"There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos."
-Jim Hightower, Texas commentator and humorist
As the political seas continue to churn over issues such as abortion, healthcare, cap-and-trade, bailouts, the war, and Climategate, the ideological divisions between the two major parties appear to run deeper than ever before. On top of this, it's become clear that both the Democrat and the Republican parties are experiencing an internal identity crisis - a problem that makes it difficult for either group to articulate a clear and unified agenda.
Desperate to find a way forward, politicians and pundits are stressing the need for Americans everywhere to set aside the "hot button" issues in favor of working together to find common ground. Focusing on what unites, rather than divides, us - so the thinking goes -- would enable "productive dialog," which would lay the groundwork for unity, understanding, and healing.
The middle ground, after all, is where the moderates live; and that's where the majority of Americans hang their ideological hats -- or so we are told. It's the "extremists" that are the problem. The muckrakers of the liberal Left and the fundamentalists of the religious Right -- they are the ones destroying any chance for America to regain the national spirit that made this country great. If someone could muzzle the fringe, America could make real progress once again.
This proposed solution overlooks several serious questions: Where is this mythical common ground, what does it look like, and what kind of person lives there? What foundational moral, ethical, and philosophical principles guide the "common-grounders?" (Or does the embrace of political pragmatism foreclose consideration of the stultifying dictates of principle?) Where, for example, can one find the common ground between a person who believes that abortion is a fundamental human right and one who believes that all human life is sacred? How does the body politic meet in the middle when some believe that marriage is an institution ordained by God involving the union of only one man and one woman, and others believe marriage is a civil right to be exercised in whatever form or fashion the participants deem fit?
The truth of the matter is that when it comes to the most fundamental questions about human society, culture, and government, the middle ground is not a sensible place to occupy. When it comes down to the fundamentals, things are either right or they are wrong; to suggest that they may be right for me and wrong for you is nonsense. Moral relativism comes into conflict with the Law of Non-Contradiction when operating at the level of fundamental values.