Mar 042010

Out on my daily dog walk, I watched my Yellow Lab, Mojo, trot along beside me. How happy and proud he looked, with his head held high and a wide smile on his face. I watched his strut and couldn’t help but notice his wagging tail. It occurred to me that life is good being a dog . . . but then I’m not a dog, and as I pondered my canine friend’s happy tail, I thought, how different it would be if his tail was wagging him. An odd notion, yet one that led me to think about America today, about how little power the people have anymore. We the People are a lot like a dog being wagged by its tail — actually by two tails.

There’s so much unrest in our Country today, so much arguing and posturing, and so little real conversation. I applauded President Obama’s effort last week to bring both sides to the table to discuss the stalemate that is healthcare reform. But as I watched, it soon became evident, that in spite of the President’s repeated attempts to bring the two sides together, the day would not focus on anything resembling resolution. No, the Blair House would simply be a new venue for the ongoing game of partisan tennis.

As with all issues outside of Congressional pay raises, retirement benefits and other insider perks, our elected officials took to the court like pros. With skill and finesse, they served and returned their talking points, zinging them over the net that divides the two sides. “Start over,” demands the right. “Take it as it is,” responds the left. “It will bankrupt America!” . . . “Americans will die!”

Reporters, pundits and commentators all joined the fray. “What’s the score,” they would ask. “Who’s winning?” Ah, that good old competitive American spirit. We love to take sides and root for our champions. And as the match took form, caught up in the action, I found myself starting to cheer for my team. But then it hit me like an Andy Roddick serve straight to the face — NOBODY WINS THIS GAME; no, this is a zero sum sport where the players walk away none the worse for the wear, but there are no winners, and the only losers are the America People.

I consider myself to be a moderate. I think we need healthcare for all Americans, but I’m keenly concerned that any reform must be fiscally sound. I believe that America needs a strong national defense, but I don’t think we need to be the world’s police. I trust in the free market to fuel the economic engines of our nation, but I don’t trust it to forego profit in deference to the public good. Am I unique in these respects?

My guess is that I’m not. I care about my family, my friends and my Country, just like all Americans. I want a healthy, strong and prosperous America, one that will serve not only us today but our children tomorrow. Maybe I’m off base, but I believe that most Americans are more like me than the deep partisan divide would suggest. I believe that the vast majority of Americans would like to see an end to broken government and a permanent offseason for the futile game of partisan tennis.

And, if I may keep my rose colored glasses on for just a bit longer: it doesn’t have to be this way. The interesting thing about tennis is that it can only be played by two sides. This is politics in America: it’s team tennis and you’re forced to choose one side or the other. They’ve split our fine nation, placing the dividing net smack dab in the middle of a people who have much more to gain by coming together than staying apart. Partisan bickering is the equivalent to a continuous backcourt volley that never allows those of us near the net to play in the game. It’s keep-away, American style.

Well, I’m one American who’s completely fed up with this self-serving nonsense! I believe the time has come to loosen the stranglehold of the extremes. If you accept that voter opinion in the United States follows anything resembling a normal distribution, and there’s no reason to believe that it doesn’t, then the vast majority of us are grouped around the middle. We are the backbone of America, and the two-party system, by design, cannot serve our needs; it is like two tails wagging the same dog.

We are that dog, and it’s time for us to bite. The extremes have us all on a tight leash, and if we want our freedom, we’re going to have to free ourselves of their control. It’s time to say NO to the left and HELL NO to the right. We need representation for the MIDDLE. We need a third party — an American Party.

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