quote of centrist Republican Susan Collins on why she decided to stay in the Senate

16 Oct 2017

Susan Collins Holding the Line in Senate for Centrists While Trump Failures Help Undercut Two-Party System

The last decade has been a disaster for centrists and moderates. For every Angus King, Susan Collins and Joe Manchin, there has been a dozen Bernie Sanders’ and Ted Cruz’. As the two major parties have abandoned us, the political center in the U.S. has been in disarray, having to start from scratch, without an organizational infrastructure like we used to have when we were still welcome in their tents.

While there are miles of electoral hurdles the two major parties have put up to make it harder for independents (centrist or otherwise) to participate equally in our increasingly undemocratic democratic republic, by far the biggest thing holding us back is the massive organizational gap between us and the major parties, and the way to solve it is to follow the example of people like Senator Collins.

The moderates remaining in the two major parties are under significant and growing pressure from not only opponents from other parties, but more ideologically extreme members of their own. Unlike those ideological tribes, centrists and moderates don’t have organized networks of funders, pundits who get the same talking points memos and special interest groups throwing mountains of money toward lauding the efforts of those that vote the way they want them to.

Congress can be a lonely place for centrists and moderates, observed Greg Giroux in a post on over at Bloomberg Government on Thursday. He might as well have been talking about Collins, but he was reviewing a newly published book by former centrist Democrat Jason Almire’s new book, ‘Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do About It’.

Giroux quotes Altmire:

“The lack of an activist political center moves Congress further to the extremes and makes members reluctant to do anything that might irritate their base voters back home,” Altmire wrote in “Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do About It.”

“Moderation is discouraged and compromise is punished,” wrote Altmire, who courted retribution by voting against the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which was unpopular in his district.

“You are pressured by party leaders to take votes you know are not representative of the district you were elected to serve,” he wrote.

Collins’ and Altmire’s experience (his lost his seat the year after his district was gerrymandered) are two perfect illustrations – of a great many over the last decade – of why those who say we can effectively fight the two major parties without a the same sort of national organized infrastructure that the left and right have built over the last two generations – including a national centrist party – are living in a fantasy land. The fiction that we can compete with the two major parties while wilfully kneecapping ourselves by choosing to put ourselves at a massive organizational disadvantage is based in a fundamental misunderstanding that underlies so many of the misconceptions that an unfortunately large number of independents believe.

Here’s where Susan Collins stood at the end of 2016 on the spectrum of the US Senate:

Map of where centrist Republican Susan Collins stands on the ideological map of the US Senate
Centrist Republican Susan Collins’ last GovTrack rating

Here’s where Jason Altmire stood on the spectrum of the House in 2012:

Political spectrum map showing where centrist Democrat Jason Altmire stood.
Centrist Democrat Jason Altmire’s last GovTrack plotting for the House in 2012

Centrists – We Need to Stop Kneecapping Ourselves Electorally

I see this misconception so often that I’ve even named it. I call it the ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality, and it’s one of the biggest problems holding centrists and moderates back from being able to compete with the two major parties.

The major parties have thrown up all sort of hurdles in our way, but we kneecap ourselves so much with mistakes like this that we’d still lose the vast majority of races even if the electoral system was some fictional perfection. Elections aren’t won merely when the right candidate runs, but rather than a candidate that people want to vote for runs a great campaign, raises enough money to do it, promotes themselves strategically, recruits and mobilizes armies of volunteers, allocated resources strategically and has staff that knows how to execute campaign strategies effectively.

The reality is that we need to have an infrastructure just like the left and right do if we are ever to be fairly represented in Washington. That means a national network of hundreds of political organizations of every sort that the left and right have, all working under and around the tent of a national centrist party, so all of what I listed two sentences up can be put together and we can compete on more of a level playing field with the left and right.

Luckily, the two major parties are all but throwing people at us – even mainstream liberals and conservatives  that used to form the core of the Democratic and Republican parties are starting to peel off and leave their parties, although often not for the same reasons that centrists and moderates have been going independent.

