Sunday, March 19, 2006

Rantings of a Radical Centrist

As we open this new adventure, I thought it best to post what are my political leanings so there is no confusion about where I stand on things and the filter through which posts here will be colored.

I had been reading and posting on a 26th District Democrats Internet news group. While trying to pass along the Kitsap County business community’s feelings on issues, I’ve been pointedly asked why I bother, since to some other members, I don’t sound like much of a Democrat.

So here’s where I stand — you, the reader, can decide what that makes me.

While writing my Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal column, The Last Word, since 1988, liberals and conservatives alike regularly accuse me of blatant partisanship — sometimes over the same issue. Growing up in the deep south, I view myself as what’s referred to there as a “Dixiecrat” — socially moderate, fiscally conservative. However, over the years, I’ve become what I term a “Radical Centrist” — an independent thinker — and voter. Both parties disdain people like me because we consistently challenge the status quo.

I proudly registered as a Democrat on my 18th birthday. I’ve marched for peace, championed integration, and believe in diversity. But after 35 years, I’ve also come to question much of what’s evolved as gospel according to the Democrats.

The Party appears to me to have moved so far left it’s no longer the one I joined, but one supporting an ever-expanding and more intrusive government, that steadily regulates away many of our freedoms. The party that once stood for independent thinking and hard work has morphed into one promoting and protecting every minority (not necessarily racial) while heavily regulating the lives of the everyday folks doing the actual work of making America operate on a daily basis.

Unions, a core Democratic constituency (I began my journalistic career as a mouthpiece for union labor), have only one growing segment — government employees. Over the past three decades, the part of unionized America actually making and building things has steadily declined into near irrelevance.

Of course, it requires more and more unionized government employees — paid by our ever-escalating taxes — to write those continually increasing regulations, and even more to enforce them. This is all in the name of “protecting” us — in many cases, from ourselves. Do we actually need laws forcing us to use seat belts, or put helmets on our kids when they ride a bike? What ever happened to common sense and personal accountability anyway?

Just how intrusive has government regulation become under the Democrats? A proposal in Kitsap County once called for a $1,000 fine for urinating in your own yard. Is this a rampant problem? How would you prove it in court? How much did it cost taxpayers for lawyers in the prosecutor’s office to research and write this supposed “protection” anyway? Aren’t the cops busy enough dealing with real crime, including meth and other drugs, to worry about who takes a whiz in their back yard?

The Republican brand of gospel is quite different — not better, just different.

Republicans are seemingly obsessed with what goes on in our bodies and bedrooms. They’re evidently on a mission from God to closely monitor, regulate and/or prevent personal physical pleasure. Frankly, what we do in private is none of their damn business!

The government has no business dictating what a woman can or can’t do with her own body. Rowe v. Wade is the law of the land, is widely supported, and been upheld in court numerous times. The Republicans, seemingly would rather win this philosophical argument than an actual election. They need to just get over it and move on.

Gay adults have the right to have sex with other consenting gay adults. Republicans should stop obsessing over whatever perversions they imagine gays, who clearly make them uncomfortable, engage in, and accept them as human beings — just as they do unborn children.

I believe we have to provide for those in our society that can’t provide for themselves — but have no responsibility to those who won’t work.

I’m fiscally conservative, but strongly believe financial responsibility by the government and free-market capitalism aren’t mutually exclusive. Higher taxes and bigger government aren’t the answer, but part of the problem. I see the government having a responsibility to provide a positive, common sense regulatory environment where business can grow, so it can create jobs, which generate paychecks, that when spent, generate the tax revenue local governments run on — not over-regulate it to the point outsourcing those jobs overseas becomes almost mandatory for the business to survive. All that does is create more competition for the fewer jobs left here at home.

Coming from South Florida, I have many reasons to strongly believe in growth management, but see Washington’s GMA as written and interpreted to be a colossal failure. There needs to be more local control. People who don’t live here shouldn’t make our growth decisions based on a formula that works only questionably well in Seattle or Bellevue. I also feel people making those decisions should be directly accountable to the folks their decisions impact — not the Governor.

We need an educated balance between the environment and private property rights — and have a responsibility to protect both equally.

The “Blame America First” crowd annoys me. I believe big parts of the Patriot Act are wrong. I’m sick of partisan politics that demands blind loyalty to ideology, and makes campaign money more important than keeping America safe and strong.

I’m as tired of whining Democrats and their pathetic economic “class warfare,” as I am of elitist Republicans who just don’t “get it” that a growing, prosperous, and diverse middle class — not the corporate bottom line — is America’s true strength. What I call the "Walmartization of America" will be our economic downfall — not tax cuts for the so-called “rich.”

I’m a news junkie and in my work get to travel this country extensively. What I see, hear and read, tells me people in places besides the decidedly ultra-liberal Pacific Northwest hunger for political leaders at all levels of government that are true “Centrists.” They want smart, honest men and woman of character — not ideologues — but pragmatists strong enough to defy their party leadership when necessary — to do what’s right for their constituents.

These days, I feel like a man without a political “home.” I’ve never left the Democratic Party — but often wonder if it hasn't left me. There isn’t a way — especially at the local level — for Republicans to shoot themselves in the foot they haven’t thought of, but I do have extreme confidence in their ability to invent new ones.

Because party leadership is so ideologically entrenched at opposite ends of the political spectrum, they forget all of us here in the center. I’m left to wonder, if views like mine are truly welcome in either party.

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