I live in red county in a blue state (Yakima, WA) and work at a university with only one program (osteopathic medicine) that matriculated its first class in 2008. Since that time, I have felt incremental shifts in the political wind. More educated people (the faculty who came here to teach and practice medicine) and 20- to 30-somethings determined to address the maldistribution of physicians across the Northwest (especially medically underserved areas and rural communities) have influenced and even changed conversations about the homeless, healthcare, wellness, education, equity, and even LGBTQ rights. It truly is amazing to experience, especially in this mid-sized-almost-most-rural-not-quite-urban-city-town. Yes, Yakima has a bit of an identity crisis. I grew up here and am loving this transition.
Prior to my position at the university (I am the director of accreditation and strategic planning), I worked for 14 years as a public education teacher and administrator, primarily middle school level. All but two of those years I worked in high poverty, high minority schools—AND LOVED IT!!!
The polarization of the parties is more than frustrating, it is dangerous, and it’s time to slow the pendulum, let it rest in the middle. There is nothing wrong with middle ground, in fact it may be the only way to build a reasoned path forward. To me, being a centrist is that middle ground. It is the desire to put the needs of the many before the wants of the few. It is the ability to think logically, scientifically, and empathetically about individual issues and collective mandates. It is a responsibility to focus on what we have in common rather than exploit our differences. This is where I want to be. I still have enough Pollyanna left in my DNA to believe The Centrist Project will inculcate a sense of duty and morality back into the US political system. (Insert fingers-crossed emoji.)
The policy issue I’m most passionate about is income inequality. My mom was able to eke out a living for herself and three kids working retail. That is no longer doable. The idea that unskilled labor today should not be afforded the same respect and income equality of the 70s is shameful. The fact that those at the top have accelerated their wealth at the expense of those at the bottom is repugnant. When politicians and talking heads decry all the social ills of today and wonder aloud the causes, they never seem to pinpoint the main culprit: disastrously low wages for too many Americans. So many living in poverty are actually employed. Most of the education issues—drop-out rates, low test scores, absenteeism—are directly related to low income. Who are most affected by addiction? The poor. The biggest population segment dealing with disease, chronic and otherwise, are the poor. And then there’s crime. (However, some of the most invasive and destructive crimes over the last few decades were committed by the white-collar ilk. Let's not forget that.)
Uniting the country and fixing politics will be a long-haul endeavor. The Centrist Project is the vehicle so many have been dreaming to ride. It is going to take a few dedicated, inspirational, and compassionate patriots behind the wheel to get this thing moving. I’m just glad it’s finally on the road! (Did I stretch that metaphor a bit too far?)