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STATE AFFAIRS: The middle must be heard

STATE AFFAIRS: The middle must be heard
STATE AFFAIRS: The middle must be heard

I worry a great deal about the polarization of what’s left of our two major parties. The Democrats are in thrall to African-American leadership plus party identity culture wars; all they seem to want from government is more.
Within the GOP, a battle for dominance is underway among establishment conservatives, the tea party and the Trump program, spelled out to us in 144 characters every morning.
Nobody speaks for me anymore.
I think most Americans are somewhere in the middle, between the 30-yard lines of the field. We are not necessarily centrists, yet pragmatists who want to see big problems solved and provide order, harmony and prosperity.
I don’t know what a person in the middle thinks; I only can speak for myself. Yet, here are a few positions of mine that seem not to be well represented today. Apologies for the brevity imposed by the tyranny of a column with a 700-word max.
Guns: I’m in support of the Second Amendment, but oppose assault weapons, which used to be banned. I am certainly not for letting lawless teen children in Chicago have access to guns, which are fenced to them from out of state.
Abortion: I am opposed to abortion, as are most people, yet, I am reluctantly pro-choice, as I think letting Big Brother invade a woman’s body is egregious in a supposedly free society.
My friend, Perry Klopfenstein, of Gridley, is staunchly pro-life. He proposes a pro-reduction program in which both sides would, ideally, work together to reduce the incidence of abortions, which are going to occur regardless of any law.
International politics: I believe the U.S. must continue to play its role as the world leader, but Congress should require the president to submit plans to lawmakers, in secret if necessary, for ending our involvement in each conflict. There are no plans or clear goals I know of for exiting Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Immigration: We should let Dreamers stay. We should reduce illegal entry to the U.S., but a Wall is not needed to do so.
Illinois state pensions: We must reduce the burden of these pensions, which are too rich. (Disclosure: I receive $29,000 per year from the state university retirement system.)
Illinois lawmakers must pass yet another major pension reform bill, for example, to eliminate the very costly annual 3 percent compounded increase in retirement pensions.
I know the state high court has said in the past that pension benefits are guaranteed by the state constitution. Yet, saving the state’s future solvency now might be seen by the justices as trumping even the state charter.
Municipal pensions: Many municipal police and fire pension systems are much worse off than those of the state. We should pass a law to allow perilously burdened cities to declare bankruptcy, so they can rewrite their pension plans, reduce benefits and, thus, make future benefits sustainable.
Finally, I propose we create a new The Middle Rising Party (or better name) in Illinois. We would need to file a slate of statewide candidates, from governor on down. At 76, I am too old to take a top slot on this slate but would be willing to put my name forward, if needed, for a lesser state office.
We wouldn’t win, not with hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires sloshing around in Illinois politics. Yet, we could generate enough attention that voters would know there is another option out there.
If we received 5 percent of the vote, we would become a certified political party into the future.
And, remember, it took the new Republican Party four election cycles, 1854 to 1860, to win big.
This effort, in which I would put my shoulder to the wheel, would keep me out of saloons for the coming year.
But I am serious. What do you think? Is this idea a hit or a miss, and why? Email me at jnowlan3@gmail.com.
 
• JIM NOWLAN is a former Illinois legislator, agency director and aide to three governors. He also was lead author of "Illinois Politics: A Citizen's Guide" (University of Illinois Press, 2010). Nowlan can be reached at jnowlan3@gmail.com.

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