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Moderate Hall of Fame

The New Moderate’s Hall of Fame

Honoring those exemplary individuals who have used their power and prestige to rise above partisanship, promote consensus or steer a middle course. Note the common fate shared by several of our inductees; after all, being a moderate approximately doubles your chance of making enemies.

  • Abraham Lincoln – A backwoods American saint. Criticized for moving too fast (or not fast enough) on slavery, he walked straight down the middle, saved the Union and liberated a people from bondage. Assassinated.
  • Anwar al Sadat – First Egyptian leader to establish cordial relations with Israel. Assassinated.
  • Aristotle – He embraced the ancient Greek philosophical concept of “the Golden Mean,” an ideal midpoint between excess and deficiency.
  • Augustus Caesar – The noble, even-handed first emperor of Rome… if only his successors had followed his example.
  • Benjamin Franklin – A wise and great man who proved that moderates could also be revolutionaries, and that revolutionaries could also be moderates.
  • Bill Cosby – Risked his prestige in the black community to say important things that not everybody wanted to hear.
  • Booker T. Washington – Unfairly maligned today for his gradualist approach to improving the lot of African Americans, which was the only viable strategy back in 1900.
  • Boris Yeltsin - Dismiss him as a drunken buffoon if you like, but this plucky moderate gave Russia a human (and humane) face after 75 years of Communist oppression.
  • Camille Paglia – Not exactly a moderate, but worthy of a nod for her fearless confrontations with radical feminists.
  • Colin Powell – One of those too-rare public men who placed principles above high office.
  • Daniel Webster – Eloquent spokesman for reason during the slow buildup to the Civil War.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower – Underrated president whose character and leadership kept the U.S. on a moderate course despite the McCarthy hysteria and the ever-present threat of nuclear war.
  • George Washington – Godlike American leader who had the wisdom to stay above politics while his brilliant cronies fought like cats and dogs.
  • Henry Clay – The Great Compromiser — not always a good thing, but in his case it was a great thing.
  • Hrant Dink – Activist who attempted to end 90 years of open hostility between Armenians and Turks. Assassinated by a Turk.
  • James Madison – Father of the U.S. Constitution, still a masterpiece of  checks and balances.
  • James Monroe – Presided over the “Era of Good Feelings,” a rare 8-year vacation from partisan politics.
  • John F. Kennedy – Liberals claim him as one of their own, but he moved wisely and judiciously on most issues. Assassinated.
  • Marcus Aurelius – The ultimate “philosopher-king” and a model of moderation.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. – A great liberal activist, yes, but with the nuanced instincts of a moderate. (The radicals grew impatient with his insistence on peaceful demonstrations.) Assassinated, of course.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev – Intelligent Soviet leader whose receptivity to public opinion helped thaw the ice and end the Cold War.
  • Mohandas K. Gandhi – Spiritually gifted leader who dedicated his life to establishing a free India. Apparently that wasn’t enough for some of his fellow Hindus. Assassinated.
  • Richard Nixon – If we could forget about Watergate for a moment, we’d find much to admire in his thoughtful and often progressive leadership.
  • Terence – “Moderation in all things.” Yep, this Roman author said it first.
  • Theodore Roosevelt – A brilliant bundle of contradictions, TR stood up for the average American against big business interests. Survived an assassination attempt.
  • Tsar Alexander II – One of the most open-minded of the Romanovs, he freed the serfs to bring Russia into the modern era. Assassinated.
  • Vaclav Havel – Venerated man of letters was instrumental in the success of Czechoslovakia’s bloodless “Velvet Revolution.”
  • Will Rogers - Beloved cowboy humorist told the truth in the form of gentle barbs aimed at America’s leaders, without bias or malice. 
  • Woodrow Wilson – His dogged, ultimately futile attempt to bring America out of isolation broke him in body and spirit.
  • Yitzhak Rabin – Thoughtful Israeli leader showed a willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians. Assassinated.