 

Silver Lining of Trump for Centrist Party Groups & Orgs

“The lack of an activist political center moves Congress further to the extremes and makes members reluctant to do anything that might irritate their base voters back home,” Altmire wrote in “Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do About It.”

“Moderation is discouraged and compromise is punished,” wrote Altmire, who courted retribution by voting against the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which was unpopular in his district.

“You are pressured by party leaders to take votes you know are not representative of the district you were elected to serve,” he wrote.

Collins’ and Altmire’s experience (his lost the year after his district was gerrymandered) are two perfect illustrations – of a great many over the last decade – of why those who say we can effectively fight the two major parties without organized network of organizations and a national centrist party of our own are living in a fantasy land.

The fantasy that we can compete with the two major parties without a party of our own is based in a fundamental misunderstanding of how politics works – even when working as it should, and less corrupt than now – that an unfortunately large number of independents believe.

 

Centrists – We Need to Stop Kneecapping Ourselves Electorally

I see this misconception so often that I’ve even named it. I call it the ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality, and it’s one of the biggest problems holding centrists and moderates back from being able to compete with the two major parties. The corrupt major parties have thrown up all sort of hurdle in our way, but we kneecap ourselves so much with mistakes like this that we’d still lose the vast majority of races even if the electoral system was some fictional perfection.

The reality is that we need to have an infrastructure just like the left and right do if we are ever to be fairly represented in Washington. That means a national network of hundreds of political organizations of every sort that the left and right have, all working under and around the tent of a national centrist party.

Luckily, the two major parties are all but throwing people at us – even mainstream liberals and conservatives  that used to form the core of the Democratic and Republican parties are starting to peel off and leave their parties, although often not for the same reasons that centrists and moderates have been going independent.

A friend of Uniters hit the nail on the head on Twitter, pointing out what might be the only upside to this rolling disaster coaster of a presidency:

I agreed, but in the long term the upside is that these new lows have caused a spike in interest among new centrist party groups:

This is especially true on the right, where the GOP has been pushing centrists and moderates out longer, and moved farther from center than the Dems have yet (as much as they do seem to be working hard to catch up at times).

 

What Centrists Need to Start Doing

For centrists and moderates to see a need to follow the example Susan Collins set when she decided to stay in the US Senate. When she announced her intention to stay where she was, instead of a rumored run for Governor in Maine, here’s what she had to say:

“I realized how much remains to be done in a divided and troubled Washington if we are to serve the people of our states. I have demonstrated the ability to work across the aisle, to build coalitions, and to listen to the people of my state and my country.”

Having to work in that sort of environment isn’t easy, and it’s understandable if Collin’s had decided to retire, as so many other centrists and moderates have over the last generation. But she decided to stay and keep fighting – exactly what we need more centrists and moderates to do around the country right now.

That network of support exists on the left and right because their bases of support spent decades and millions upon millions of their hard earned dollars to build them to where they are now. If we’re ever going to get there, we need people like you to do the same, and put your personal time and money toward groups doing that good work, to start new local and state level groups and to back candidates like Collins.

The alternative is to continue to be second class citizens, and watch as the country continues to decline, while power swing back and forth between the increasingly corrupt, dysfunctional and ideologically disconnected left and right.

This is why the focus of Uniters.org is on ‘Do Your Part’ – we haven’t rolled that section of the site out yet, but you can find organizations to donate to on your own, local groups to volunteer for (or start a new group) and of course share content like this far and wide on social media.

So, hop on whatever social networks you use regularly, share this post, the image below and/or write a tweet of your own (make sure to tag Collins, so her/her staff is more likely to see it) to show Senator Collins that she has supporters around the country that appreciate the work she’s doing, and that you’ll centrist & moderate supporters around the country will do our part to back her up in the future.

 

quote of centrist Republican Susan Collins on why she decided to stay in the Senate

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