Our sister publication in Knox County, The Herald Gazette, recently published some articles on the Tea Party movement and what members of that movement believe. We were struck by an answer a Republican candidate there gave when asked if the Tea Party is a Republican organization.

He argued the Tea Party is not Republican, but said: “It is a desire to transform party politics. It should not be Republican or Democrat. Both betrayed constitutional principles with partisan politics.”

The reality seems to be that the Tea Party in the Midcoast, however, is just working to elect Republicans. At a recent meeting in Knox County, which was described in a Herald Gazette article, Tea Party supporters were strategizing to elect Republican candidates. Several Republican candidates were present at the meeting and the state GOP chairman was the guest speaker.

Meanwhile, we haven’t seen any Tea Party rallies for Mike Michaud, for example, or any fundraising dinners put on by Tea Partiers in support of Libby Mitchell. We’re not suggesting Tea Partiers are under any obligation to do so, either. But if they’re going to favor one of the two major political parties, they shouldn’t pretend to distance themselves from both of them.

That fact aside, what the Knox County candidate had to say does speak to the big picture this year. Americans who are frustrated by the economic climate are getting vocal, especially on the conservative side of the fence, and we may see incumbents voted out in a wave of dissatisfaction. While it makes sense to kick the bums out when things aren’t going well, it may mean falling into the same old trap of partisan stalemate. Is everyone in the country comfortable with such a polarized Congress, where politicians repeatedly moan: “We had some great ideas, but we couldn’t get them passed because the other party wouldn’t cooperate”?

History has shown that when Americans are united behind a goal, they can accomplish great things. Not these days. This election, we will hear mostly from polar opposites, the right-wing extremists and their liberal opponents, while moderates remain strangely quiet.

The Tea Party fiscal philosophies — smaller government coupled with spending reductions — resonate with many. Like District 41 Representative Veronica Magnan (D-Stockton Springs), however, we have concerns about how they plan to achieve those goals.

At a forum in Searsport this past weekend, when asked for her thoughts about the Tea Party movement, Magnan said she worried Tea Partiers do not always think about all of the effects their proposed solutions may have.

“My concern is that when you propose things, you need to make connections and look down the road to the outcomes,” she said. “Big cuts may sound good, but they are not necessarily the best possible approach.”

Locally, many people — whether they be Tea Partiers or others not affiliated with the Tea Party at all — favor tax cuts for the middle class. These people believe the money generated from the cuts would re-enter the local economy, as those living paycheck to paycheck would use whatever tax dollars they save to buy the things they need and pay their bills. That makes sense. What does not make sense are continued tax cuts for the wealthy or spending sprees that benefit only the well-connected.

The Tea Party movement, however, goes to an extreme, arguing that the income tax is unconstitutional and that any provision for a poor person’s health care or education constitutes a Communist conspiracy to redistribute wealth. Times are tough, but that’s no excuse for an “every man for himself” policy. We must function as a society, and more locally, as a community.

It is simplistic and convenient to believe that all of the haves are hardworking while the have-nots are lazy. In the Midcoast, we see families where both husband and wife maintain one or two jobs each, and still struggle to heat their homes and provide health care and childcare for their children. Many more are underemployed or have been laid off because of the shrinking economy.

Somewhere — and perhaps this is the common goal we do have — there are more centrist solutions between “Let them eat cake” and a bloated and convoluted welfare state.

We would also argue that if you’re Republican, why not just say you’re Republican? Moderate Republicans have failed to take a stand for their views out of fear of offending Tea Party extremists, and this was demonstrated in the adoption of a largely Tea Party-inspired platform this year at the state Republican convention. Stop hedging and proudly stand up for what you believe. If moderate voices do not make it a point to have their voices heard, they can hardly express surprise when the radical voices who do speak up get their way.

There has been a lot of talk about returning America to greatness and accusations over who the true patriots are. Until we get beyond infotainment-driven polarization of political ideals and prioritize some common-ground goals, we will be neither great, nor patriots.