The Forgotten Moderates

Armstrong Williams
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Posted: Dec 07, 2010 9:00 AM
The Forgotten Moderates

If there is one thing that we can count on from the immediate aftermath of an election, it is the annoying and unceasing bleating from the left about the intelligence of the electorate. The electorate it is referring to is not actually America as a whole; rather, it is the 35 percent of voters who consider themselves moderates. It is these moderates who act as the arbitrators of this nation, determining which party will win a given election. In return, they receive the praise or derision of the left, depending on which choice they make.

From 2000-2005, the moderates were cast as a bunch of crazy inbred warmongers too stupid to know which party was actually looking out for them. The period 2006-2009, by contrast, was a time of rational enlightenment full of swamp draining, hope and change. The days following the elections of 2010 have brought a predictable chorus from the left. The moderates are now "insane, hormonal teenagers" and fools who are dooming America to finical insolvency because they do not want financial insolvency, to be involved with yet another protracted and divisive stimulus package and definitely no more ObamaCare. Talk about bi-polar.

Let us think about it for a minute.

For seven out of the past 11 years, the left has derided, in the most salacious terms possible, the voters most responsible for deciding the party in power. For all their complaints about the "evil" conservatives and tea partiers dumbing down America, promoting irrational choices and behavior and lowering the public discourse, they are the ones slinging the most mud at a group of people that tend to represent the epitome of the sensible middle-class. How does such wild swing of praise and criticism help the public discourse?

Often, we are so busy denigrating any one that disagrees with us, that we never stop to listen. We ignore what they say, concentrating on our own rebuttals to win the argument instead of trying to come to an agreement. Life requires us to be adaptable, yet when it comes to politics, we tend to become resolute. In order to solve problems, we must be willing to listen and be swayed if circumstances or logic dictate the need to adapt. This is not being wishy-washy, crazy or a dupe. We ask our judges not to make a rash decision before the evidence is heard, yet are annoyed with an electorate that attempts to do the same thing.

I am not a Kool-aid drinker, following blindly without consideration. I know people on both sides insult the other when the opposition wins. However, maybe it is time to quit deriding the moderates and appreciate the important service they provide to the republic. The moderates have always been the gravity in the pendulum of American politics. Whenever one party tries to swing the pendulum too far one way, the moderates counteract the inertia and pull the bob back toward the center.

Instead of bashing, we need to look at the trends to tell us how and when one party is overstepping its bounds. No matter the winners, this should be heralded. The founders again proved their genius in the subtle means of checks and balances. If the party in power holds, gains or only loses a few seats, then we know America generally agrees with the direction; whereas, a major loss is the people´s means of saying, "You need to rethink your agenda."

The midterms have generally gone against the party in the White House, but the degrees vary. The GOP gained 61 seats in the House and six in the Senate, the largest swing since 1948. Keep in mind that the House was voted on throughout the country, whereas the Senate elections covered only a third. That means the nation as a whole disagreed with the general trend of the Democratic agenda, just like they disagreed with the GOP in 2006 and 2008. And thus the pendulum swings again.

President George W. Bush saw the 2002 midterms and 2004 general elections increase GOP majorities, so you cannot blame him for thinking these results were a validation of his agenda (although the unprecedented impact of 9/11 and the ensuing war on terror drastically changed the game). Although it generally goes uncredited, he did make changes after the losses in 2006. He followed the advise of critics and got rid of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield, changed course and approved "The Surge," and set a timetable for the withdrawal of the majority of combat troops in Iraq (which President Obama trumpeted for himself recently). He started re-engaging with Latin America, South America and Europe; and toned down much of the rhetoric with Iran and North Korea.

Now look at President Bill Clinton. No other president in recent memory has been ballyhooed for making adjustments as much as Mr. Clinton; he remade himself after the disastrous midterms of 1994 and became an effective two-term president. He worked with and co-opted the Republicans on broad range of topics and saw the 1996 and 1998 elections basically maintain the status quo.

Every president must be willing to re-evaluate their agenda when the populace throws out one party for the other. Instead of ridiculing the moderates for their choice, or blaming communication instead of policies for electoral results, both sides need to open their eyes to what the electorate is trying to show them — we do not like the direction you are pointing the ship, so change course before you hit the iceberg and take us all down.