A serious search for a viable political center

About two years ago, a group of 30 or so of us tried to put together a manifesto for what we thought would be a sensible start for a political party that would work for the betterment of society and protect the middle class. It’s a little long, but I hope you’ll read it.

There are times in history when groups established to further the aims of people either become unresponsive to those aims or inconsistent with the legitimate objectives they were conceived to pursue.

This has happened before, but few have become so distorted or misdirected as in the modern two-party system. We believe both the Democratic and Republican parties have been corrupted to the point where their only real value is to the large contributors who finance their operations and those who hold office under their banners.

We are convinced that while there are good people in both parties, the organizations themselves are corrupted beyond redemption and utterly unsuited to serving as vessels for change to benefit society at large.

It is because we as Americans are guided first and foremost by love of our country that we seek to find a middle ground where all men and women of good will can work for the common good.

We do this in the belief that in a successful political system, whether broken or healthy, no one is exempt from the effort to find common ground.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We recognize today, as Jefferson did in 1776, that men and women cannot choose to surrender these rights, and that as Benjamin Franklin said, people who would yield their freedom in hope of gaining security deserve neither. It is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens, but it must do so in a way that respects our rights as Americans.

We have no complaint with the American system. Our “experiment in Democracy” that began in 1776 is the wonder of the civilized world and an example to all mankind. It is only the ways in which our current political system perverts that experiment that we intend to change.

We know that the ability of government to solve problems is far from unlimited. We believe that while there are few problems for which government action should be the first option, there are equally few in which it should never be considered as an option of last resort.

First and foremost, America relies upon individuals and groups taking positive action. We admire those individuals whose priorities include personal sacrifice for the greater good, those who willingly share their bounty with the less fortunate and work to improve the lives of those people with whom they come into contact.

We believe that government must not stand in the way of an individual’s legitimate drive to succeed, that intelligence, determination, hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit are all positive qualities that should be encouraged. But we also believe that no one succeeds more nobly than when he or she improves the lives of others, particularly those who are less capable or less fortunate.

We recognize that most Americans are neither so rich that they never require assistance or so poor that assistance is always necessary. Most people consider themselves part of the middle class, needing help at times and giving help at others. There should be no actions taken by the government except in times of dire emergency that hurt the middle class to benefit others.

We encourage the behavior commonly known as the Golden Rule, stated in one form or another in almost every religion known to man, that actions toward others are best when they are those we would not object to others doing to us. Human improvement, love, respect for others and sharing other people’s suffering are qualities agreed upon by people of good faith everywhere.

We understand that religion is an important part of life for many Americans and we believe that government must never stand in the way of religious practice in appropriate situations. We are disappointed that government often becomes bogged down in attempts to prohibit relatively innocuous displays of faith that offend only the most fanatical and believe, for example, that Christmas displays not supported by public funds should be allowed. Yet we also understand that America is a nation of many different religions, and we respect whatever peaceful, life-affirming ways people choose to express their faith in God.

We believe America stands tallest in the world when it stands for American principles. Those principles include working peacefully with friends and allies, standing up for human rights and helping other nations improve the lives of their citizens.

We have no desire to impose our system on anyone, but we gladly encourage those who wish to emulate our freedoms.

We insist that our government perform its fundamental responsibility or defending our territory and borders from outside invasion, whether that invasion is for the purpose of damaging America or simply of entering the country illegally.

We believe that those people who come here from other countries seeking better lives must do so legally, but they should not be scapegoated for political reasons or used by unethical employers looking to keep the cost of doing business down.

We demand that our government make efficient, effective use of the money provided for national defense. We reject sweetheart deals and no-bid contracts and believe that the so-called “military-industrial complex” is often a counterproductive force in the critical task of national defense.

Public service is an honor, and a career in public service should never be undertaken as a means for enriching oneself. While we do not expect political figures and government employees to take a vow of poverty, we recognize that corruption has added dollars to the national debt and subtracted from the public’s trust of the people who serve it.

We recognize that all Americans have rights stemming from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and we believe those rights should include basic health care, basic sustenance, basic shelter and the opportunity to get a free education that will help them compete in the modern world.

We hold no brief for those who have the ability to provide for their own needs yet choose not to do so, but there are too many times in recent memory that innocent children have paid for the shortcomings of their parents. That any children should go hungry, become ill or die because of lack of wealth is an abomination in a wealthy society.

We recognize that the problem of providing health care is a difficult one, and we believe that a society that spends one of every seven dollars on health care is dysfunctional in that area. This is a problem that must be addressed by people of good faith. As an intermediate step, however, we insist that no child be denied the right to basic preventative or remedial care, and that vaccinations and other such care be readily available to all Americans.

We know that our educational system has become dysfunctional and that too much money is being spent for purposes that are not productive. As parents and as community members, we demand that a way be found to better educate our children.

We believe that a system based on test scores only encourages “teaching the test” at the expense of other subjects and a system that discourages the natural desire of a child to learn is a complete and total failure.

We believe that bad teachers should be encouraged either to improve or leave and that good teachers, teachers who make children love learning, must be rewarded.

We accept that learning is a lifelong progress and we expect that our culture will encourage rather than ridicule that process. Although we respect the profit motive in entertainment and understand the goal of reaching the most people possible, we do not approve of a culture that exacerbates the problems of society and plays to our worst instincts as human beings.

We recognize that race should play no role as a determining factor in modern life, and that far too often, programs intended to encourage the integration of racial or ethnic groups into the mainstream have served exactly the opposite purpose. We encourage the efforts of immigrants to become part of the mainstream of American life.

We demand an end to discrimination, but believe that set-asides and most affirmative action programs no longer work. If such programs are to continue, they should be based economically rather than racially or ethnically.

Even those who argue for a limited system of government agree that the infrastructure is the responsibility of the government, and that one of the greatest domestic successes of the last half-century was the building of the Interstate Highway System. We have been living off money spent on our infrastructure in previous generations, and roads, bridges and tunnels from Maine to California are crumbling. We support a reasonable public works program to rebuild America for the needs of the 21st century.

We support a healthy respect for responsible, peer-reviewed science and are critical of those who attempt to twist facts to suit their political agenda. While there are certainly issues on which people of intelligence can disagree, not everything in this world is a matter of opinion. We support sound environmentalism and reject extremism on both sides.

We understand that both within our country and our world, there are a plethora of troubling issues on which Americans have not been able to compromise. Many o those are so-called “moral issues, and rather than take a stand on issues that really no have more than one side, we ask only that people come to their conclusions for reasons that exalt our common humanity rather than abase it.

We reject the politics of fear and hatred.

More than a thousand years before the United States of America was founded, a great philosopher was asked if there was one word that could serve as a principle for life. Confucius replied that the word was “reciprocity.”

“Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.”

We accept this as a guiding principle for our efforts, and it is in that spirit that we establish the Western Independent Party.