I often catch flak from both the left and right.

The political right seems to think I'm too liberal. The political left thinks I'm too conservative.

In their own way, both sides are right. I'm not easy to pigeonhole; my political leanings don't fit neatly into the standard liberal or conservative narratives.

That isn't what most people want today. Both the political left and right have their own litmus tests for passing judgement on others, especially those of us in the media world.

The left has its standard set of questions to tick-off and so does the political right. Like a religion, both sides want fidelity to their doctrine; those who aren't are seen as heretics.

Guess that makes me a blasphemer to both Democrats and Republicans.

•••

Growing up in a newspaper family, politics was the main course served around the dinner table. My parents were always discussing local politics and issues — and they watched every television news show available way back when we only had three TV channels to pick from. 

The Huntley-Brinkly Report and Walter Cronkite were nightly visitors into our living room throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. News was our family's lifeblood and more literally, our livelihood.

My parents bought this newspaper in 1965 when it was struggling to survive. The technology was old and money was short, but there never seemed to be a shortage of local news for them to write and talk about.

That environment gave me, as a kid, a lot of opportunities to sit on the front row of some local, state and even national news events. I was able to see everything from local ballots being counted in the old courtroom to shaking hands with a president in the White House by the time I was 16-years-old.

Since then, I've spent a lifetime in the newspaper business, covering all kinds of public officials and heated issues over the last four decades. Some of it was crazy, some was sad, some made me angry.

But it all shaped me in various ways. I've learned a lot over those years about politics and how the gears work. And I've learned a lot about people in politics. My father always said that everything in life, especially politics, was rooted in psychology. 

He was right. So much of what we see in our public officials stems from their inner id, the narrative they tell themselves about their own life and the world around them.

You cannot separate the politician from the person. Those core values, or lack of values, of an individual is the foundation of their politics.

•••

From all those experiences, I suppose I'd be labeled a "moderate" on many public policy issues.

I wasn't always that way. My views on some issues have evolved over the years.

At one time, I was pretty much a firebrand right-winger. As a teen, I joined a youth conservative group that had some pretty far-out views.

But I fell out with that organization after I learned its leaders had been grossly exaggerating the group's membership, claiming 50,000 members when in reality, it was closer to 2,000 or 3,000.

I felt used and manipulated and ever since then have avoided being a part of any political group or organization. Being politically independent is more to my liking.

•••

Generally, I tend to be more liberal on most social issues. For example, many years ago, I questioned the wisdom of gay marriage given the deep-rooted traditional marriage structure that had existed in Western society for generations.

Today, I believe differently. Gay marriage doesn't bother me, nor should it. I've been to a couple gay weddings and support any choice people decide to make for themselves. It's not the government's business to dictate who should love who, or how we as a society make social arrangements, or how we live our lives. 

That's generally how I view a lot of hot-button social issues; for the most part, government should stay out of policymaking that attempts to tell people how to live.

•••

But my conservative side comes out on most public fiscal issues. Governments should be accountable for how they spend our money.

I'm not opposed to government in general, as are a lot of people on the political right.

We live in a complex world which needs government structures for society to function.  I disagree with the Libertarian view that promotes the idea that government should step back and let the survival of the fittest determine outcomes. We aren't living in caves; we have the capacity and the means to help take care of the weakest among us, especially the elderly.

Still, government can't solve all our problems. There has to be a balance between personal responsibility and public responsibility. 

And when government gets too powerful, too intrusive in our lives, it never ends well. 

•••

Those are my broad beliefs. More narrowly, I'm not partisan with respect to political parties.

I've voted for both Democrats and Republicans. There was a time when there were no Republicans on local ballots; all local and state offices were held by Democrats.

Today, that's reversed. My view is that no local city or county office should be partisan; all local positions should be non-partisan. Party politics shouldn't have anything to do with being a county commissioner, or sheriff, or any other local public office.

My only involvement with political party politics was in early 1980 when I was in college working an internship with the governor's press office. I was the flunky put in charge of communications between the press office and the White House on President Carter's re-election campaign in the state. Wasn't much to do since as a native Georgian, Carter was destined to win the state that year.

Out of that small role, I was invited to the state Democratic convention to stand as a potential delegate to the national Democratic Convention in 1980. I didn't get selected to go, but the experience was invaluable in seeing first-hand how partly politics is played.

I didn't like it much back then and it's worse today.

Party politics is a game for those who have big ambitions and too much time on their hands. 

I'll stay Independent.

•••

But being Independent doesn't mean I don't have strong views.

My role as a political columnist is to evaluate public policy issues and call them as I see'um, good, bad or otherwise.

I don't do that through either a liberal or conservative lens; I do that through the lens of experience and hopefully, judgement.

That's gotten increasingly difficult to do over the last decade as our nation's political rhetoric has become hyper-partisan. People on both sides want me to write only what they believe, not what I believe. 

I've had readers tell me that since I live in a largely conservative area, I should only express those views.

But I don't put my finger to the wind to see which way it's blowing when I write about politics. I don't try to play to the crowd or appease any specific group of partisans.

•••

I don't much like labels, but I guess by most folks I'd be considered  "moderate" in politics.

That's not popular today in a world where extreme fidelity to one side or the other is valued over moderation. 

But there are a few of us moderates still around, people who refuse to be told what to think by political leaders and political parties.

Facts, truth and reality still matter.

Everything else is just propaganda.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com.

(2) comments

Adam Ledbetter

Great article Mike.

William Ledford

Mr. Editor, Why not prove that you can be impartial, instead of trying to convince your readers that you are. What is your opinion of the job the Biden administration has done thus far?

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