When did the word “moderate” become a dirty word in American politics? Less than two years ago, we elected a president who promised to bring a new brand of politics to Washington–one that encouraged bipartisan solutions and a willingness to compromise.
Some pundits went so far as to anoint him as the “post-partisan” president. It hasn’t taken long for that facade to fall away, exposing the new reality: an angry America that is increasingly polarized.
With November elections approaching, traditionally centrist Democrats and Republicans have removed the word “moderate” from their vocabularies. Tea Party activists have labeled Republicans who attempt to reach across the aisle as traitors, while moderate Democrats, many of whom hail from conservative Southern states, will likely become an endangered species after the polls close.
The expanding vacuum in the political center is especially troubling when we consider the context. America is more than two years into an economic crisis that threatens to redefine what we consider “normal.” Home ownership, long a symbol of entry into the middle class, is an increasingly dicey proposition for buyers, sellers and lenders. Tough decisions about taxation and health care policy loom for future legislators. Our military, currently fighting one war and withdrawing from another, is at the center of a debate over the rights of homosexuals to serve within the ranks.
Tea Party members and liberal bloggers offer disparate “solutions” to these problems: we need a much bigger stimulus, we need to extend the Bush-era tax cuts permanently, we need to extend Medicare to all Americans, homosexuals need to be barred from service. These ideas reek of rhetoric, and only pander to inflamed and moneyed bases that feign concern the majority of Americans.
The Tea Party, in it’s hi-jacking of the Republican Party, has proven that it’s very good at being angry, but has struggled to offer realistic solutions to the problems we face. Liberal bloggers and their bevy of hipster malcontents regurgitate NY Times and Slate editorials while they Google search for non-conformist group activities to remind America how authentic they are.
The platitudes offered by the two fringes are full of false promises. Liberal Democrats invoke Keynes as they pledge to spend their way out of this mess while raising taxes on only the wealthiest citizens. Conservative Republicans promise permanent tax cuts for all without touching the sacrosanct entitlements of Medicare and Social Security. I’m no economist, but making this pledge while also supporting current levels of military spending doesn’t make deficit reduction seem likely.
Neither of these extreme platforms are realistic or appropriate, and I believe many Americans agree. Practical moderates and independents–those who have the best chance of bridging the partisan divide to hammer out compromises–are drowned out of the public debate for one reason: CASH. The disappointing Citizens United Supreme Court decision will likely exacerbate this problem, as corporations further entrench themselves into the funding apparatuses of both parties. Moderate politicians must migrate to the fringes with their party bases or risk losing substantial financial support.
Campaign finance reform is an argument for another day, but Americans need to realize that there are no perfect solutions to our problems There are, however, workable solutions, and I’m convinced these solutions will emerge from coalitions of willing compromisers populated by leaders willing to take some flak for their decisions. Americans, not elected Democrats and Republicans, are at fault for legitimizing and fueling the divided political arena. Thus, it is up to all Americans to step up and demand reason and moderation from elected leaders.
By definition, compromises require concessions and reciprocity–words that may conjure the “flip-flopper” image of political lore. However, I choose careful, deliberate progress over political deadlock any day. Deadlock is exactly what we’re headed for if we let the fringes speak for the rest of us in November.
by David J. Blackely