Copyright 2009 by Rick Bayan.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2009 10:13 am

    Not sure if history facts play any role in this fanciful honor roll. Marcus Aurelius had ongoing military campaigns of such massive bloodshed and loss of life, he found refuge in his musings of stoic resolution. Abraham Lincoln fired generals for not prosecuting the massive onslaught of his resolute vision for ending slavery. In this process he finally ended upon General Ulysses S Grant who knew the best end to the bloodshed was to brutally and quickly conquer and kill as many of the “enemy” (our fellow citizens) and he did meet Lincoln’s instructions to bring the war to a successfull close. War is not moderate in any lexicon.

  2. November 1, 2009 10:57 am

    Hoboduke: Give poor Lincoln a break. (You must be a Confederate.) He had to suffer with one indecisive general after another before he appointed Grant. By that time I would have been relieved to see a butcher take over the Virginia campaigns, too. (Grant was actually a gentle and humane person — just not a gentle and humane general.)

    As for Marcus Aurelius, I knew he was out there campaigning in northern Europe, but heck — they didn’t call it the Roman EMPIRE for nothing. (He had rebellions to quell, too — not his fault.) I suppose he was less moderate than some of the more passive emperors (e.g., Nerva, Antoninus Pius), but those gentlemen wouldn’t make anyone’s hall of fame; they’re not famous enough. MA’s Meditations are a model of philosophical moderation, and that’s good enough for me.

    Thanks for challenging me, though — you made some good points.

  3. Taliesin Knol permalink
    January 9, 2010 5:27 am

    Assassinations… The inevitable result of trying to step between to insane groups’ fight. (mega-sigh)

  4. Roger permalink
    March 4, 2011 2:44 pm

    I agree with you in every case except for Woodrow Wilson. I consider Wilson a wimp with no common sense.

    • T. McGuigan permalink
      March 15, 2013 12:34 pm

      In reading that book on Woodrow Wilson, I’ve noticed a few things. Wilson, and the other early progressives, had a veiw of the constitution that it was “living and breathing”, which I’m sure you’ve heard before. They believed that abstract, transcendent ideas, such as “liberty” were not fixed things. In other words, you can’t hold a government to fixed ideas because they don’t exist. All is relative to what “current historical spirit requires”. He rejects interpreting the Constitution, Declaration of Independence in light of what those who wrote it thought about it, because they were only appropriate for their “historical epoch”. Therefore, ideas such as separation of powers, and limited government to protect us fro tyranny, were only appropriate for their time. He believed that societies and human nature “evolved” to the point where government power should not be limited, because after all, government was just the natural “organic” will of society. Our framers believed in abstract, trancendent ideas, that were good for all time, and that human nature does not “evolve” but remains corrupted, and therefore limits and separation of powers needed to be placed on these imperfect humans who would govern us, so as to prevent tyranny. I think that’s where alot of problems arise today, as some politicians, and judges for that matter, believe that they can interpret the constitution any way they like, and can make laws for government to do whatever “the times demand”, in their opinion. This includes prgressives on the right, and the left, republicans and democrats alike. The early progressives knew that the constitution prevented them from doing all that they felt govenment should, and must, do for the people. I just think that the more government claims to do “for” us, the more power and control they have over us, and the more the constitution sinks into irrelevance. In my opinion, there was nothing “moderate” about Wilson at all.

  5. Ian Robertson permalink
    March 11, 2011 1:12 pm

    You know who actually belongs on this list? George Bush, the elder, who lost the support of his parties ideologues and the presidency because he was willing to take a risk and raise taxes to try to staunch the flow of red ink. A decent man in many ways who as a Texas Congressman had the guts to support Civil Rights legislation and received his share of hate mail and threats for his actions. His comments on Voodoo economic should also qualify him.

    • March 13, 2011 10:32 pm

      Ian: You might not believe this, but I had actually enshrined Bush the Elder when I first compiled the list. I still regard him as an underrated president and a moderate, as well as one of our most thoroughly likable recent chief executives. Why did I remove him, then? After the crash of 2008, I was furious with our plutocratic elite. I thought the S.O.B.s needed to be brought down, once and for all. To my mind, Bush suffered from guilt by association — not to mention persistent rumors of complicity in JFK’s assassination as CIA chief. (Hard to believe, and I don’t really believe them.) My attitude has softened just enough to consider reinstating him.

