Smerconish: The ‘Exhausted Majority’ Is Stuck In The Middle Of A ‘Pissing Contest Between The Political Fringes’

“They say ‘This country is so divided’. We’re not divided. They’re divided. They want profit. They want your attention. They want clicks on their websites.”

Michael Smerconish is a CNN host, radio personality and author. He is a rarity in American public life – an out and proud independent who’s willing to criticize both parties. We interviewed Smerconish about the upcoming midterm elections and the problems facing independent voters like him. This article is part of a series on the 2018 midterms

The midterm elections have been hyped as the most important in a generation, with Republicans and Democrats using a wide range of tactics to get out the vote. Some media personalities have insisted that Democrats must win to stave off disaster. Smerconish isn’t buying it.

“I think it’s overblown,” he says. “Every election gets overemphasized. The 2016 election was awfully important – 1980 was one of those milestone elections. Is 2018? No, it is not.”

Then where is this perception coming from? Smerconish thinks the fringes on both sides of the partisan divide share some blame, but there’s another culprit, too.

“Trump is driving the passion at both ends of the political spectrum. The media is helping.”

And all those apocalyptic scenarios?: “The midterms don’t fit that bill.”

Smerconish thinks far more of the country is independent than is commonly discussed, and those voters are hungry for something new. Could there be an independent majority just waiting for leadership?

“The elements are all there for a viable third party movement,” he says. “But there are institutional barriers that have precluded a break out for third parties. More people are independent – I think one study showed it’s around 40% of the country. I’m an independent. That’s how I vote. That’s how I’m registered. There are many of us out there who don’t like either party.”

Smerconish knows money is the biggest issue stopping a third party breakthrough. He says he celebrated the Citizens United decision, but now sees it’s been a disaster.

“Special interests are protecting incumbents and leading to the rise of their political rivals,” Smerconish says. He has one idea that might shake things up: a presidential run from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Bloomberg could bankroll a third party if he ran for president in 2020 and change the game.”

But with the current levels of political partisanship, can the Republican-Democrat stranglehold be resisted? Smerconish says he has an unpopular opinion.

“I do not believe partisanship is at an all-time high. There’s been no major change in what Americans think over the past 30 years.”

According to Smerconish, it’s the fringes of both parties that have become more viciously partisan.

“The media has taken the fringes with it and it’s influencing the politicians. There is more that unites us than divides us. The typical American has not changed their opinions since the 1970s. But politics has become a bloodsport.”

“There’s a pissing contest between the political fringes,” Smerconish says. “And the rest of us – the exhausted majority – we’re in the middle of it. We’re sick of it.”

“They say ‘This country is so divided’. We’re not divided. They’re divided. They want profit. They want your attention. They want clicks on their websites.”

“My message to independents is: You’re the majority. You need to be as passionate as the demagogues are – as independents.”

Smerconish criticizes the media, but he has an acute sense that he’s part of it.

“I believe I have a responsibility to act reasonably every time that microphone gets turned on. Words have consequences. Look at the pipe bomber. Not everyone listening to us is a Mensa member. Not everyone is playing with a full deck.”

Smerconish is proof that there’s a market for independent voices. He knows it would be easier to read off partisan talking points; he knows he might never be as famous as those who appeal to ‘the worst instincts of popular extremes’, as he puts it.

“The deck is stacked by the status quo,” he says, but there’s hope.

“Voters are out there ready to be harvested. We need the candidates. They need financing – either privately or from some source because it is so important now. You can’t beat somebody with nobody.”

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Media

Darragh Roche is Senior Editor and Political News Writer.
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