Stuck in the middle with me

Owl sitting on a fence

Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right
Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you

“Stuck In The Middle With You” by Gerry Rafferty & Joe Egan, performed by Stealers Wheel

I’m a centrist. A fence-sitter. A negotiator and a compromiser. Under “moderate” in the dictionary there’s a nicely-etched portrait of yours truly.

Nobody likes centrists. People on the right and left think we just can’t make up our minds about anything. We fear commitment. We’re hedging our bets. Our laissez-faire attitude infuriates true believers, who are convinced we don’t believe in anything.

I understand why they’re frustrated with us. Even moderates don’t like having political discussions with other moderates. I mean, what’s the point? It’s almost certain we’ll end up agreeing with each other, and where’s the fun in that?

These have been bad years for us fence-sitters, though. While the hyper-partisans throw grenades at each other (figuratively, not literally – at least not yet), we stand firmly in the middle wondering why we can’t all just get along.

The Republicans gradual descent into Trumpism has forced most of us in the center toward the left, however. Even center-right conservatives have teamed up with strange Democratic bedfellows to work together to get The Donald out of the White House.

If you doubt my independence and centrism, I present my voting history for president, purely in the interest of transparency (boldface indicates winning candidates):

  • 1984 – Walter Mondale (D)
  • 1988 – Mike Dukakis (D)
  • 1992 – Ross Perot (Independent) *
  • 1996 – Harry Browne (Libertarian) *
  • 2000 – George W. Bush (R)
  • 2004 – John Kerry (D)
  • 2008 – Barack Obama (D)
  • 2012 – Barack Obama (D)
  • 2016 – Hillary Clinton (D)

* the nineties were weird, man

(To add one more layer of evidence, if I could’ve voted in 1980 – I was two months short of 18 – I’d have voted for John Anderson, another third-party independent candidate. He, like Perot and Browne, finished third. Apparently 1980 was weird, too.)

So I’m three for nine so far, a .333 average. Good in baseball, less good in presidential politics. Admittedly, I’ve voted mostly for Democrats; if I fell off the fence I’d certainly land on the left side of it. But there’s an independent (two if you count my phantom vote for Anderson) and a Libertarian mixed in there. And, of course, my proud vote for Bush 43 in 2000. All I can say is it seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m blaming Y2K, actually.

You may note that I did not vote for Bill Clinton either time he ran, nor his vice-president, Al Gore, when he tried to succeed Slick Willy. That nickname suited Clinton perfectly because I always had the impression he was running some sort of scheme, which turned out to be mostly right. I didn’t like him then and nothing he’s done in the intervening years has made me like him any better. I do regret judging Gore for his eight-year association with Clinton, though; looking back he’d certainly have been a better president than W., not to mention having fewer war-hungry neocons running around the West Wing.

I prefer to think of Obama as the first president that I really wanted to win who actually did – twice. I did vote for Hillary Clinton, though I didn’t like her much more than her husband, really. Again, in retrospect, I’m sorry I wasn’t more enthusiastic about her. In my defense, anyone who had followed Donald Trump’s tabloid and reality television nonsense for decades couldn’t have expected much from him as president, but anyone who says now they knew exactly how catastrophically awful his administration would be is guilty of some big-time 20/20 hindsight.

Maybe it’s the result of being raised by politically different parents: my dad was a fairly moderate Republican (who did occasionally vote for a Democrat now and then) and my mom was a much less moderate Democrat (due to my grandfather’s long-time membership in the UAW) who mostly voted a straight Democratic ticket.

I’ve never voted a straight ticket before. I believe in voting for the best qualified and most reasonable person available, regardless of party. Maybe I hope they’ll come sit on the fence with me. This year is going to be different. I know not every Republican is a Trumpist, and in my county it’s tough to win elections in most places if you don’t have an (R) after your name. But Trump has sullied the Republican brand so much for me that I don’t have a choice. This year I have to climb off the fence.

Hopefully, my presidential batting average will improve to .400 when the results are in.