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Getting lost in the middle

April 21, 2011

By Kayla Purvis

In a country where political views can harmonize on key or be in completely separate compositions, it is often tricky to determine where the middle is. In theory, the middle would be where we would find some Democrats who sometimes vote Republican, and some Republicans who sometimes vote Democrat. But as our system becomes increasingly more polarized, I’m wondering if we flat-out lost the middle.

It almost seems like the new middle is where you find a few older Democrats and Republicans, sitting there wondering what is going on as Congress struggles to get along. I feel those previously considered to be “normal” from each party now find themselves as the moderate ones in the middle as the parties polarize more and more.

On the right-hand side we have the Tea Party, which is by far the most extreme side of the Republican Party. I have not seen a comparable party emerge on the left. The Tea Party is tossing Republicans to the middle because of how heavily conservative it is.

For a while, I thought the Tea Party would be good for our system. I didn’t agree with them on a whole lot of things, but I liked that they were wedging themselves in and changing the 2010 midterm elections into a three-party race. It seems to me, however, that since they have gotten into office, they have gotten more extreme. They are trying to make big waves too quickly, and it isn’t helping them. It could be, on the other hand, that the Tea Party branch in Vermont is so toned-down from those nationally, that my impression of them is different.

Third-party candidates have never gotten a good handle on elections in the United States. That’s why the Tea Party’s win of as many seats as it got was impressive. And as the left and right continue to divide, I am wondering what will happen to voters. Will there be a third party? An independent party? A “we’re sick of both sides” party? Voting trends already show that voters are beginning to vote against candidates instead of for candidates.

I’m unimpressed by both parties. To be honest, if the Republicans can’t get their act together and find a strong candidate for 2012 that is relatively moderate, I’m not sure I’ll be voting for a Republican president. And while I don’t agree with some of Obama’s policies, he is trying to move to the middle and convince Congress to step up and compromise. If he truly becomes more moderate, and it’s not just an act for the sake of getting Congress to actually make progress, I may vote for him.

I guess I’m frustrated with Congress because it seems like nobody understands that you can cross the line dividing the sides and compromise with people. That trickles down to even the local levels. When I helped out with door knocking for Brian Dubie, I wished I had a dollar for every time someone said “Oh I’m a Democrat” and shut the door. It doesn’t matter your party, you should still listen to the other side. Some would call it knowing your opponent, and others would call it having options.

Are people going to be more interested in the candidates from the party they normally vote in? Yes. Does that mean we should completely disregard the other party? Absolutely not. Truthfully, both parties have good ideas and valid points. And in our current economic situation, Republicans and Democrats need to step up and listen to the other side so we can reach a consensus.

The middle has become a jumble of voters who are displeased with their own party, disowners of both parties, moderates, and independents. It’s where we find Libertarians and Populists. It’s people who don’t want to identify with either party, and I can’t blame them. The whole spectrum has changed. Average Democrats and Republicans are now categorized in the middle, while Liberals and Conservatives have varying degrees to each side.

I feel like we are losing the vision of this country as our party system clashes into itself repeatedly.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School.

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