      • Craw permalink
        July 17, 2013 9:51 am

        “You must be a Confederate” This speaks volumes about you, was thinking about supporting Centrist, second thoughts now

      • July 18, 2013 12:57 pm

        Are you a Confederate, too? Man, you guys are all over the place. ;) I don’t think being an admirer of Lincoln and being a moderate are mutually exclusive.

  6. Dave Segal permalink
    July 2, 2011 1:14 am

    Too bad you didn’t include Siddhartha Gautama–the Buddha. He, too, had a philosophy of moderation in all things, and he lived it.

  7. July 4, 2011 5:13 pm

    Dave: Good suggestion. The Middle Way… I’d be curious to see if his philosophy extended into politics. I might add him after all.

  8. Giuliano Taverna permalink
    October 22, 2011 8:59 pm

    Well since I’m here I may as well…

    I like the inclusion of Augustus, Marcus, and most of the us presidents excluding Nixon. My reasoning for that is based on his treasonous sabotage of the Paris peace talks, and the nightmare he unleashed in Cambodia, He was also a racist homophobic anti semite and a drunk, which we know from the tapes the paranoid loony kept of all his conversations.

    Also Woodrow Wilson was an out and out white supremacist, though I do like his foreign policy views and I more or less agree with the nice things you did say about him… I just don’t like racists.

    Finally I’d nominate two additional roman emperors, Vespasian, who ended a long period of strife and civil war, and brought a common sense approach to imperial politics that balanced the treasury and rebuilt the social fabric of the city, (famously starting the Colosseum, which while an arena of blood sport, is a lasting cultural landmark and the archetype of all modern stadiums.) Then there was Julian the Apostate, who managed to reestablish the roman empire after a bloody civil war, attempted to end the established theocracy created under Constantine, championed neo platonic philosophy as an alternative to Christianity and a remedy for the sectarian bloodshed plaguing the empire. He was noted for his modesty and hard work… how he died is not entirely known, he was either killed by the Persians or one of his christian bodyguards. Either is likely.

    Also for moderns, how about Salman Rushdie? Aside from the rather Socratic fight he had with the Iranian theocracy over his book he’s also been an outspoken critic of Islamism and has made quite a few enemies on the “left” for his views… He is, to be fair a leftist and a close personal friend of Christopher Hitchens who I wouldn’t suggest because he is in no way a moderate, nor would I want him to be. The following interview might also state my case somewhat on Rushdie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qn831hlh2L4 You might also add in Irshad Manji as a bonus, after all how many openly gay female Muslim reformists are there? Not many that I’m aware of.

  9. Rich Belloff permalink
    December 6, 2011 11:35 am

    Woodrow Wilson, he the fan of Eugenics? That speaks volumes!

  10. December 15, 2011 10:03 am

    Woodrow Wilson was a racist, pure and simple. And I don’t like to see included the name of M. L. King, who seemed like a “good guy” when he was conducting a Gandhi-like campaign for racial equality, went sour in my mind when he showed he was less interested in freedom for South Vietnamese than in freedom for his own people, and took the side of the Communists in Vietnam who were crushing any hope for freedom. But I’m glad to see someone besides myself appreciate the moderation of Richard Nixon, who is most people’s villain.

    • February 5, 2012 5:26 pm

      you've got to be kdniidg. you're saying because our president has dropped in popularity, it's, ipso facto, because of racism? are you nuts? people can disagree with a president's policies without anything more than that–disagreement with his policies. this racism charge is extremely unhealthy and devalues the reality of REAL racism.

      • February 5, 2012 7:08 pm

        Angelina: WHERE did I say that “because our president has dropped in popularity, it’s, ipso facto, because of racism”? I called Woodrow Wilson a racist, which he was. And I criticized King for his conduct in the Vietnam war. But nowhere in my post did I call Obama’s opponents, OF WHOM I AM ONE, racists.

