published Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Kennedy: Views from a man in the middle

As a middle-class, middle-age moderate from middle America, I couldn't be any more in the center of things if I were the jelly in a doughnut.

The middle is not always a comfortable place. Sometimes it feels like modern America is a rope held taut by opposing forces -- rich vs. poor, young vs. old, blue states vs. red states. Meanwhile, we moderates feel like a hanky whipping in the wind at the center of a tug-of-war.

Most of my work week is spent editing columns, cartoons and editorials for the Times Free Press opinion pages. I enjoy learning how smart people on both sides of the political spectrum interpret current events.

Curiously, I get a fair number of telephone calls and emails from readers who think that moderate voices have no place on either of the opinion pages. They like their opinions delivered in bright red and deep blue. Any columns with shades of purple make them nervous. For example, columnists such as David Brooks and Kathleen Parker, who often have centrist views, are particularly irksome to some readers.

Sometimes I think the center is under-represented in our public dialogues. So, in case you missed them, here are some views held by modern American moderates like me:

• We don't lie awake at night worrying about income taxes or climate change, but we do lose sleep about how to pay for nursing-home care for our parents and college for our kids.

• We're skeptical about Obamacare, but we don't think "just visit the emergency room" is an efficient health-care policy for the nation's uninsured, either.

• We might peek at Fox News or MSNBC, but we honestly prefer HGTV and ESPN.

• We're bewildered that 2016 might produce another Clinton-Bush (Hillary vs. Jeb) presidential race.

• We'd feel a lot better about our foreign policy if more elected officials in Washington, D.C., had children in the armed services.

• We don't want the federal government to shut down, nor do we want it to snoop on us electronically or tax us into the poor house.

• Since our children will always pay heavy taxes on their wages, we think the children of billionaires should continue to pay a fair amount of federal taxes on inheritances.

• We want the politicians in Washington to, when possible, yield to the states, and we'd like politicians in Nashville to yield, when possible, to our cities. Here's the thing: We can decide what cities or states we want to live in; changing countries is harder.

• We weren't afraid of Y2K or bedbugs, and we think the jury is still out on the full effects of climate change. At the same time, we recycle cans and newspapers because our faith and/or morals tell us to be good stewards.

• We generally think voluntary help for the poor is better than government entitlements, but we realize there is a gap and we want no American children to go to bed unfed.

• We're a lot happier than the tone of our national politics would lead you to believe. We don't view politics as theater. Nor do we see it as a never-ending sport that requires a daily box score.

• We think the minimum wage should and could go up (a little) over time, but we'd also like to see fewer Americans dependent on food stamps as a consequence.

• We don't think Sarah Palin or Howard Dean would make particularly good presidents.

• We think Social Security and Medicare should be tweaked to ensure our golden years, and we are astonished that the people we elect to high office have refused to compromise on this.

• We're optimistic about the future because that's part of our job as parents.

• Lastly, we understand that voter dissatisfaction and political rancor are part of our national tradition -- we know that's how our big, unruly democracy improves itself every day. But we would like to see a return to good manners in politics, too, which means not grinding up people of good will in the political center who only want the best for their nation and their families.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter@TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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