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Our View: True political middle ideal

But tough to deliver, straddling extremes

Our political divide is like a dark abyss between Democrats and Republicans, swung wide to the far sides of compromise. So when we hear candidates say they’re “moderate” or “in the middle,” we take notice. Can they really straddle the split?

Being in the middle may be the answer. A new currency that adds to the political vernacular in the way that other fairly new terms, such as election denier or voter integrity, earned their places.

That middle path could be our veritable yellow brick road.

Or is middle too good to be true as candidates lay claim to this identity? It’s not easy to live up to this marker. Would middle-of-the-road candidates be uniters or vote-grabbers, reaching and yanking from both sides, saying whatever particular bases want to hear? It’s difficult to achieve balance in this precarious position. When candidates can’t deliver, it erodes credibility.

Take Joe O’Dea, for example, the Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. We wrote previously that in a conversation with O’Dea, he was a different person than the O’Dea on his campaign website, which includes a letter of support from pro-life conservatives. On the prominent page, “Pro-life leaders endorse Joe O’Dea,” the letter states, “As Donald Trump’s U.S. Attorney in Colorado said, ‘Joe’s a rock-solid conservative.’”

Recently, O’Dea added a new page, “Pro-choice Coloradans endorse Joe O’Dea.”

What gives?

O’Dea told us he’s a “centrist moderate Republican,” “more in the middle” and “more libertarian.” He pitched this impression that he’s not beholden to the GOP. But when asked to rate U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert on actual work produced, O’Dea said she’s doing great. When pressed, he took a careful tack, saying Boebert is serving her base. She is a freshman representative, as in, we can’t expect too much. Skillful dodge? Or does he believe this?

He wanted to please both the Republican base rooted in the middle and Boebert’s base on the far right. If successful, from the middle, O’Dea could pull in support from extremes, building more power. If unsuccessful, he’d be stretched to the point that he can’t hold on and falls, spinning downward into the depth of the abyss. (Add your own sound effects here.) So goes politics.

Politicians who play well with others and produce work for the Southwest include Democrats Bennet and state Rep. Barbara McLachlan. But they’re not middlers. (Hey, we just improved on this label!)

State Rep. Don Coram showed guts in supporting 3rd Congressional District candidate Adam Frisch over Boebert. Coram’s caught flack for it, too.

Frisch seems hopeful on the Democratic ticket. He’s called himself independent and unaffiliated, too.

And Gov. Jared Polis has libertarian leanings that sometimes complement his position as a Democrat. Polis even said he’d like to eliminate a state income tax. But there’s no way to make this a reality in Colorado government any time soon.

We imagine an authentic, moderate candidate as someone who is fiscally responsible, socially open, unafraid to criticize his or her own party or president. Someone curious about new ideology – or even lacking it – with the priority to address constituents’ issues and show resulting work produced.

Now, that’s our kind of candidate.

As an electorate, we’re in rough shape. Those on the far left characterize conservatives as fascists and crackpots; those on the far right say liberals are communists devoid of morals.

It’s a shared outlook – the other base is the problem. The middle could be the place, the rich soil where we begin to grow together. We just need professionals up to the job.