  11. Anonymous permalink
    December 15, 2011 11:16 am

    In addition to being a racist (see eugenics) Wilson was a clearly a “progressive.” I am not sure which is worse.

  12. December 17, 2011 7:05 pm

    You do know that Rand’s objectivism is born of Aristotle.

    • skb8721 permalink
      April 11, 2012 1:26 pm

      Not entirely. She also drew heavily on Nietzsche, not exactly a moderate. I’m sure she drew on other philosophers, too. Ultimately, she didn’t follow her own philosophy and became a “my-way-or-the-highway” extremist.

  13. December 17, 2011 7:10 pm

    And Nixon ?

    If we could forget about Watergate, we would have to confront the enormous economic mess he made. Nixon provided just about the most compelling proof that price controls do not work. Triggered or atleast threw gasoline on the inflation that wrecked the seventies, busted the financial system. You are correct that Nixon was progressive – a FAILED progressive.

    I will be happy to give Nixon great credit for his foreign policy successes, but it ends there.

  14. Jim Stewart permalink
    December 18, 2011 3:28 pm

    I consider myself a moderate, maybe a little right of you. Your site is interesting but I think what we really need is a way to put these ideas into action. Before finding this site I thought it would be nice if there was a moderate party. So how does it start? If the Republicans put up a right winger that might be a perfect scenerio, not that there would be time for a successful 3rd party run. But it seems that in the primaries, the radicals control both parties. I consider Romney a moderate. He would do better in a moderate party. He has governed moderately in Massachusetts. Huntsman is also a moderate but doesn’t have much support. You could start by convincing the moderates from both parties to come together. Democrats also pick extreme candidates like Obama. It probably will take someone with a lot of credibility to start this, but the majority of America would relate to a moderate party more than to Democrats or Republicans.

  15. July 31, 2012 1:12 am

    Loving the site.
    I’m wondering why Socrates, the preacher of the “golden mean” is not on your list.
    And, although they were not moderate for their time, the philosophies of Rousseau and John Locke are at the heart of any intelligent government.

  16. jonesey permalink
    October 17, 2012 11:26 am

    Not to get religious but John Wesley (Methodist ) said in 1774 in regards to voting, that he had 3 rules. 1. Vote for the candidate you think would do the best job. 2. Don’t speak badly of the candidate you didn’t vote for. 3. Don’t speak down to the people who didn’t vote like you. As a youngish moderate (27), I am tired of hearing candidates explain to me that they are better qualified for the position because the other Guy is an idiot. Let me know where you stand and I’ll choose between the 2.

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  19. November 30, 2013 1:38 am

    Very Happy to have found your site.We are again at a crossroads in our history as a nation. Many time dissatisfaction with both parties leads to the creation of new parties. Sustaining the movement has always been the difficulty.

    Eventually all real politics is local. However most “national” issues are used to define individuals. At the local level most elected officials are not ideologues. Most of them are administrators.At every administrative position we should seek to elect persons who desire to be good stewards of our tax dollars. They should be , I believe, pragmatic and efficient in their administration and operation of their office.

    I am getting tired of the hatred,ridicule and hatred from both sides of the aisle. What examples do we set for our children when we post angry, posts and comments on social media and in our news papers and television shows? We are doing what we attempt to teach our children not to do. We are teaching them prejudice and hatred by our actions. The hypocrisy of telling our children to “play nice” and “respect the teacher even if you don’t like them” while spewing forth all sorts of hatred and vile scurrilous remarks about our own leaders and fellow citizens is deplorable.

    Can a new party rise and stand toe to toe with the other two? I don’t know. I am not sure if we as citizens have the ability and bravery to trust one another. I do not know if our innate desires to be mean and petty beings can be overcome long enough for compromise and rational discourse prevail.

    Let us begin anew to build a better group of citizens. let us begin today to look upon others who are different not with hatred and mistrust but with the eyes of one seeing a family member who we have not seen in a while. People grow apart but we are always connected. We all have common bonds which join us together. Let us embrace those bonds and seek to reconcile our differences for the benefit of tomorrow.

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