Do you know anyone who would describe themselves as a conservative? How about a liberal? The answer to both questions is probably “yes, several”.
But what about someone who describes themselves as a moderate, or a centrist? Chances are, if you know someone like that, you had to think about it longer than the first two questions.
A moderate is “One who holds an intermediate position between extremes, as in politics.” Meaning someone that may lean liberal or conservative, but can see merits in both sides and can also come to compromises with more extreme members of each party. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? After all, the most successful bills or policies a government puts out often have bipartisan support, and these moderates can lead the reconciliation efforts between their more divided colleagues.
But moderates are disappearing in American politics. The American electorate has moved away from the center, and moderates are finding it harder not only to get elected but also less beneficial once they are elected. Powerful committee chairmanships are often givien to members of a party that are seen as standard bearers, rather than members that often fraternize with the other side of the aisle.
In this most polarizing of times, let us not forget the important role of moderate Democrats and Republicans. Not only are they important to deal making and cooperation when it comes to legislation, but moderate voters are often the ones that will decide key policy directions. Hard core liberal or conservative voters will always dig in on their chosen positions, but the more moderate, centrist individuals can see both sides of an argument and be swayed by factual evidence over absolute conviction.
It’s also somewhat demeaning to assume that in such a diverse nation that we can split people neatly into two opposing camps on every issue. Some people think that you should have the right to an abortion, but also that 2nd amendment rights should be protected. Others may be fiscally conservative, but believe that the government should play a role in regulation of some industries.
Those who are moderate are often accusing of being fence sitters. The phrase “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” gets bandied about. But is it not a more principled position to be honest about what you think about issues based on your own knowledge and experience, rather than to mindlessly sort yourself into a group and then look to party leaders for guidance on what you should believe?
It is absolutely the position of this site that voters should elect Democrats across the board, at every level of government, because of the perilous position we find ourselves in in this country, due in large part to Republicans’ failure to exercise adequate oversight of their president because it is politically detrimental for them to do so. But in the long term, if we can get through this sad period in our history, we have to come together and stop placing so much of our identity on the idea of liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, rural or urban. And the people that will lead that charge towards greater national unity will be moderates.
Interested in getting to know the other side better and contributing to the depolarization of America? Check out Better Angels, a non profit promoting understanding across ideological lines.