I wanted in this post to propose a revolt: a “Revolt of the Moderates.”
Watching the Debt Ceiling food fight among the Democrats and Republicans, the White House and Congress, and Fox News and others has caused total frustration. Before I continue, I want to briefly shed some light on the history of political parties and some interesting new research from Pew.
First, look at political parties. Our constitution doesn’t mention them, Madison and Hamilton each in their own way voiced concerns about them. George Washington was never officially committed to one, and remained stubbornly non-partisan through elections and his tenure as our first president. The Republican and Democratic Parties of today seem strong and timeless; integral to the process. A look at history sees them in a more transitory way. Political scientists see five or more distinct party phases that have come and gone in America; with names such as Whigs, Federalists; even the now oxymoronic “Democratic-Republican” Party of the early 1800’s. Our current configuration roughly began in the Thirties with the introduction of the New Deal. So parties aren’t at the core of our politics, although their most partisan voices now control almost all of the debate.
Second, I mention The Pew Research Center’s “2011 Political Topography” report. Its fifth since 1994, the research goes deeper than the traditional “Red-Blue” two-dimensional concept, and provides a more granular and politically useful view of the populous. The study creates a spectrum of nine cohorts positioned into four groups: GROUP 1 – MOSTLY REPUBLICAN: “Staunch Conservatives” (percent of public, 9%; of registered voters, 11%), “Main Street Republicans” (11%, 14%); GROUP 2 – MOSTLY INDEPENDENT: “Libertarians” (9%, 10%), “Disaffecteds” (11%, 11%), “Post Moderns” (13%, 14%); GROUP 4 – MOSTLY DEMOCRATIC: “New Coalition Democrats” (10%, 9%), “Hard-Pressed Democrats” (13%, 15%), “Solid Liberals” (14%, 16%); and finally GROUP FOUR – BYSTANDERS: “Bystanders” (10%, 0%). This framework allows one to break out of the current winner-take-all contest between Conservatives and Liberals. It is an excellent read, and goes into the demographics of each. (See http://people-press.org/2011/05/04/beyond-red-vs-blue-the-political-typology/ ).
If you examine the wonderful insights of Pew Research, the extreme positions, left and right, represent at most 23% ( less than 12% at each extreme) of the populous, 27% (less than 14% at each extreme) of the registered voters. Unfortunately, Republican and Democrat candidates alike only survive the primary gauntlet by making promises to these zealots, and this should stop.
I had been pondering a solution to all this when I read Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed piece in the NY Times on July 23rd titled “Make Way for the Radical Center.” Friedman mentions a new group, “Americans Elect” (See http://www.americanselect.org/ ).
As he writes in his column:
“The goal of Americans Elect is to take a presidential nominating process now monopolized by the Republican and Democratic parties, which are beholden to their special interests, and blow it wide open — guaranteeing that a credible third choice, nominated independently, will not only be on the ballot in every state but be able to take part in every presidential debate and challenge both parties from the middle with the best ideas on how deal with the debt, education and jobs.”
Check it out. This might finally be a way for a virtual mainstream party to break through the tortured maze of the states’ arcane rules for getting on the ballot. I think “Americans Elect” could be a positive force.