I am an independent voter, a "mugwump," if you will. Now, there are good Democrats and good Republicans, but some who go too far to the right or too far to the left drive me nuts. Politics is getting to be like some far-out cult, and it doesn’t do our country any good at all.
Now, let me explain what a "mugwump" is. Mugwump is a name that was given to Republicans who left their party in 1884 to go with Democrat Grover Cleveland for president, but over the years it has become a description of a person who isn’t beholden to any party. I wish there were more mugwumps in America, and in Vermont. I think I am one.
I don’t mean to take myself too seriously, but I think the style of politics being practiced now is ruining this country. The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street folks, in my mind, both have very valid points. One says there is too much government in our lives; the other says corporate America is too greedy. Now, I ask you: Who can’t agree with both of these views?
The problem isn’t the message; it’s the delivery. We don’t have to hate to disagree. We have to learn how to put country first, and party last. When any candidate, Democrat or Republican, gets elected, they really ought to evolve a kind of party amnesia -- putting party behind them and thinking of what we need now, not about the next election. They need to start thinking about what’s important for all of their constituents, not just their supporters.
I feel that if independent-thinking Americans don’t start to condemn this nasty form of politics we have today soon, our country may lose its soul.
Let’s use this year’s presidential election as an example. The Democratic candidate is Barack Obama. His Republican opponent will be Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. All I’ve gotten out of these two candidates lately is negativism. They seem to be throwing verbal rocks at each other instead of telling the voters what they would do in the next four years for America.
What is it that either candidate has said to us about strengthening our economy, lowering energy costs, seriously dealing with the high cost of education, and the alarmingly high cost of health care? Neither one, in my mind, has convinced me that he should be our next president. Yet that’s all we have to choose from, folks.
Some will say that this year is no different from other years, where much worse behavior has occurred, but that’s no defense for the absence of inspiration or the display of wisdom. I know history has embellished the memories of past presidents and made them look larger than life. Maybe they were just a better caliber of American, more able to put country ahead of themselves and their parties.
But I’m looking at the next 12 weeks for a miracle. If I were able to make it happen, I would have both candidates lay down their weapons, pull their claws in, and speak to us directly, honestly and candidly about where we are and where we should go as a country.
What can we do to change the negative atmosphere in our politics? We can condemn what we don’t like to hear. Let the candidates know that we are tired of everybody running each other down. President Obama has done some good things in his time in the White House. This could be acknowledged by his opponent. Governor Romney could tell us what he would have done differently, and how he would handle problems in the future.
We can all become better Americans if we try. What we need is leadership; let the presidential candidates show us the way.
Mike Bethel lives in Bennington.