Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just Who Exactly Makes Up The "Vast Middle," and Why Understanding Them is so Important

I read Kathleen Parker's Op-Ed today in the Trenton Times on the NBC/Esquire poll, and believe there is a very important element of the “vast middle” that is being overlooked but may be the single most important characteristic of the group.

The research I believe broke those in the middle into 5 distinct groups, each with its particular group of issues that supposedly motivates the “members” voting behavior. However, there is one unifying principle among all of these groups that defines them better than anything suggested by the poll, that being their pragmatism. 
Pragmatism IS the truly defining characteristic of the middle. I would in fact argue that pragmatism is one of the core values of our culture dating back to our Founding Fathers. Understanding those in the middle as pragmatists goes a long way in explaining their absolute frustration and disdain for our political parties. I would argue that most Americans would identify themselves as pragmatic and identify their position on issues like abortion, affirmative action, gun control, etc.. as being the most pragmatic.
FURTHER, this belief in pragmatism leads to another important yet never mentioned political fact: Voters in the middle do not shift liberal or conservative; the idea that our citizens are becoming “more liberal” or “more conservative”  shows a total misunderstanding of the pragmatic center. It is actually somewhat insulting to try and argue that their opinions are so fungible and “mushy” that they can so easily be swayed left or right. The strong opinions among those in the 5 groups is clear evidence that those in the middle do not shift. Rather, and this is the salient point, it is the parties that move to the middle, offering policies that they hope will be seen as the more pragmatic and thus garner the support of this “vast middle.”

The ramifications of this help explain why the Republican Party is doing so poorly. The Party has shifted so far to the right that they have a “longer distance” to travel with their policies to connect with the center. The left, on the other hand, is situated much closer to the middle, making it far more likely that they will construct policies that will appeal to this pragmatic center.
For the immediate future Democrats have a decided advantage over Republicans on the national scene, and Republicans will be unable to cut into that advantage until they restore the diversity of opinion and commitment to policy making that they had prior to 2008. That was, of course, about the time of the Tea Party's ascendency, and my decision to leave the Party.
It is time for true conservatives and moderates in the Party to show the guts to confront this insurrectionist, obstructionist faction of politicians, politicians who came to Washington not to help make policy and strengthen government, making it more effective and efficient, but who came to D.C. to disrupt the political process.
The Tea Party, is, frankly, ill-suited for our system of government with its separation of powers. It is, rather, designed for a parliamentary system. In such a system  loyalty and unanimity is necessary; this is a system where party discipline is expected and being in a party means you all share core beliefs. LIbertarians, conservatives, liberals, they each ARE a party, not part of a larger, amorphous body.

You can use many words to describe the Tea Party, but pragmatic is not one of them. As long as they are able to have such disproportionate influence over the Republican Party, the Party will never be able to connect with the "vast, pragmatic middle. This is tragic for our democracy, because two vibrant, healthy political parties is essential for our system to work.  We need a healthy Republican Party with the capacity for pragmatic action, and the only way that will happen is by attacking the Tea Party virus that has weakened its body and placed it on life support.

Pragmatism has a long history in this nation and is consistent with what is called “the American character.” Our Founders were pragmatists. The center is in fact “The Pragmatist Party.” The implications of this are very important to understand.

It is time to recognize the power of pragmatism in American politics, and the crucial role it plays in “picking winners and losers.”  I would argue that we have always been a pragmatic nation, and that this will not change. The Pragmatist Party will forever rule the day; the thought of a  coalition between Republicans and Pragmatists is laughable, as long as Democrats recognize this and don’t start believing that the nation is becoming more liberal. I wonder if they are that smart.

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