There is battle raging this election season for the soul of America. Sure, every election cycle is a scuffle, and granted every time some politician makes the claim that without their victory all will be lost.
But consider that for the first time in American politics there is a true conservative movement attempting to win the hearts of the populace – something truly unheard of on a national scale.
For decades, Europe has seen the rise of far right political groups – the Nazis of German (one of the furthest right), the Conservatives of Britain, and the Union for French Democracy in France, to name a few. However, these and other European countries have far left movements that help to balance the political scale, many of which are self-proclaimed socialists.
America has rarely seen fringe groups influence politics, until now, with the rise of the Tea Party, a movement committed to bringing America back to its “conservative roots.”
Republicans have always enjoyed the title of conservative, most wholly embracing it; but, few have ever held fast to the true definition of the word, and have thus suffered from the reallocation of support from incumbent republican centrists to those republicans that idealize the Tea Party’s take on conservative values.
Yet on the other side of the spectrum, the Democrats have always feared to embrace their titles, and have never ventured so far to the left to fraternize with fringe left groups. In fact, to label oneself a liberal or progressive was only done in the confidence of diehard supports. And if the other side of the aisle used these titles in attack, democrats would vehemently defend against such labels claiming moderate values over leftist any day of the week.
However, history has shown some congressional hopefuls and current incumbents who embrace their liberal ideals with pride. Russ Feingold is one such character.
In the race for senate in Wisconsin two candidates present a focused lens into the greater climate of the 2010 elections. Ron Jonson, a self-made business man from Oshkosh and the republican candidate for senate who is backed by the Tea Party, is attempting to make Wisconsinites believe that his far right views are what the people have always wanted.
And Russ Feingold, the three-term incumbent, is fighting tooth and nail to show that it is his self-proclaimed progressive approach to legislation that has made Wisconsin – the founding place of progressivism – a voice of reason in congress.
Yet, where is the far left? Where are the book reading, college educated, multi-racial progressives? Do they not see the gun-toting, primarily white, middle aged male tea party is attempting to speak as a majority, even though a CNN opinion poll found that only 10% of the population identify themselves as Tea Party supporters?
The point is, the Tea Party enjoys throwing around the idea that they are returning the US political system to what it was in the 1800s: small, agrarian, and isolationist. What they are overlooking is that their heavy involvement in this year’s elections is creating a system that looks more and more similar to that of Europe than any healthcare legislation could possibly achieve.
They are creating a new far right that will inevitably be counteracted by a new far left. A left that prior to the current political climate has slumbered since the days of FDR and barely made an appearance for the 2008 elections.
The majority of Americans identify as moderates or independents that see little truth in either extreme. With the evolution of the far gamut’s participation, it could be speculated that these newcomers to the system will pull political happenings further and further away from the center, alienating more members of the public than the current two-party system, slowing the legislative process further and deepening the rift between the people and their government.
Will voting for Russ or Ron be the deciding factor? I doubt it, but these election results will most likely reflect the results of elections nationwide, and show us what path the US will choose to walk -that which curves far right and leads us down a road we have never traveled, or one that wanders left but back to center and attempts to heal the wounds that 10 years of poor policy have inflicted.
You get to decide.
by Wade Balkonis