Growing up in Knoxville, one of my favorite local attractions was the Knoxville Zoo, and for good reason. It’s easily one of the best in the southeast. I suppose there is some irony this particular zoo (at least, when I was a child) kept the elephants and the donkeys toward the front. Yet I was always more interested in the other animals; the red pandas, the African penguins, the cheetahs.
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised in the least that I turned out to be the most politically moderate member of my family. I was raised in a very conservative home; I actually listened to Rush Limbaugh as a 10-year-old. I still remember his rants when then-Governor Clinton was elected President. I didn’t know why, but I knew Rush didn’t like him, and Mom didn’t care very much for him, so I sure wasn’t going to think very highly of him!
Given my upbringing, it should be no surprise when I turned 18 in 2000, I proudly voted for George W. Bush, and every other Republican on the Rock Hill, South Carolina ballot. Was I naive? Maybe (Although in hindsight, today’s Steve may still have voted for Bush, given what I knew at the time). I again voted for Bush in 2004 (to be fair, I didn’t truly care for either candidate).
It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I realized I wasn’t doing my own thinking. I was doing my family’s thinking, and for the large part, my friends’ thinking. I fell into the trap of throwing my support behind a person to whom I didn’t give careful consideration.
Six years later, I consider myself a political moderate. And it didn’t take me long to realize that’s a very lonely position. Any political talk you have with a Republican or Democrat, no matter how civil it is, is usually pointless. Most people can’t understand that just because you support one Democratic idea, it doesn’t mean you support ALL Democratic ideas. I kid you not, one right-wing thinker once compared me to the church in Laodicea.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. -Revelation 3:15-16
The way this man saw it, since I wasn’t supporting either political party, I didn’t care about politics. In his eyes, moderate equaled “dispassionate”. I do have political ideas and positions. to him, they are nothing more than holy backwash.
Further complicating things is the fact that 2010 is an exceptionally difficult year for moderates. The talking heads on the 24/7 cable networks are nearly all so skewed to one side or the other, they are barely listenable. The political tone of the country has lent itself to some extreme right-wing candidates this year, but finding more centrist Democrats can still be a challenge as well. And both sides are labeling the other as out-of-touch, extreme and generally altogether a bad choice for America.
But the truth is you don’t have to blindly support Republicans or Democrats. Just because you consider yourself a Republican, it doesn’t mean you have to like that party’s stance on gay marriage. Just because you call yourself a Democrat, it doesn’t mean you have to support that party’s platform on illegal immigration. Each party has its own agenda; there’s no reason you should automatically subscribe to it!
I can count at least two issues where I take an extremely conservative position, and two issues where I take a very liberal stance. For the purpose of not stirring up a nest of hornets (and the purpose of keeping my job), I won’t identify what those issues are. But if you’re caught in the middle, if you’ve had enough of both parties, don’t worry. You’re only at the beginning of the political zoo. Because here, there are a lot more animals than just the elephants and the donkeys.