COLUMN: In the center ring | Columns

A “big tent” is an expression used in reference to a political party allowing or encouraging a wide range of opinions among its members. Instead of imposing a set ideology/platform, those in the “big tent” are tolerant of those they disagree with. Those who believe in the Republican “big tent” follow Ronald Reagan’s creed: the person who agrees with you 80% of the time is your friend, not 20% a traitor.

Today, the “big tents” of the Republican and Democratic parties look more like a circus tent than a place to gather and unite. Tolerance of another person’s different point of view is seen as a weakness. Respect for a contrary opinion is a weakness. Loud is the name of the game in the tent. The elect and the candidates must be roaring, deafening and thunderous, otherwise they are considered weak. Insults, insults and slander project strong convictions in the party tabernacle. Substance, truth and humility are secondary attributes. Anger, anger and fury reign. The details of how to solve all the problems in America are hazy in the two main reception tents. Here are three observations that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, should agree on:

First, the government is spending too much money. Government money, at all levels, is provided by taxpayers. The government has no money of its own. The government does a terrible job of living within its means. The current national debt is $30 trillion. The ratio of US federal debt to GDP in 2000 was 57%. In 2022, it is 130%. It seems that it doesn’t matter which political party is in power – the government is spending too much money. Last year, the federal government took in a record amount of revenue, $4.4 trillion, but spent $6 trillion.

Public spending financed by higher taxes reduces the personal incentive to start a new business or expand an existing one. The redistribution of wealth by the government promotes a culture of dependency and reduces risk taking.

Until real fiscal conservatives are elected, the deficit will continue to grow.

Nobel laureate in economics, Milton Friedman, said: “Keep an eye on one thing and one thing only: how much the government is spending.

The US government is spending too much money and has no intention of slowing down. Until voters start holding elected officials accountable for out-of-control spending, things will continue as usual. The national debt crisis is real and threatens the very way of life in America. It is not discussed or addressed in campaigns because it is not growing enough. It does not inflame the troops.

Second, the government is not trustworthy. In a Pew Research Center poll conducted in June, public trust in government is near historic lows. Only 29% of Democrats trust their government to do the right thing. Among Republicans, it is 9%. In 1958, 75% of Americans trusted the government. How did the government become so untrustworthy? Reduced personal accountability, increased regulation, and broken election promises have contributed to lack of trust in government. Promises of reduced regulation, taxation is made during the campaigns to be quickly forgotten once invested with power.

Third, the government is the people. The US Constitution begins with the words: “We the People”. The people are responsible for controlling the government. This is done by being constantly engaged in their government. Engagement can vary in degree – from seeking a position to infrequent voting. Until more Americans commit to consistent and persistent involvement in their government, the loudest candidate in the tent will win.

Both political parties allowed their “big tents” to become entertainment. Purity tests have been established to ensure that those allowed into the tent maintain the party’s ideological purity, but once inside the tent, little serious discussion of the issues that binds together takes place. It’s more fun – but less productive – to argue in the tent. Ladies and gentlemen, now in the center ring, The Polarizing of America.

Steve Fair is the Republican Party Chairman for District 4 in Oklahoma.