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JP Grace: Centrists should unite; here's a call to arms

Aug. 12, 2013 @ 11:10 PM

Among remarks I've heard about this column, here are two I treasure. "What you write is sensible." The other one goes: "I see what you do -- you kick up dust."

I've also had someone come close to assaulting me physically over my -- in his view -- unkind characterization of the 2012 Republican Party nominating convention as majoring in distortions and outright lies.

Another person charged me with "spreading hatred in print" for my support of traditional marriage and my suggestion that gay rights proponents were indulging in harmful euphemisms by campaigning for "marriage equality" instead of calling squarely for "marriage redefinition."

I do plead "guilty" to the charge of "kicking up dust." I hope, however, that when I wade into controversy there is an intelligent, even necessary, point to be made, that I'm not doing it just to create a ruckus.

A propos of one reader's estimation of my columns as "sensible," it may shock you to hear that I've finally found an idea upon which former Alaska Gov. and one-time vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and I can agree: to engender a new political party.

Fortunately for my claim to "sensibleness," the party Sarah has in mind bears little resemblance to the one my side might launch. Sarah, Tea Party darling that she is, would likely want to lift all restrictions to gun ownership, send the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country packing and "get that dang fence built" across every inch of our southern border.

Climate change would officially be declared a hoax, all alternative energy projects would be halted, and we would proceed full speed ahead with as much offshore drilling and environmentally devastating pipelines as humanly possible. Obamacare would be declared a public danger and hospitals nationwide would be mandated to shut down all the "death panels" that, if truth be known, they currently hold on virtually a daily basis.

While Sarah's new party might be called "Patriots United," mine would go by the moniker "the Sensible Center." Ideology would be "out." No more calling something "left" or "right." Think things through, one issue at a time. Be pragmatic. Be research-based, wide open to discussion, listen to all ideas, work hard to achieve credible solutions.

The word "compromise" would NOT be anathema, but part and parcel of the party's process, honoring a long tradition in American political discourse back when rampant obstructionism was not the ace card of the rightwing.

Opening gambits?

All right. Forget all chatter about "downsizing government," "making government small," etc.

And all chatter too about upsizing government. It's not an across-the-board thing, people. Each governmental agency should be the size it needs to be to accomplish its mission. Period. In some cases that may mean an agency should get much smaller, or even be abolished. In other cases an agency may need to grow bigger to do the job it's been mandated.

Obamacare is the law of the land, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. It's in place and it's working. If something is out of kilter, tweak it. We don't need to backtrack on things such as allowing insurance companies to not cover pre-existing conditions. And we do need everybody in the insurance pool to make this reform work.

Immigration. Both parties need immigration reform. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had some good ideas initially, but caved to pressure from the Tea Party. Buck up, senator. You had it right the first time. And Democrats were listening.

Anyone out there get the picture by now of how the Sensible Center Party will operate? Terrific. Let's go for it.

John Patrick Grace is a book editor and publisher based in Huntington. He also teaches the Life Writing Class.

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