Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Fighting for the Centrist Vision

Yesterday evening, The Yellow Line had a great meeting and conversation with John Avlon, author of Independent Nation and Mark Satin, author of The Radical Middle and editor of the Radical Middle newsletter.

First and foremost, there is unprecedented energy in the center. These two centrist writers/leaders are incredibly committed to advancing the cause of centrism and The Yellow Line is more than happy to join them.

The conversation was uplifting and energized and while there is no way we can cover the entire evening, we wanted to report on the key points of our discussion.

  1. We must communicate the conviction of Centrism to the media. With the great number of recent columns about centrism, the zeitgeist is ours to seize. Now is the time to break the media’s short-sighted belief that there are only two opinions to every issue. Centrist bloggers, make yourself known. Readers, contact your local papers, let the media know that Republicans and Democrats don't have a monopoly on ideas. Centrists are a force.

  2. We must be the base of support for centrist politicians. Being a centrist is about being a person of conviction. And we must support politicians who live up to our principles. Let your support be known. Contact the centrist politicians. Write letters to your local paper supporting our centrist leaders.

  3. Centrism is the heritage of American politics. And centrism is our future. Today’s politics of division obscure the truth that this is one nation, one people. We cannot let the two major parties dictate the terms of the debate for their own benefit. Republicans and Democrats seek issues to purposefully divide us and then ask us to choose the lesser of two evils. It doesn’t have to be that way. Centrism is the third way, the choice that rejects extremism and embraces real debate about real issues.

It is not enough for us to complain about the vitriol from the two parties. It’s not enough to reject the false polarization of the nation. We must act together to advance centrist principles. We must stand up to the extremists in both parties.

As centrists continue to group, The Yellow Line will lead the reporting. Let’s work toward building a common language and set of principles—let’s define this vision we share. And, as always, let us know your thoughts. Hundreds of you read The Yellow Line each day. Millions of Americans are centrists. Let’s make ourselves heard.


At 10:04 AM, Blogger JBD said...

Great post, Alan, and thanks for your continued leadership on this important issue.

I'm with you all the way!

- Charging RINO

At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Mark Satin said...

I am delighted to see that our conversation was memorialized on your blog, and that you captured the wonderful energy there!

If I could add two more points I felt were key:

4. We must not promote or discuss Centrism without making SURE our listeners know we are NOT talking about what one of us referred to as "the mushy middle." If we continue referring to ourselves as "centrists" we should probably find some mutually agreed upon modifier -- some word that indicates we're imaginative and creative, not JUST balanced and judicious (important tho' such qualities are!). Thus, NAF and I often use "radical" as our modifier, Avlon resurrects Sen. Edward Brooke's term "creative moderate," Anthony Giddens has used "active middle," Matt Miller has used "new center," etc.

5. We must recognize that centrism can be "our future" (as you put it in #3) ONLY if we have the self-awareness to look critically at our behaviour and learn from it. It was apparent last night that each of us has done that: Avlon took what he needed (but no more) from each of the political parties, you and Joe learned from your experiences with the Dems & GOP, and I learned -- albeit slowly -- from a long journey through the New Left, the New Age, and the legal Establishment. We must create a political movement that encourages millions of Americans to think constructively-critically about their past political (and life) behavior. That will not be easy.

You asked me how your generation could possibly get through to mine. It is not primarily laziness (or vituperativeness) you're up against, but years -- decades -- of disappointment and psychic numbing. We need to be shown a way out. As soon as real (i.e., MAINSTREAM) politicians become part of a movement that suggests real (i.e., PRACTICAL) answers to the real (i.e., LONG-TERM) problems that beset our nation, you will -- I suspect -- be amazed at how much positive energy is left in the generation that gave us civil rights & brought an end to the Vietnam war.

At 10:52 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

On 4. That's a great point. Have y'all heard about Paul Ray and his idea of Culture Creatives. (Check out: It's much more all-encompassing and touchy-feely than what we're talking about, but the politics of the Culture Creatives are similar. That said, Creative Centrist is pretty good. I also like neo-centrists. I know neo-con is all but an insult in some groups, but "neo" is a much more accepted political modifier than "creative." It also has an active sound. Neo-centrist is the kind of term I could definitely see the media picking up on.

On 5. Absolutely. The extremists try to bully, guilt, scare or coerce people into agreeing with them. One of our key principles (at least in my mind) is the belief in the power of honest debate. If we're going to build this movement, we have to structure our communications to open doors in people's minds. For some people, just the realization that neo-centrism exists will be enough. But for many others, it will be a long road--one of the things we always try to do at The Yellow Line is avoid condescending language and remember that people with opposing views don't hold those views because they are stupid. The vast majority of people consider themselves rationale thinkers and consider their beliefs to be rationale. And that's our in. On the word-by-word level we must appeal to people's rationale side while on the higher level appeal to the yearning for unity I think most people have.

I want to add one more thought. We might begin this through the Internet, but we will win this through the mainstream media. The media love a new angle. Neo-centrists will excite them. But we will upset their us vs, them view of the world so we will first be portrayed as neo-centrists vs. Republicans/Democrats as one unit. We should not shy away from such a simplification. At first. But the media will tire of that and then get confused because, as I think John said last night, they are addicted to the split screen. We have to turn debates into a three-way talk. The way to do that is the way McCain works, or the way Perot worked in his prime. Straight talk. Centrists don't spin. Spin is when you don't believe what you're saying but you're arguing for it anyway. If we don't believe something, we change our minds on the topic. That's how we work and it's why centrism is such a liberating philosophy. I think it's through straight talk that we entice and provide that marketable spark media bookers look for when they set up shows.

Of course, we need people that are good on their feet. And we need actual people running for office. But that's a whole other topic.

At 9:53 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

I find it amusing that Right-Wing web sites such as The Conservative Voice like to label Centrists as disgruntled Democrats. We need to make sure the mainstream news organizations understand we are cut from a different cloth. Republicans, Democrats, and undeclared individuals from all walks of life make a very attractive plaid. We are in the majority and very soon will be a force to be reckoned with.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Tom - doubts and all said...

I've always identified myself as a left of center Democrat, but I have had about all the hyperbole and spin I can take -- from both sides.

I'm after some good ole truth and accuracy, so I'll keep checking in for a while.

At 1:11 AM, Blogger Jon Huizer said...


This last election has forced me to do some soul searching. Weeks turned into months and I have discovered that I am a Centrist.

The concept of this identity; however, leaves me a bit uneasy. It's not enough to be identified as a "middle of the road" thinker. I think that the "squishy center" will wind up sticking without a thorough and well thought out set of values and principles.

With that said, I also believe that if we do not include a " Domestic Realism " philosophy to these values and principles, we will be missing the mark ever so slightly. In my opinion, the millions of undecideds are our base and the one thing that many of them share is a healthy cynicism for "politics as usual".

Please comment on the progress of these principles, as I am quite interested in assisting.

Additionally, it seems appropriate that we would refer to ourselves as Centrists; however, the "neo" modifier seems unnecessary and may even conjure up some other minor league parties or organizations. A Centrists philosophy is what we believe(as opposed to Liberal or Conservative), but the REAL issue (again in my opinion)is how would we compete in the branding arena? Our symbol should be without question - the Eagle, but what of the name? I am assuming that this movement will be formed into a tangible and sustainable political party - we do not have to "stick" with the Centrist label. We would need a viable brand that competes well with Republican and Democrat. Does anyone have some input on this?


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