Wednesday letters: Electorate has become polarized

June 19, 2013 

Don Fowler’s June 14 letter, “Political parties don’t cause our problems; they reflect them,” might be comforting, but I’m not certain his logic is any longer valid.

I’ve recently rediscovered a quote from Barry Goldwater that, in the harsh light of hindsight, I believe is worth a rerun. He was a lion of the GOP and had it not been for Lyndon Johnson’s outrageous “Daisy” campaign ad finding traction, might have been our 36th president. Despite that bitter defeat, he returned to the U.S. Senate in1969 as a voice of unvarnished candor and common sense.

As the religious right emerged in the early ‘90s, Goldwater, a lifelong Episcopalian, cautioned: “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the (Republican) party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians think they’re acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

We’ve since seen Falwell, Robertson, Limbaugh, et al. successfully reinvent conservative politics, radicalize their liberal opposition and laugh all the way to the bank.

Now look at us. Our electorate has become so rigidly polarized that anything better than a liberal looney or right-wing nut case can’t get beyond a primary. And any attempt at bipartisanship is regarded as an act of heresy. I’m convinced that our democracy is being driven off the cliff by extremists of both stripes.

So I would ask Mr. Fowler, where else could Drs. Oscar Lovelace and Jim Rex go? Their initiative may, indeed, be naive; but it’s pretty clear to me that the inmates are in firm control of the asylum.

George Martin

Chapin

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