With the recent passing of Senator John McCain, there are fewer moderate politicians today than there have been in recent memory. This trend away from the center is a worrisome sign for the future in politics.
As we have seen during the hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, party lines are as hardened as ever, and identity politics (a group of people sticking with their party exclusively) are still strong in every branch of the political system.
McCain, a Republican who famously voted against the repeal of Obamacare back in July 2017 along with Democrats and two moderate Republican women (more on them later), was one of the lonely few politicians willing to cross the aisle whenever he believed appropriate rather than sticking with his party.
As we get closer to the November midterm elections, there seems to be a wider divide between Republicans and Democrats ideologies than ever before. With the rise of hard line conservatism and the so called “alt right” and the growing popularity of “Democratic socialism,” there are fewer moderate candidates making it to general elections. This has led to more disagreements and tension between the two parties, and fewer compromises on issues across all areas of concern. As independent voters who are not aligned with any political party search for ideal candidates and politicians currently in office to support, there is often a sense of choosing the lesser of two evils due to the lack of centerism in today’s politics.
There are some politicians left who are still willing to work with members of the opposing party. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) are two current right leaning politicians who have shown moderate tendencies. Both have expressed support for abortion rights and have shown a willingness to work with Democrats on other issues. Collins and Murkowski also joined McCain in voting against repealing Obamacare. They have been under pressure from both sides of the aisle in regards to the Kavanaugh nomination, but are expected to support his nomination.
Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), who said that he should not be expected to vote solely with conservatives or liberals, won a stunning upset earlier this summer running as a Democrat in a state that is usually reliably Republican in a special election.
Looking forward to the upcoming midterm elections, a select few candidates who are running as independents seek to bring balance to the political spectrum. Politicians such as Senate candidate Craig O’Dear (I-MO) and Neal Simon (I-MD) are viewed as long shots to be elected to office, but have seen growing support, gathering thousands of signatures necessary to run as independent third party candidates. However, facing well sponsored, mainstream candidates from both the Republican and Democrat parties, it is unlikely that any independent candidate will gain a seat in the Senate.
One incumbent who has seen great success while running in my home state of Massachusetts is Gov. Charlie Baker. Baker is a moderate Republican who is anti-Trump, a believer in climate change, a supporter of gay marriage, and who sports an approval rating of over 70 percent, making him the most popular governor in the country. Baker is an example of how a moderate politician can be effective and vital to the success of the government.
Facing re-election this fall, Baker has continued to receive praise for his ability to be bipartisan while still incorporating his own views into action. Baker even teamed up with fellow moderate governor Phil Scott (R-VT) in writing a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry urging the Trump Administration to not leave the Paris Agreement on climate change. After Trump followed through on his promise to leave the group, Baker spoke out against the decision, giving him considerable national attention as a moderate conservative governor.
While someone as popular as Baker has shown the ability to succeed on a state level, it remains to be seen whether he would stand a chance running in a national race. Similarly, Scott has been able to strike a balance between being a social moderate and fiscal conservative while being elected in a progressive state. As he faces a battle with Democrat candidate Christine Hallquist for re-election, his stance on gun control and other right wing issues bears watching as the season moves forward. Scott interestingly has received more support from Democrats than Republicans, according to recent polls. It is important to continue to support moderate politicians.
Should Americans continue to vote for candidates who stray far from the political center and have little to no willingness to at least occasionally work across the aisle, we may face a situation in which the level of bitterness between the two major political parties reaches a point of no return.
Evidence has shown that our country is healthier when we have more people willing to put aside their differences and work together to get things done in our government. As the great President Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided cannot stand”. Without moderates, neither the house, nor the senate, would be able to stand. With an eye toward the upcoming November midterm elections, it is essential that we as a country put our country ahead of our party, and vote according to what we believe will best represent our values and get things done at the highest level of government.