From America First to Working Families and the 24-plus others in between, they all have some self-serving interest in fixing the country. They span the ideological spectrum from paleoconservatism, economic nationalism and noninterventionism to progressivism, populism and social democracy. Honestly, I don’t even know what half of those 50-cent words even mean. I do see terms like reasonable and common sense are noticeably missing from these lofty philosophies.

Realistically, we only have two candidates to choose from in most elections and MIs may vote for either one. This means MIs can turn the tide for either candidate, which makes them a scary bunch to the status quo. Each time the Reds or the Blues make campaign promises they don’t keep, lock down legislative sessions through partisan bickering or stray from the party agenda, the number of MIs increase. You could say MIs are just plain fed-up non-cooperative politics.

MIs don’t fit the hard line left or right categories. They back values that are considered traditionally conservative, but they also support some that are traditionally liberal. As a whole, they believe in a strong national defense, improved public education, balancing environmental protection with economic growth, aligning responsible fiscal spending with common sense social programs, and pursuing realistic energy alternatives to imported fossil fuel.

In contrast, they have individual and differing opinions on emotional issues such as school prayer, abortion, gay marriage, gun rights and illegal immigration. Some lean right, some lean left, but two traits all MIs have in common: They don’t vote for a candidate based on party affiliation, nor do they vote for a candidate based on a single issue.

MIs like to prioritize; instead of listening to creeps like Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann stir the pot of dissent, they ignore extremist rhetoric and concentrate on what really matters in life. Family – friends – career – community. Turns out, the majority of Americans have the same priorities; they just need to tune out that annoying partisan static on the radio of life, take a deep breath and calm down.

Every political issue has two or more sides to it. MIs argue there is nothing truly black and white. If we apply our ability to think and reason to solve our nation’s problems instead of reacting emotionally to the plethora of highly complicated multi-faceted challenges all of us face in the near future, the country as a whole will benefit by making level-headed non-reactionary legislative decisions.

I realize that’s much easier said than done. But deep down we’re all Americans, we’re all in this mess together and, eventually, we’re all going to have to compromise, at least to some degree, and work together. That is, if we’re ever going to get out of the hole the Republicans and the Democrats have dug for us. Finger-pointing and name-calling haven’t fixed a thing so far.

From a personal standpoint, I’m getting my game face on. November is right around the corner and when I step in the voting booth, I need to do my part. I’ll be an informed voter who understands the issues in the local, state, and national arenas.

Most importantly, I’ll be listening to my internal voice of logic and reason to select the candidates who will do the least amount of harm, regardless of the color of their rhetoric, because for the time being, that’s all any Moderate Independent can do.

Clarence Worly blogs about life and other topics at Clarence Worly’s Southeast Idaho.

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4 comments

  1. This is easily your most thoughtful, best-written piece yet, Clarence. Best line: “I remain steadfast in my commitment to be noncommittal.” You go, girl! More! More!

  2. I consider myself to be a half assed libertarian. I believe in small government, but also believe that the government is the best provider of some services. I think abortion for convenience is abhorrent, but I support gay marriage. I support the right of people like the KKK so speak, or the Muslims to build a civic center at ground zero, but that doesn’t mean I like it, support it, or think it’s a good idea.

    My opinions are very strong, and my own. Most of the time I vote Republican, because I am definitely right of center, but they sure as hell don’t speak for me. Does that make me a moderate?

  3. Pat, “Although there are many websites claiming to represent Moderate Independents, there is no formal association with established political parties.” I guess you missed that line. If you’re referring to the Independent Party out of Utah, they are just another extremist micro group trying to fix the country with fire and brimstone. To be clear, MI’s have NO official representation.
    Justin, this article is no litmus test for being a moderate, but you do show symptoms of being afflicted with reason and common sense, two moderate traits.

  4. Very good column and nice comments. An outpouring of common sense!

    I believe ‘most everybody starts out as a moderate, and are pressured to choose up sides – as in the barroom scene in Grace. Sadly, a large percentage becomes disillusioned and cynical, and drops out. My daughter turned 18 last November; she’s totally uninvolved – doesn’t care. She dismisses the whole process by saying, “Why does it matter who I vote for? Nothing changes anyway.” The “idealism” of shrill rhetoric smashes into the bulldozer of reality and gridlock; maybe that’s not all bad in many cases.

    One other point, Clarence. My ancestors came from eastern Idaho (Bear Lake area). I’ve got old and dear friends from over that way; they grew up in staunch Democrat families. They didn’t leave the Democrat party; the Democrat party left them. Perhaps 60 or 70 years ago, both the Democrats and Republicans were more common-sense and moderate.