Bayan’s Field Guide to the Middle
After my elaborate dissections of the right and left, you knew it had to come to this. Fortunately or not, describing the center of our political spectrum is a relatively simple affair. But at least for now, it’s not an especially inspiring one.
Apathetic moderates. The vast majority of our tribe (and just possibly the majority of Americans) can claim membership in this backward and nondescript class. They have their comfortable homes and families and their decent jobs; they grumble occasionally about taxes and the stock market and wonder aloud whether their school district is better or worse than XYZ Township’s school district. They watch their favorite TV shows, yawn and drift off to sleep.
Closet moderates. They tend to socialize primarily with liberals or primarily with conservatives (in case you haven’t noticed, sociopolitical self-segregation is a way of life in the U.S. today). They’ll instinctively disagree with many of their friends’ extremist pronouncements, but they’d rather not disrupt any dinner parties with their reasonable (and unacceptably unorthodox) viewpoints. So they say nothing.
“Column A/Column B” moderates. “Say again?,” you ask. Simple: they’re people who might describe themselves as social liberals but fiscal conservatives… or socially conservative but left of center on matters economic (especially after the recent depredations of Wall Street). In other words, they take independent stands on individual issues — but when you average it all out, they stand with us. I respect Column A/Column B moderates for their nondogmatic thinking, but it remains to be seen if they’d join a moderate movement.
Concerned moderates. They read the news, discuss politics with their friends and vote their conscience. They’re alarmed by the political polarization of American society, but there’s really nothing they can do about it… so why have a stroke?
Radical moderates. An oxymoron no longer! Some of us refuse to tolerate the continuing domination of American politics by left-wing and right-wing extremists; their chronically slanted arguments are driving us to unprecedented levels of political exasperation. We’d just like to hear the truth for a change: the unslanted, unvarnished, 24-carat truth. In fact, we demand it.
We demand to hear the truth from our elected representatives, not the scripts dictated by lobbyists with bottomless pockets. We demand to hear the truth from journalists, pundits, bloggers and their fans, not the self-congratulatory partisan smackdowns of the despised opposition. We demand a new level of cooperation between our two entrenched political parties, because we’re sick of the petty bickering and perpetual stalemates that get nothing accomplished. (How much longer can we wait until Congress enacts a healthcare reform bill — any bill — that keeps us from losing what’s left of our fortunes if we have the temerity to get seriously ill?)
If the partisans continue to favor their own special interests over the welfare of the general public, we moderates — all of us — will have to rouse ourselves from our slumber. We’ll have to become radicals for the good of the country. Yes, moderates can be revolutionaries. (I submit George Washington and Benjamin Franklin as Exhibit A and Exhibit B.) We would ignite our moderate revolution (a bloodless one, naturally, because, well… we’re moderates) by lighting a fire under the mass of apathetic moderates, voicing our opinions in public forums like this one, pressing for the triumph of common sense, and enlisting the support of moderate-leaning liberals and conservatives who, until now, have had nowhere else to go. Populism is gaining ground at an almost alarming pace, and we need to make sure that it finds a safe outlet in our sensible philosophy.
In the end, we moderates must create a long-overdue political party of our own, one that would shun the special interests of right-wing plutocracy and left-wing identity politics in favor of unity and genuine justice for all. It’s time for Mr. Smith — hundreds of Mr. Smiths, brimming with fresh ideas and good will — to go to Washington and prevail over the corrupt political hacks who have dominated that town for longer than most of us can remember. Maybe those Mr. Smiths need to descend on Wall Street, too.
Can we start a moderate revolution — or even a vocal moderate movement? It’s up you. First we need to hear from you. (Radical moderates need to speak up in the time-honored manner of radical leftists and conservatives.) The problem with being a moderate is that we’re simply not used to hearing our own voices in public. Maybe it’s time for us to clear our throats and give it a try.