Pundits love to shed light on the polarization of our country. They say America today is as divided as it was during the Civil War. That's supposed to make us feel right about the partisan or corporate rhetoric they follow it with.
In truth, such polarization is a sign that we need to move in the opposite direction. History will attest that when things veer towards the extreme, society has a way of leveling them out. At the moment, with both federally endorsed parties having moments of inner turmoil, the centrist project is just the leveling mechanism we need.
It might feel like the entire nation is at each other's throats because that's what the media fixates on. Those who shout the loudest tend to get the crowd's attention.
The fact is this: a majority of American citizens consider themselves moderates. Moderate views aren’t typically expressed on pundit shows and in social media because… they’re moderate. They require advanced reasoning skills like compromise and compassion. Promoting moderate policies doesn’t get heads turning.
As a result of this, few political leaders emphasize the importance of moderate, centrist policies. That is, political rhetoric that strikes a balance between what is best for, and what is desired by, a majority of Americans. If you’re already a centrist, you may have already faced backlash for it from time to time. Many people assume that if you’re centrist, you’re “sitting on the fence,” and don’t have a strong opinion on anything.
Quite to the opposite though, centrists are some of the most politically informed and introspective voters. Instead of seeking to advance a specific set of causes defined by leaders in their party, a centrist observes that most of his or her peers disagree with these notions but go along with them out of fear of “fracturing the party.” We need to end that way of thinking.
A shift toward the center means that moderates in both parties vote for policies based on how much evidence actually supports those policies — not based on “traditional” party philosophy or dogma. The centrist project holds six principles to be the most important. They are:
Sometimes, deciding which of the proposed laws and actions satisfy these principles — or which one takes priority over the other in the context of a given issue — can be difficult. Centrist logic isn't about making things less complicated. It's about delivering real solutions that satisfy citizens, not politicians or corporate donors.
There are 100 seats in the Senate. The power of a centrist approach derives from the realization that by erasing antiquated party lines, a group of moderates can control America's political decisions by earning 34 percent of the vote on most issues.
Voters could have the ability to realize such a congress, too. That’s because, unlike the presidential election, congress members are directly elected. If Americans want to see more moderate thinking in control in Washington, it would only take electing a small number of senators and representatives. The rest of the system would manifest on its own.
Frustration abounds in today's political dialog — this is not the situation for one side, but for both. We're not getting things done, money is being wasted, and there is no sign of a way out. Our leaders are too ignorant or self-serving to seek an answer that might result in their dismissal, so it's up to the American people to make things better.
There are still those left in Congress who want to make a difference despite the lemming-like behavior of their party colleagues. Take Jeff Flake, for example, who pointed out how far we’ve come from doing the job that Congress is supposed to.
Transitioning to such a system won’t be easy, but the biggest challenge is that moderates, who might otherwise choose to sit out of the political discussion because things have gotten ugly, need to stand up and demand it. Extremism can no longer define American politics.
Kate Harveston is a political journalist from Pennsylvania. If you like her writing, you can find more of it on Centrist Project, Independent Voter Network, or on her personal blog, Only Slightly Biased