To Rep. Tom Reed, in the late 1980s, as a Democrat, I ran against state Sen. Jess Present. I was unsuccessful, but during the campaign and after, I gained a very healthy respect for Present and we became friends for many years.

It was shortly after that when I changed party affiliations and became a member of the Republican Party, mostly because of my friendship with Jess and with Patricia McGee. The GOP has had a long history of progressive ideas — anti-trust policies in the Progressive Era, strong environmental policies, inclusive diversity and an intense aversion to racism, starting with Abraham Lincoln through Theodore Roosevelt, through eight prosperous and peaceful years of the Dwight Eisenhower presidency up to and through the progressive Republicans of the 1960s who were instrumental in helping Lyndon Johnson pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.

Quoting Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” perhaps the greatest speech ever given, “Now we are in the midst of a great civil war...”

Our party, which has included great statesmen like Everett Dirksen, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, John McCain, Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush, may now be irreversibly fractured. Those leaders, who remained true to their ideals, also knew when to get down to the business of seeing to the needs of the American people and by working with Democratic leaders like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Tip O’Neill, William Proxmire and Hubert Humphrey, put country before party.

Almost all of those statesmen adhered to the philosophies of founding father George Washington, who, when he was a schoolboy, wrote his “110 Rules of Civility” into his schoolbook. Not only have the first president’s rules been shredded these past four years, apparently no one has bothered to study his farewell address, in which he warned against putting party before country, putting parochial interest before country and the dangers of the rise of a demagogue.

The last four years has seen outrageously uncivil behavior emanating from the top down. All the while they scream about their Christian values but act about us un-Christian as can be. Imagine Gerald Ford publicly mocking a disabled reporter. Imagine Bush denigrating the appearance of the wife of a political rival. Imagine Eisenhower saying he could walk down the street and grab any woman by the privates.

Then think of the traitorous, seditious acts of the White House in the last 45 days and its enablers in the state of Texas, 17 other states and 123 members of the House of Representatives who signed on to the attempted coup. These acts are a desperate attempt to erode the democratic institutions of this country and to erode the U.S. Constitution in order to install a dictator in place of a lawfully elected new president.

Our current president has for years stated his admiration for Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdogan, Kim Jong-Un and has wished for the autocratic powers that these dictators have. The rabble of this attempted coup has promised vengeance upon any thinking individual who will not spout their party line.

Tom, you know all too well of this after the backlash you received when you stated that Joe Biden was the president-elect.

With each of the two major political parties seemingly in the grips of the fringes, who are holding the parties and their purse strings hostage, what are the majority of each to do? Political thinking in this country is a bell curve with the major portion of ideological thought square in the middle.

I believe that the time is ripe for a third major party (sorry Libertarians, you are as fractured as everyone else). The big tent of this new party would be all-inclusive where fresh ideas would be welcome and openly discussed, and where the rules of civility would be the norm, not an aberration. A vote against an idea would not be cause for trash talk and vengeance.

The political axiom, “Reasonable people will come to reasonable solutions,” should be the new normal once again. This new party could give rise to a new era of cooperation with the benefit of the nation as the common goal, so that our political system, in the paraphrased words again of Lincoln, be “a government of the people, by the people, for the people that shall not perish from the earth.”

Tom, you may be the man to carry the banner of leadership of this new party. Together, with the Republican and Democratic members of the Problem Solvers Caucus and the millions of citizens of this great nation who are tired of all the garbage emanating out of Washington, we can take our country back from the two self-serving major parties who have lined their own pockets at our expense for too long.

Tom, if you commit to this, I and millions like me, will be all in.

(Bruce E. Kenney, a retired businessman, lives in Olean.)

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