A Call to Moderates

Moderates, it’s time to step up.

For all of our lives, moderates left the organizing up to the left and the right, the Democrats and Republicans. That used to work—back when the parties were pulling in similar directions. Sure, the Democrats lead slightly to the left, the Republicans slightly to the right—different paths, but both leading, ostensibly, to a better future for our country. And the moderates steered the system by alternately electing one or the other, an indirect course but gradually moving forward, like a sailboat tacking left and right as it heads into the wind.

But those days are gone. The parties' visions have diverged, now seemingly diametrically opposed. With these choices, moderates can no longer steer as they have in the past. Lead by the religious right and now by Trump, the once-sane, small government and pro-personal-liberty Republican party has turned into a corrupt, xenophobic organization that left to its devices would replace our government with a Christian theocracy with a corrupt dictator of a king. The Democrats, while I think well-meaning, would rush us with rose-tinted glasses toward a mirage where we all get along, and nobody is poor or unhappy because the government fixes everything. It’s a lovely vision, but financially unsustainable, and probably socially too: no matter what assistance is provided, some will find a way to waste, ruin, or squander any help or support they are given.

The principles on which the parties base their direction have gradually evolved to match their respective ideologies, rather than reality: Neither party seriously addresses issues of corporate money in politics, the polarization driven by the Internet and the loss of the Fairness Doctrine, or income inequality. Few are looking at the big picture, where falling real-value wages mean it’s harder for college students to survive on part-time jobs, while reduced manufacturing and well-paid trades push more youth into the university path and allow schools to charge whatever they want. No politician openly dislikes abortion, yet believes it should be legal; those in favor of outlawing abortion, are also those in favor of reducing or dismantling support (“entitlements”) to assist families once children are born. Few dare question law enforcement or seriously ask, “Who watches the watchers?” The radicals on the right love guns, no constraints; the left radicals abhor them and would rid us of them if it weren’t for the Second Amendment, leaving us at the mercy of an authoritarian regime. Conservatives blame social programs for imbalanced budgets, while liberals refuse to look at redundancy in the system. The outrageous cost of the military is a sacred cow. Tax cuts are given to the rich and justified by as “investments” or “risk-taking,” the costs displaced onto hard-working Americans whose unrespected investment is the hard work they put in designing, building, and transporting goods and services and whose risk is the wear, tear, and exhaustion they put on their bodies and brains every day doing their jobs.

Moderates can no longer steer this ship. The once-steady wind has been replaced by gusts that vary at the whim of the news cycle and the opinions of the radicals on both sides of the aisle. The path once taken may never have been direct, by at least we made progress. Where would the parties take us now? Nowhere I’m comfortable going. The parties have lost their way, and it’s time we have new ones.

It’s certainly in the old-school Republicans' interest: what was once the Grand Old Party, the party of sanely-smaller government and financial conservatism, has been taken over by radical free-market capitalism, with an ideal of no government regulation at all (unless it’s our personal lives, where they can’t wait to impose their Christian morality). “Don’t create bureacracy we don’t need” has been replaced with “defund everything and let it all collapse,” with little regard for why regulation was put in place. If the zealots got their way, they’d defund any and all public safety nets, abandon our children and public school system (Pay for your own kids to go to private school!), and let the infrastructure crumble. The party has been co-opted, stained and ruined. Even if control could be recovered, its image is already tainted and can’t be easily cleaned.

The Democrats are leading in a different radical direction, one with universal basic incomes, free college, Medicare for all, and a big gun control bureacracy. They’ll raise the minimum wage without considering it will drive automation and eliminate jobs. They will never bother to consider any economic implications, because Democrats can never see beyond simple action, effect to the subtleties of action, effect, reactions, side-effects, secondary-reactions, and so on. And this party is tainted with infighting and distrust related to superdelegates, party leaderships' support of some candidates over others, and long years of right-wing propaganda about Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and other party leadership.

We need a new party, one that isn’t tainted, stained, mired in infighting. One with a fresh slate. Unfortunately, as moderates haven’t the experience to create or run one, and they encounter the established wisdom is that third parties only serve to split the vote. But I find myself asking, what’s the worst that can happen? Another 4 years of Trump? Frankly, given the Democrats' infighting and incompetence, I expect that’s what we’re in for anyway. And even if he doesn’t win, will he leave office? Given his charisma and cunning, he only needs to say it’s fake news and the election was stolen, and the right-wing Trump-nut militias will back him up. What are the liberals going to do? They don’t like guns. And bake-sales, sit-ins, and waving signs aren’t going to cut it.

The only course I see forward is moderates getting their act together and form their own team. Given how much the two established parties have radicalized in the last few years, I think a new party would draw from both sides. But time is running short, so if it’s going to happen, moderates need to start imminent. Unfortunately, beyond writing this essay, I’m not qualified to do anything. And even for this, I’m just an unimportant peon living in Rochester, NY, so no one is going to listen. Even if I get this published in the local paper, an editorial in a local rag will do little to effect national politics. So we’re screwed. Does anyone know what the Trump Salute will be? I assume that’ll be introduced early in the second term…