The Moderate’s Utopia
We’ve arrived at last! Let me tell you about that happy land where the middle finds itself on top, where even the extremists speak softly and carry no sticks. Would a Moderate’s Utopia be a dreary bastion of complacent minds and mediocre achievements, as its opponents warn us? Would everyone just melt into a single lukewarm pot? Not in the New Moderate’s Utopia. Not if I have anything to do with it. See for yourself.
The Moderate’s Utopia.
The first thing you notice is that your world has been depolarized. Sure, we still have leftists and conservatives, blacks and whites, rich and poor, believers and infidels, elitists and populists, intellectuals and philistines, and those who disagree about whether toilet paper should be pulled over or under the roll. But they’re not going at it like cats and dogs. They’re comfortable in each other’s presence, debate their differences happily, listen with sympathy and carry no grudges.
Why? Because outspoken moderates have risen up and filled the vast opinion vacuum in the middle. That vacuum was dangerous. It meant that left-leaning and right-leaning individuals had no choice but to speak from the extremes, and to intensify their extremism as they bandied insults and invective. Everyone seemed to follow the “either/or” script: “either you’re with us or you’re against us.” It was a bunker mentality.
Now that the middle has a powerful voice, everyone is starting to see those wonderful shades of gray. (Not only gray, but intriguing variants of red, blue, purple and a whole Crayola box of other fine colors.) They’re beginning to see that disagreement isn’t necessarily cause for inflicting nasty bites. They’re even relying on moderates to mediate solutions to prickly problems like abortion, affirmative action, public healthcare, gay marriage, gun control and recreational drug use.
Moderates have their own magazines these days, and of course The New Moderate is practically required reading on the Web. (Now that I’ve ignited a fire under the silent middle, my job is essentially done; I’ve turned my creation over to moderate activists who care more about the nuts and bolts of political policy than I do.)
The Moderate Party now runs successful candidates for public office; it’s the first viable addition to the American two-party system since before the Civil War. Moderate-leaning Democrats and Republicans don’t have to feel like outcasts within their own parties; they simply defect to the middle. Now the Democrats and Republicans can cater to their own extremist bases instead of scrambling for moderate votes. We’ve made honest parties out of them.
Those skeptics who expected us to be safe, sober, middle-of-the-road compromisers often find themselves surprised by the intensity of our beliefs. For example, we moderates spearheaded the successful drive to criminalize the flow of money from lobbyists to Congressmen. This cause wasn’t especially popular with either lobbyists or their elected puppets, and it was definitely a radical departure from the status quo, but Moderate Party operatives helped push the bill through the House and Senate. Now our elected representatives are actually obligated to represent the people who elected them. What a concept. As we “new moderates” like to proclaim, “extremism in the cause of moderation is no vice.”
Outside the political sphere, life is good for most of us. We’re more neighborly to our neighbors, because we no longer identify exclusively with the various special-interest “communities” that once polarized our society. Our community is where we live; nothing more or less. We make friends with people older and younger, richer and poorer, blacker and whiter, more liberal and conservative, smarter and dumber than ourselves. We’re like a good baseball club: individual players striving for individual excellence but also playing their hearts out for the team.
At work, talent and dedication are amply rewarded. CEO compensation packages no longer make a mockery of the average worker’s efforts, because average workers now sit on the boards and shape company policy. In the financial arena, the Crash of 2008 has thoroughly discredited naked greed as an investment strategy; as in the distant past, investors once again buy shares of a company because they like its prospects and want to see it succeed.
The Second Gilded Age is history, and bright young college graduates now aspire to be doctors and scientists instead of investment bankers. (It finally dawned on the big banks that employees whose whims nearly toppled the entire Western economy don’t really merit $20,000,000 bonuses. Today they earn approximately as much as tax accountants.) Liberal yuppies no longer have to feel guilty about their extravagant lifestyles, because their lifestyles are no longer so extravagant. Families can once again afford a night out at the movies or the ballpark, because top stars have stopped commanding $20,ooo,000 salaries. (Decent folks that they are, they’re embarrassed to have been earning so much more than their fans.)
We’re not a “nanny state” (after all, our government trusts grown-ups to make grown-up choices). But everyone, at long last, has access to affordable health insurance, and nobody has to live in fear of being bankrupted by illness. Medical costs have fallen sharply because doctors no longer have to live in fear of being bankrupted by malpractice lawsuits. (Funny, isn’t it, how the volume of lawsuits has dwindled in a more moderate, less vituperative society.)
Our best colleges and universities are once again centers of learning and inspired mirth; they’ve been liberated from the stern rule of the leftist ideologues who once made life difficult for dissenters. Sure, the ideologues are still around (where else would they find employment?), but students and faculty — even the moderates and conservatives who had been forced to slink around in the shadows — are free to express their own opinions now without fear of retribution. The various liberal arts departments are no longer propaganda mills catering to leftist prejudices. Because they promote pure learning and scholarship, their courses are once again overflowing with inquisitive students who want to expand their minds.
Under the wise and beneficent rule of the moderates, we no longer worship surly, degenerate rock stars, rappers and talk-show hosts. We’ve tired of their unfriendliness. But it’s not the 1950s, either. Since moderates don’t believe in coercion, genuine nonconformity is flourishing. Nobody is under any obligation to be cool or edgy in the same relentlessly snarky manner. Nobody is obligated to be extroverted, energetic, fit, upbeat or productive, either. Nobody is even obligated to be a moderate.
Well, some of us moderates believe in traditional virtues like character, kindness and decency, love of history and good-humored tolerance. We don’t impose our values on anyone, but we’re glad to see them making a comeback in the aftermath of the culture wars. For example, personal essayists are big now; readers appreciate their wisdom and whimsy. Our poets now write eloquent, memorable verse that actually makes sense to the average reader of English. Some of it even rhymes. Best of all, people find it inspiring, and they’ve once again started committing it to memory. All the better to impress their dates.
Should moderates aspire to such a perfect society or just let it go where it will? Is my utopia your utopia? Even it it’s not, you have to admit it’s a start.