Within the small community of dedicated political
moderates and centrists lies a certain breed of political junkie with an
attitude. They are a bit arrogant. They are frustrated and angry with Washington
and hyperpartisanship. They belittle hardcore Republicans and Democrats as
brain-washed ideologues who ignore rational, pragmatic solutions to political
problems. Some of these high-minded centrists live by the creed that an
American cannot be a partisan and a patriot at the same time.
As someone who is sometimes accused of falling into this
category, I was fascinated by the farewell message from a group called
California Moderates, which is folding its tent out of exasperation. Their
failed attempt to rally the centrist troops under the Pragmatic Non-Ideological
(PNI) banner comes on the heels of the colossal failure of Americans Elect to
nominate an independent presidential candidate.
Here’s a portion of the California Moderates sign-off
posted on their blog:
“Over a year ago, it became obvious to California
Moderates (CM) that the general public operating in the two-party status quo
wasn't in any mood for the kind of PNI politics argued here. The public was,
and still is, continuing its divide into more polarized ideological camps.
Within that time, the few moderates or RINOS left in the Republican Party were
getting killed off in the primaries or resigning in disgust. A serious attempt
to make a change -- e.g., Americans Elect -- was botched by aloof, arrogant
people. That effort and the roughly $35 million behind it went down in flames
with no effect on anything. Other efforts like Movement to the Middle and
icPurple were also ineffective, although that is understandable because they
started late and the amount of money they put into their efforts was small or
“The June elections here in California showed that the public was sticking with
the two parties despite a fair amount of belly-aching about them. The June
California primary also revealed the public's continuing disengagement with
politics. Most people didn't know much about much and, the few who did vote
voted mostly along party lines. The California Moderate Party discontinued its
efforts from insufficient public support or interest. The California Modern
Whig Party remains moribund. That is a shame since the Whigs seemed in theory
to be the closest to the non-ideological logic-based thinking advocated here.
“… It is fair to say that despite real discontent, many
(most?) moderate/independent voters … might say they want compromise, but some
analysis suggests that means the other side has to compromise, not them. The Republicans
have made it crystal clear that they simply won’t compromise and thus we can
expect more fun and games with the debt ceiling, along with other predictable
malarkey. The current Republican ideology and mindset is that compromise
literally gives in to evil and thus it cannot and will not happen. At best,
they are willing to find ‘common ground,’ which means the Democrats have to
give Republicans what they demand or the gridlock continues. Maybe that isn't
so bad, because it isn't clear that compromise between the two sides even makes
much sense any more. Maybe options that neither side likes is what we need to
be thinking about.
“The people who
appear to be potentially open to non-ideological politics is the roughly 10
percent of voters who are true moderates. That amounts to maybe 7 percent of
the American public. Most ‘independents’ vote along party lines but pretend to
themselves and/or their friends that they are something other than garden
variety Democrats or Republicans. It’s a coolness thing. The few people who
call themselves moderates apparently are the repository of most of the few open
minded people remaining in American politics.
“Given that landscape (reality) of political wreckage and desolation, it is
easy to see that politics based on cold, unspun facts, non-ideological logic
and true reality has no place in American politics at present. Emotion,
ideology and illogic rules the day and will likely continue to do so for a
while at least.
“… The real patriots are non-ideological pragmatists with the moral courage to
set their ideology and emotion aside and face sometimes harsh, unspun reality
for what it is. Ideologues don't have that kind of courage.”
CM was based on the idea that “the polarized politics colors our perceptions of
reality” and the liberals and conservatives who dominate Washington and the
state houses have demonized each other to such an extent that it may be many
years before Democrats and Republicans can work together. “Differences of
opinion amounts to a battle of good vs. evil, not a competition of reasonable
ideas. Each side believes they are good and the opposition is literally evil
(or maybe severely self-deluded at the least),” CM said.
In a separate wave goodbye, CM summed up their experiment
“The most obvious conclusion is that Americans are not
ready for reality politics. Facing harsh, unspun reality -- e.g.,the federal
debt and a need for effective government -- is just too intimidating for
the average politician and voter. That brand of politics could lead to real
discomfort, both psychological and otherwise. We are not going to get much hope
or change from either party or from politics as usual. What that will lead to
is anyone's guess. Defenders of the status quo will argue that things will turn
out just fine. Despite that defense, the vibe sensed here is that things are
going to get very ugly fairly soon (within two to four years or so) and stay
that way a very, very long time (15 to 30 years or so).
“With any luck, that sense of the future will turn out to be completely wrong.
But at the moment, California Moderates would not bet any money on it. The stew
just looks to be too toxic for a better outcome.”
You can read much more here.