Bob Bonsignore, a member of Floyd’s tea party, got in my face after a board of supervisors meeting earlier this year to inform me that I was “not a true conservative.”

Never got around to thanking him for that.

Yes, Bob, you’re right: Not a conservative.

Gotta another news flash for ya: Not a liberal either.

Not a Republican. Not a Democrat. Not right-wing or left-wing. Don’t have wings. Do eat wings from time to time. Prefer them hot and spicy.

Drives people crazy when they can’t pigeonhole you. Write a piece that questions the actions of a conservative and the email floodgates open with claims that you’re a left-wing loon.  Say something critical about a liberal and you become a right-wing nutjob.

Some folks — too many in fact — need the crutch of some ideological group or political party to depend on and to tell them how to think. Independent thought is not allowed in a society where political parties dictate how their faithful must think, act and vote.

Tea party groups throughout Southwestern Virginia endorsed Republican Morgan Griffith in his successful effort to defeat long-time Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher.

That was then. This is now.  Griffith hasn’t toed the line in every vote in Congress and now there’s talk within the tea party ranks of recruiting someone to knock him in the primary.

During a sabbatical from journalism, worked inside the political system — both as a staff member for three GOP Congressman on Capitol Hill and as a political operative for the GOP. In 1982,Worked for the Reagan-Bush campaign as the principal writer in their “Voices for Victory” campaign. In 1984, Traveled throughout the Southwest as a field representative for the National Republican Congressional Committee. In 1986, helped former Corning chief executive Amo Houghton win election to Congress. He was a Republican too.

So I must be a Republican, right?

Wrong. Worked for the GOP because they paid better and their checks didn’t bounce.  Never registered as a member of any political party, never contributed to a candidate for office and never joined a political organization.  In 1987, Became vice president for political programs for the National Association of Realtors and had overall responsibility for their political action committee — at the time the largest PAC in the nation. When I joined NAR they contributed 76 percent of their PAC money to Republicans. When I left the percentage was a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Ten years in politics taught me that neither party has cornered the market on integrity or knowledge when it comes to running the country. Both parties are corrupt. Both put their political agendas ahead of what is best for the country. Neither can claim the high road.

This nation was founded on the belief that those with differing opinions, differing philosophies and differing beliefs can live and work together but the America we see today is a bitter, divided nation where myopic special interests seek to control the agenda, the government and our lives.  Debate has devolved into disruption and dissension is branded as treason.  Independent thought is not welcome in a society where single-agenda groups seek absolute control and compliance.

Our elected officials become monuments to failure because they put politics above patriotism and re-electability above leadership.  In my opinion, George W. Bush was a bad president but so is Barack Obama. Obama is a failure on so many levels that ones needs a scientific calculator to tally up the numbers.

Neither political party is worthy of respect.  Neither has the answer. Does the tea party have the answer? Not in my opinion. It is driven by hidden agendas just like the other political movement. Eddie Mahe, a legendary GOP consultant, was my political mentor and recruited me to work in several campaigns.  I later worked as the senior communication associate for his consulting firm.  Eddie created Citizens for a Sound Economy, a fake grassroots group that later morphed into the tea party. Eddie believed in confrontation as a necessary means to an end. He failed to realize that cooperation — not confrontation — is necessary to achieve success. Sadly, our entire political system today is based on progress-stopping conflict.

What’s the answer? I wish I knew. I’m not a conservative. I’m not a liberal. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat.  Don’t have the answers.  No one else does either.

I’m  just an American and — at this time — Americans may be the only group in America that doesn’t have anyone representing our needs.

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