Middle of the road doesn’t mean the same thing politically as it did when Kennedy ran against Nixon. Instead of two lanes, there are at least six going each way. Instead of the slow rural traffic on two lanes of gravel, we have 70 mph traffic on pavement, dodging potholes and passing blindly. Being politically in the middle of the road is more like the old computer game – FROGGER. The question isn’t if you will get hit – the question is when you will get hit.
Time was when the ditches weren’t so far apart. And the ditches are where the political extremes hang out. Once there wasn’t so much distance between the liberal Republicans and the blue dog democrats. The problem is, the last blue dog democrat I met is Stephanie Herseth . . . and she lost the election and moved from Congress to University President. There are still blue dog Democrats . . . you just don’t find them on the ballot anymore. Stephanie went out of politics when both she and Kristi Noem campaigned against Nancy Pelosi. Apparently Kristi Noem was more convincing.
As we move into congressional and legislative districts that are out of balance, we move away from the two party system. As a state, Montana is Republican, with 31 of 50 in the state senate last time Republicans, and 67 of 100 representatives. And most of those Democrat senators and representatives represent districts where a Republican has two chances of winning an election – slim and none.
Other, more populous states send more Democrats to DC – their roadside ditches rule, and are generally further left than Montana. Jon Tester has a difficult balancing act – it is hard to represent the typical Montanan’s wishes while having Chuck Schumer as your leader. I recollect a few local partisans who were focused on single-issues instead of their party platforms.
Locally? The idea that someone who agrees with me 80 percent of the time is an ally makes sense to me. On the other hand, I’ve met folks on both the right and the left who figure that any disagreement at all is adequate justification to swerve their trucks toward my frog. And Frogger shows me that the middle of the road isn’t a safe spot. If the extreme ideologues just hung out in the roadside ditches, it would be – but it seems like they hang out in the ditches and take occasional drives to see if they can run over an infidel frog or two.
I suppose part of the problem is that we don’t agree on any common national enemy. Maybe we just couldn’t afford to win the Cold War.