Yes, Virginia, America does have a political center
Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 7:03 pm
By JOE GANDELMAN
“DEAR COLUMNIST: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no political center in America.
“Papa says ‘If you see it in THAT CAGLE COLUMN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth: is there a political center in America?”
“P.S. My friends say there are no elves. Is that true?
“P.S.S. And Last year AFTER Santa left the Christmas gifts some grey-haired fat man in a Santa suit slid down our chimney, took our food stamps away and left. Was that Santa?”
“285 East 33rd Street”
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been impacted by listening to too much left and right talk radio, watching too many ideological cable shows, falling into political and ideologue bubbles by only reading websites they totally agree with before they read a single word of content — and by an America divided by ambitious politicians who accentuate division to attain power. If your little friends study American history they’ll see that once upon a time consensus, honorable political compromise, and aggregating interests by building broad political coalitions were considered strengths and virtues — not weaknesses and sins.
All minds, Virginia, are little (don’t tell that to Newt Gingrich). Political minds used to try and go beyond immediate, tactical considerations for scoring political points, but today’s political battles are firmly-anchored 24/7 by political parties and politicos involved in perpetual campaigns. Many Americans now view our anger-fueled politics as a kind of fun political version of political wrestling. It’s no longer about issue solving and policy.
It’s mostly about winning one for your political sports team, giving high fives when the other side loses and gleefully rubbing your defeated, personally hated foe’s face in it.
Yes, Virginia, America does have a political center. Proof that it exists is seen by polls showing that the bulk of Americans reject the crackpot of ideas of birthers who suggest Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States or that the American government was somehow behind 9/11. The center exists as certainly as thought, analysis, and balance still exist. Alas: how dreary and dangerous American politics would be if there was no center. It’d be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.
The center’s existence is profusely documented in historical detail by John Avlon in his lively book “Independent Nation: How Centrism Can Change American Politics.” It is also documented in “Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents” in which historian Gil Troy classifies Ronald Reagan as a moderate. Why? Because even with Reagan’s stro ngly conservative principles Reagan upset conservatives by compromising and working with Democrats. He didn’t dig in his heels and focus on power plays, ideological purity or obsess with political domination. And, in the end, Reagan redefined America’s center.
The center may shift to the left or the right as it has in recent decades — but it is there. And those who seriously ignore it risk being swept away by the broom of political history. Sen. Joseph McCarthy was finished when he alienated the center. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eloquence and protests won the center. The noisy 1960s anti-war protests angered the center and helped elect Richard Nixon. Democratic Sen. George McGovern was too extreme for the center. Ronald Reagan won by reassuring the electorate’s center. Bill Clinton successfully veered right after losing the center. And the winning candidate in 2012 must capture the center.
Those on the left and right ridicule the center as wishy-washy or wimpish but centrists read, decide, study, take strong stands, and, most assuredly, vote. Just because you see mostly left and right wing ideologues on cable shows doesn’t mean the center does not exist.
The center is an intermediate point between passionate conservatives and passionate liberals. It’s an oasis that bares political fruit.
On your Christmas related questions:
You don’t believe there are elves? Have you seen Dennis Kucinich?
And about that grey-haired fat guy in the Santa suit who slid down your chimney and took your food stamps away. That doesn’t sound like Santa. That sounds like Newt Gingrich.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.
This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author. Published in The Messenger 12.22.11
America does have a political center, Virginia, Yes