Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you


The chorus from the 1972 Stealers Wheel hit, co-written by Joe Egan and the late Gerry Rafferty, keeps echoing in my head as I’ve observed the frightening, politically divisive landscape which has erupted in Washington and Nashville, eroding the long-established tradition of fairly civilized discourse.

Not only are reasonable people having difficulty reaching appropriate and rational decisions, they are now being attacked for even conversing with those on the other side of the political aisle.

Two specific examples from 2010:

Clowns to the left of me

*When Rep. Jim Cooper voted against an early version of the Health Reform Act  he was immediately maligned by those on the left for (in their view) having abandoned basic Democratic principles and for not supporting President Obama.  Threats were made and the search began to find someone to oppose him in his next primary race. As one of the first public officials in Tennessee to support Barack Obama, the presidential candidate, and, as an acknowledged expert on health care reform, the vilification of Cooper was woefully undeserved.




Jokers to the right

*Sen. Bob Corker, after considerable research not to mention documented expertise, offered to work with the majority party to determine the best approach for determining and crafting much-needed financial reform legislation. He was immediately denounced by his colleagues on the right for having the audacity to act as consort with the enemy. An email disseminated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the time urged recipients to contact Senator Corker and let him know that he should oppose any proposals made by the opposition party. Though unsure how my name got on the organization’s email list, after forwarding a copy to the senator, I added them to my blocked sender’s list, relegating their future communications to the spam file.

Just as the wisdom of good folks is not licensed exclusively to any single party, the first dictum of politics says: Neither party has a monopoly on ignorance. Perhaps we could all glean more wisdom from the seemingly banal lyrics of popular music:

Trying to make some sense of it all

But I can see it makes no sense at all

Through the years, Tennessee has been blessed with its fair share of measured and sensible legislators, office holders who were willing to put what was best for the state above what was most advantageous for them or their party. Hopefully, when the contentious, alienating, mean-spirited posturing wears thin, we will still have enough remaining level-headed lawmakers “stuck in the middle” to deal intelligently and equitably with the issues which truly matter to this state and to the nation. If they will step up, we can proudly repeat the refrain:

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.



Bo Roberts is a Nashville marketing consultant and managing partner of Roberts Strategies.