By Senator Jay Paul Gumm of Durant, Okla.
Hello again, everybody! While I enjoyed some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie career, I don’t much care for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political career.
His California policies really are not in step with the concerns we have here in Oklahoma. He often has been a fiercely partisan member of his political party while describing his own politics as “post-partisan.”
Even so, this last week Governor Schwarzenegger gave a speech that got my attention, not only for what he said but where he said it. In a speech given to the California Republican Convention, he sent a message both parties should hear. “Our party,” he said, “has lost the middle and we will not regain true political power until we get it back.”
With that one sentence, the governor described one of the biggest problems with politics today. We see it in every level of politics, even in the presidential race. In the races for both the Democratic and Republican nominations, candidates try to appeal to the most extreme groups in their respective parties.
Those with extreme positions control the nomination process in both parties. The extremists are the most motivated, give the most money, and often work the hardest in primary races. Once the Democratic and Republican nominees are known and the party conventions conclude, the nominees move toward the political center to reach out to the rest of us.
Because of this polarization, it is no surprise to see the number of those registering “Independent” growing faster than ever. The two parties bend so much to the will of those with extreme positions that more and more people feel like the parties are leaving them with no place to turn.
Registering Independent is one way to protest, and we are seeing more relatively new voters take that step. That is even true in the Senate district I represent.
For example, 19 percent of the registered voters I represent in the 25- to 34-year old age group are registered as Independent. There are more registered Independents in that age group than there are registered Republicans. In fact, voters over the age of 65 are the only age group in which Independent registration is not growing.
An even more disturbing byproduct the polarization of both parties is that our voter turnout continues to shrink. Many disenchanted by the partisan divide do not even vote. Their voices are silenced because they are drowned out by those with extreme positions. Democracy suffers because of that.
When I was elected, I was elected to represent everyone in my district. For as long as you allow me to serve as your senator, I will fight for those issues that make our future brighter regardless of what the extremists may think. For me, that commitment is far more important than currying favor with extremists in either party.
Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.