Is it possible to find political middle ground?

Published 12:38 am Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A primary run-off in a special election for the First Congressional District of Alabama shouldn’t have even made a blip on the national media’s radar.

Instead, there was a New York Times reporter interviewing voters in Atmore yesterday afternoon.

The runoff pitted Bradley Byrne – the former state school board member, state senator, and chancellor of the Postsecondary Education system whose gubernatorial bid fell short in 2010 – against Orange Beach real estate investor Dean Young. The two emerged from a field of nine in the race for the seat vacated by Jo Bonner.

Byrne, who won his party’s nomination with 52.5 percent of the votes cast, was billed as the establishment candidate; Dean as the Tea Party guy who even in defeat said his race was a “warning shot” to the establishment.

“This is the first warning shot that goes out across the nation that people in the United States are tired of where our government is going and I thank God for all of you,” he said last night.

Dean has vowed to support Byrne’s Democratic opponent, Burton LeFlore, in the December general election.

Perhaps this race drew national attention because it is a microcosm of what has gone wrong in America. Instead of being for anybody or anything, we are too often voting against someone else. Witness Dean. It would seem that the person most likely to share his ideas for and principles for Southwest Alabama would be a fellow Republican. But he has vowed to vote against those ideas.

Assuming he wins in December, Byrne should serve his district, and our state, well. With his proven track record and his understanding of political processes, he was without a doubt the most qualified for the job. But his hard-fought battle, especially given his strong name recognition going into the race, is a sign of things to come. There aren’t very many good men and women who are willing to serve, especially if they must fight those kinds of fights to win.

Perhaps that is what drew The New York Times to rural Alabama yesterday – a notion that even in this most conservative state, the conservatives are deeply divided; that even in the Deep South, where we are known for our good manners and kind words, politics can be a low-down, dirty game.

We continue to believe that the best government requires compromise from both sides and the finding of middle ground. We won’t get that good government so long as we, the electorate, remain focused on being against the other side, rather than for what’s good for the whole – be it the community, the state, or the nation.