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Fred Karger Headshot

Where Have All the Moderates Gone?

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Fred Who? That's the question that I get asked all the time as I travel the country testing the waters to determine if I will run for President of the United States in 2012. I made a short commercial that ran in New Hampshire recently to help answer that question.

"I am an independent Republican from Laguna Beach California," I say in the spot.

I began in politics as a 14 year old working on a phone bank for then Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who was running for President in 1964. I was branded at that young age as a "Rockefeller Republican," and I still am.

A what? The tag is considered a negative by many, because of Governor and later Vice President Rockefeller's moderate positions on social issues and his caring about those in need. I have always considered the term a badge of honor. It is where most of the country was and is -- the 70 percent of us that are in the middle of the political spectrum.

So why would a retired Republican political consultant even think of seeking the highest office in the land? There are many reasons.

I am deeply concerned about the direction of our country. I am tired of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer community getting bullied by so many. And as someone who has spent much of his life fighting to preserve the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, I feel that the GOP has been hijacked.

These opponents of moderation may feel that they have the best intentions, but they are not open to expanding the Republican Party. Some Republican Party leaders even proposed a "purity test," at last winter's Republican National Committee meeting. If you didn't agree with 8 of 10 social issues that they deem important, you would basically be expelled from the party.

That's not the way to grow, what has been for so long, the smaller of the two major political parties.

I worked with the brilliant Lee Atwater in 1984 and 1988. Lee came up with the term, "Big Tent." That's how you grow a political party; include everyone with many different points of view. Don't have a purity test and slam the door on people you don't happen to agree with on every issue.

My boss and mentor the late, great Bill Roberts used to say, "I don't hyphenate Republicanism." In other words we should be a party made up of people with many different views.

Bill and his business partner Stu Spencer ran the very close Rockefeller for President campaign in California in 1964. They came within 1 percentage point of beating the frontrunner, then conservative U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater. Goldwater later recommended Spencer and Roberts to his good friend Ronald Reagan to manage Reagan's campaign for Governor of California. That coming together was not uncommon then; civility was the order of the day. Even Republicans and Democrats got along.

That civility is gone today, and I feel in great part because of the lack of moderates in both parties. As an Independent Republican who has supported Democrats and Republicans, I feel it is not too late to bring back a Rockefeller Republicans who will work well with both parties to help move our country forward.