Really, we didn’t need to be convinced.
The past month showed us a colossal failure of Congress, a historic level of ineptitude. The federal government shut down for 16 days and came to the brink of reaching the debt ceiling, possibly leading to default on our nation’s debt and worldwide economic turmoil.
But it wasn’t all that surprising. We already knew our Congress was dysfunctional. This latest calamity was simply an exclamation point. Congress had proved its shortcomings to us over and over again the last several years by refusing to compromise, refusing to pass budgets, and refusing to authorize many bills of consequence at all.
No, it’s not surprising, not at all. We’re not shocked by the results because those in Washington are doing exactly what we told them to do.
The political middle has become a wasteland. Its inhabitants, once the key voters who made the system work, have been banished.
Sometimes that has been because they were actually voted out of office in primaries by candidates from the fringes who pledged to stay absolutely true to their party values. In other cases, those moderates are still in office, but have fled to the safety of the fringe for fear of being ousted in a primary themselves.
Moderates don’t traditionally drive the primary process in either party. By their very nature, those who seek the middle are more prone to compromise. The true believers need their candidates to be pure, and those types dominate the primaries.
Some say gerrymandering has created the morass we find ourselves in. They say candidates in safe districts have no need to fear a loss in a general election, they just need to cling to their political base enough to ensure they don’t get ousted before the general election.
But really, it comes down to the voters. If moderate voters turned out in numbers in primary elections, those contests would no longer be a race to the edge. The majority lies in the middle, whether it be center-left or center-right. However, the middle often is a silent majority when the actual candidates are chosen.
So come Election Day, moderate voters trudge to the polls and often hold their noses as they vote for the candidate from their party. True independents may vote for the lesser of two evils. But those in the middle do have power if they can turn out en masse for primary elections.
Time will tell if the continually disappointing Congress will finally fire up the apathetic middle. Primary season will be telling. It’s easy to throw your hands up and say, I’m done with the lot of them. But the easy thing isn’t always the right thing.