This has become a familiar feeling in my young Army career: budget uncertainty, training canceled, temporary-duty trips moved, all because our Congress no longer works.

You see, this is my second shutdown; 2013, and now here in 2018. In 2011 it came down to the last hour. For those of us in the military this has real-life effects on our everyday life, with vital services like clinics and daycare closings, not to mention a halt on our pay.

One needs to wonder, why is Congress broken, and why does this continue to happen to us? With a little analysis it’s not hard to figure out: “Extreme conservatives,” “ultra liberals,” and both sides who see “compromise” as “surrender.”

It seems so long ago that moderates were celebrated in our country. Bill Clinton rose to the presidency labeling himself as a “centrist,” and a few years after getting elected to the presidency, George Pataki, a self-described moderate Republican, won the governorship in New York state (a thought unthinkable today).

There were a couple of self-described “conservative Democrats” representing West Virginia in the Senate and a self-described “liberal Republican” representing the Senate in Vermont.

There was no 24-hour news and people still read, wait for it, the newspaper! It is debatable when our hyper partisan dilemma began, some blame the Lewinsky battle, some blame the coming of 24-hour news, some blame the Internet where anyone with an opinion, whether it be informed or uninformed, could command an audience.

Regardless of the cause, the detriment on our political system and government has been devastating. Hyper partisanship has turned our government into a never-ending drama of dysfunction and our elections into knife fights with each side trying to appease the “base.”

The Republican Party has drifted from the party of lower taxes to lower intelligence on climate change, and the Democratic Party has drifted from the party of the working man to working on every social cause besides fixing the economy. Both parties seem to enjoy divisive social issues more than the fleeting job base for working-class people, or Clinton emails and Russia collusion more than fixing our broken immigration system.

When they discuss these issues, the Republicans go to Fox News and the Democrats to MSNBC, often speaking to an audience who already agrees with them. There is no real dialogue and no tough questions besides the occasional sound bite when one of these outlets want to “act fair.” Each side retreats to their side of hyper partisans who thinks the other side is going to destroy this country.

We will never fix our issues until we fix this dilemma, and it will take some courage from politicians (yeah, I know), but also the American people.

Let me be the first to say, it’s OK to be a moderate.

It is OK to be a Democrat who agrees with a statement President Trump makes from time to time. Are Democrats really opposed to spending more on infrastructure?

It’s OK for Republicans who want to be supportive of union rights, or maybe don’t toe the hard pro-life line, and vice versa for Democrats who don’t want to take marching orders from Planned Parenthood.

I think politicians will be pleasantly surprised what they find if they start talking like a centrist, because most Americans are slightly left or slightly right, but of course often the loudest and sometimes most obnoxious are the fringes on both sides.

So, moderates, it’s time to speak up. If we are going to fix our political climate, which is quickly descending into all out chaos and in turn our country, we need to find common ground.

We need to be more like our military. Each day I work with those I politically disagree with, but in the end, we put aside those differences to accomplish a mission. We are conservatives from Alabama and liberals from Minneapolis, but we share something much more important, our love of country.

It’s time for Congress to do the same. Americans owe the same effort to stop asking a politician to 100 percent agree with you and for the major political parties to stop drafting their platforms so far across the spectrum that there is no room for dissent.

America should be about diversity of thought, healthy debate and dialogue, it should not be the third-grade blame game we have descended into.

Moderates need to take the lead. Moderates need to be proud to call themselves moderates. It should not be a dirty word. It could be the word that just may save this country.

Capt. Kevin Caneco is a staff officer with the 20th CBRNE Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Previously he has served in leadership and command positions with the 25th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division. These views are solely his and not those of the Army or Defense Department.

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