How to Plot a Moderate Revolution
What do George Washington, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin have in common, aside from their traditional roles as Founding Fathers and eminent dead white males?
The answer I’m looking for is that all three gentlemen were moderates who also happened to be revolutionaries. Moderate revolutionaries?, you ask incredulously. Why not talk about feathered mammals or the Venezuelan bobsledding team?
Moderates take an undue amount of grief (as we moderates know from experience) for being wishy-washy, namby-pamby, noncommittal souls whose accursed timidity won’t allow them to take a stand. They’re accused of waffling on the issues… they’re reviled as unprincipled opportunists. Lately they’re even getting bullied out of their own political primaries.
I have news for you: those days are about to fade into history. The brave new era of the radical moderate is at hand. High time, too, as Ben Franklin would agree.
This past weekend I traveled from Philadelphia to New Hampshire, and it wasn’t just the autumnal New England landscape that lured me there. I’m on the board of CenterMovement.org, a fledgling activist group based in the historic city of Portsmouth.
On a brisk, sparkling November morning, we filed into a massive nineteenth-century converted mill and started chatting about our broken democracy. That’s right: broken. We radical moderates don’t mince words.
We agreed that our government — particularly the legislative branch — has abandoned its historic obligation to represent the interests of the American people. Instead, the system has become a corrupt and self-perpetuating machine, a grotesque Rube Goldberg contraption animated by big-money lobbies, thinly veiled bribes, redistricting chicanery and the endless need to collect campaign contributions.
All this is nothing new, of course. But we’ve decided to do something about it. Now. Before the entrenched interests formally establish a government of, by and for those who grease the machinery.
We would call for Congressional term limits. Ban the gerrymandering of Congressional districts to favor career incumbents. And above all, stop the flow of money from powerful lobbies to our elected representatives.
To make our case before the public, we had engaged a young political activist to create a stirring video that we’d air on the Internet and link to our website. Now the rough cut was ready for our viewing pleasure. We watched it for the first time, and you could feel the excitement ripple across the room.
What we were planning was nothing short of revolutionary: a long-overdue “J’accuse!” that would spark a radical reformation in Washington. There was talk of a new constitutional convention. And yet we we still had our feet firmly planted in the center, favoring neither the PC warriors of the left nor the strange alliance of plutocrats and Tea Partiers on the right.
As the video pointed out, it’s no longer a question of right versus left. It’s us versus them. Us being the rank-and-file citizenry; them being the empowered minority that pulls the strings in the halls of Congress.
In short, we’re plotting a revolution that would appeal to just about everyone who values democracy in America. A revolution that would unite the battling factions of the right and left behind our sensible call to arms.
Ours would be a bloodless revolution, of course. We’d rather not see heads rolling in the streets of Washington. After all, we’re moderates. But as radical moderates, we intend to shake up the system. And we’ll settle for nothing less than the restoration of honest-to-God representative democracy in our embattled republic.
While we’re at it, we’re about to demolish the lingering stereotype of the wishy-washy moderate who can’t take a stand. Timid and spineless, are we? Smile when you say that, pardner!