Bertha Cooper

Think About It: Being an annoying centrist

I received two responses (not published) through the Gazette to my recent column, “Is democracy worth saving?” (Oct. 6) that made the same point. They wrote in their different ways that I unfairly generalized my views by implying all Republicans shared the same intentions.

They were right and I appreciate the call out. I wrote about Republicans as a monolith of the same tribal thinking.

I was wrong. I should have avoided reference to Republicans as a whole and made it clear it was the Republican elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels who threaten democracy by promoting candidates and passing laws opposed to processes that allow and count every eligible vote. I have not changed my view.

I know and socialize with Republicans. I know some who stuck with their party through the Trump regime and some who left the party because of Trump. Sometimes we talk about it … most of the time, we don’t.

Each of the two helpful readers said they don’t always vote Republican. I haven’t always voted Democrat, nor do I support every Democrat proposal. Isn’t that true of most of us unless we are enmeshed in what is nowadays called “tribal” loyalty or “party above all?”

The views of these two readers made me want to delve more.

Tapestry of values

I will share what I admitted to them and others in the past. I am an annoying centrist, one that leans to the left because of my values for affordable and accessible education/vocational training and health care.

Centrists are annoying because we don’t always vote the party line.

Annoying, because we think ideas, proposals and candidates’ view over before making a decision.

Annoying, because we apply a value system we’ve held or developed through all our life experiences,

Annoying, because we understand that change is hard and real change takes work, especially in the beginning.

Centrists in both parties are indeed annoying to those on the so-called extremes of their party who want action on many issues now, an understandable impatience. An example is playing out now in the Democrat party wrestling over the reconciliation bill that includes among other things an extension of the child tax credit, pre-K programs and paid family leave. Democrat centrists in the House and the Senate dug in around cost and timing issues.

Remember the Tea Party wing of the Republican party was impatient and wielded a lot of power. They and the Republican majority almost dismantled the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) when John McCain cast the vote that defeated the plan. They were annoyed.

I believe there are millions of centrists in the primary political parties who weigh and balance candidates and issues against their own values than there are extremists in either party. That may be less true of the Republican party since many centrists left the party, but I don’t know.

Value systems are unique and complicated. Our life relationships, teaching and experiences form our unique value system. We cannot really know the values that drive certain points of view of another, although I think we should try to understand.

Sometimes, we don’t know our own well enough to articulate their importance to us. Sometimes it’s clear.

I attended the University of Washington in the 60s because at the time a public university education was affordable. I was able to work and earn enough money for tuition, books and other needs to earn my degree.

I want every young adult to have the same option I had to educate and train in the field they choose without becoming a lifelong debtor. Gratitude for opportunity is cemented in my value system.

I am saying I value choice, opportunity for young people to establish their work and service in a chosen field. I am also saying I want them to work for it and learn adult responsibility.

My guess is most of you agree with this centrist statement and are more annoyed by how long and complicated it will be to get there.

Change doesn’t change

I understand the impatience with centrists and their plodding detailed ways. The pace of change is slow and the process arduous, especially when fraught with political motives from the benign to the sinister. Nothing has seemed so perilous of late as the legislative processes at all levels.

Most of my professional work has involved change in the dynamic field of health care. What I learned is that no matter how receptive people are to the outcome, change works best if it is incremental and people are involved and feel in control of their own lives and work during the change. My guess is that immediate examples come to mind of national policy that disrupted, if not destroyed certain people’s livelihoods.

I’m not in or running for elected office. I’m a voter and can be annoying because I am not being lobbied or receiving money to influence policy. I am unencumbered by either party willing to shun me for a contrary party view. They could and individuals from both parties have.

As much as I wish I wasn’t shunned, I cannot stop listening and speaking. Better said, I can’t stop trying even if I make mistakes or even if I am shunned.

I can avoid unfair generalizations. I can admit those mistakes. I can encourage dialogue and opportunities to explain our ideas or points of view.

We can reach out for clarity as the two readers did. We can keep talking to each other. We can come together for the common good of the nation just like the people of the city of Sequim did in choosing those that lead with the common good of their city in mind.

Bertha Cooper, a featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation. Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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