Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Centrist Paradise? We need Organization First.

Hello all!

This is the first post in the new collaborative Yellow Line Blog. I'd like to express my deepest thanks to Alan and Joe for inviting me to participate in this exciting experiment. As my first post, I've been asked to republish an idea I wrote about on Thoughts of an American Centrist back in May, directly after the formation of the "Gang of 14." My proposal calls for more Centrist Organization. Here is the post in full.

From May 25th, 2005:

Due to the recently forged anti-filibuster compromise, there have been a number of bloggers and pundits proclaiming an end to the dominance of extremists over the agenda of Congress. Not so fast, guys.

The Yellow Line has a great roundup of gleeful moderates, and his own words of wisdom:

“…it is prematurely optimistic to declare a transfer of power. The extremists in both parties are very loud and well financed. For the Center to take hold, we’ll need to see a lot more courage from the Centrists.”

I agree with that cautionary note.

I’d also like to add another criterion for a true power shift: cross-party interest groups. Our current special interests group system does an excellent job canceling each other out on the national stage: NARAL vs. Right to Life, ACLU vs. Focus on the Family, Brady Campaign vs. NRA. They all nicely balance each other in the general elections.

Unfortunately, within their home parties, these interest groups hold absolute sway with the core. While in a general election, a pro-choice Republican, for example, can offset the rage of the right by tapping into the pro-choice moderates and center-lefts, there is none of that buffer in the primaries. While opposition candidates have the backing (both financially and organizationally) of the core party interest group, the moderate is left out in the cold, looking for support from the much less structured center. Support from the other party’s special interest groups wouldn’t help, either. NARAL reaching across the aisle to support a pro-choice Republican wouldn’t be doing the candidate any favors. It’s support would be seen as a corrupting influence, and only energize the base, further alienating the candidate. Besides, I don’t know of a single pro-choice Republican who takes NARAL’s hard-line position on partial birth abortion, and I doubt any of them would want to be associated with that position anyway. No, the other party’s interest groups are of no help to the moderate candidate.

What we needed are Moderate interest groups.

This, of course, is tricky. NARAL and Right to Life have pretty clear mission statements. So do NRA, Brady, FRC, ACLU, Sierra Club, and all the rest of them. A moderate group would have a much more nuanced and difficult message to communicate and raise money for. Even the names would be tricky. What do you call a group that opposes teacher led school prayer, opposes the teaching creationism, and opposes abstinence-exclusive sex-ed programs, yet supports singing Christmas carols, supports keeping “Under God” in the pledge, encourages active discussion on religious issues, and seeks to avoid both the explicit condemnation and approval of homosexuality in high school curricula? “Americans for Educational Balance,” perhaps. Boring name, but I’d certainly join that group!

I can picture moderate groups like this forming around the country. Slowly, at first, because of the difficulty articulating and communicating the message, but gradually picking up steam driven by the sheer number of people who identify with their positions. Imagine a group called “The National Center for Abortion Reform.” Again, not a very pretty name, but it would have the values and concerns of the bulk of the country at heart, with an eye towards real progress on the issues. Each of the extremist groups on either side of the moderate coalitions would denounce these new institutions as being agents for the other pole. But we’ve heard that before, and we can take it. Groups like this could support moderates on both sides of the aisle, and give coalitions such as the Gang of 14 someone in their corner when the extremists try to raise hell.


At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Charles Amico said...

Hi Johnathan. I can't believe it, as I was writing something similar based upon the Ohio election yesterday. I want it taken one step farther. I would like to see a new party emerge and wrote about some possible platforms it could advocate. I don't want to copy and paste it here but you can read it and add to it if you like, or shoot the idea down. I'm open.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

"A moderate group would have a much more nuanced and difficult message to communicate and raise money for."

I don't know how well this would do to raise money, but how's this for a start at getting the message across:
"Committed to open and honest debate, free from pandering to extremes, free from demonization of those who disagree, free from the things that polarize the most."

It's not a position on any current issue, really, but I think it's a good starting point for a group that could fill a void in American politics. I'm pretty far left, but I would gladly join a party where I could count on engaging in serious, honest debate with those from the far right, in an effort to hammer out the best position we can.

I'm tired of screaming at them from across the aisle. Except the ideologues -- they can stay there.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Peter said...

It is certainly a shame that such an organization does not exist. My dream is that sometime in our lifetimes that we have a political organization/party that is instrumental in every election in our nation. A Moderate Party, that looks toward reasonable stances on all issues.

So many Americans are neither on the loony left or the radical right - we need a place to call our own.

President Bush is right, the Democratic party has been taken over by obstructionists. But at the same time, the GOP is controlled by the far-right religious wing of the party.

I think a 2008 ticket of McCain-Lieberman would be a great kickoff (and a successful one) to such moderation!


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