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December 09, 2003

A Moderate's Manifesto (NYT)

(NYT - Unpublished Op-Ed contribution)

It seems to have snuck up on us, but today we moderates stand at a precipice over which our country may fall.  A painful fall that may cause as much suffering and divisiveness to this country as the turmoil of the civil rights struggle.

We are losing much due to the rejection of civil discourse over differing opinions, to the loss of respect for those who disagree with us, and to the loss of the rights of the political minorities.

One of the clearest examples from recent headlines: 98% of 172 Republican judicial nominees had been approved by the Senate, but a substantial minority of the Senate believed that the remaining 2% of nominees are too radically right.

Whether or not the opponents are correct, the vast majority of Americans just want judges that the vast majority of Americans are comfortable with.

Yet, when the Republicans couldn't get enough votes for the last 2%, they talked of what THEY called “the nuclear option”: of changing the rules of the game knowing full well this would enrage the opposition; they now talk of “plotting revenge” on any future non-Republican president's judicial nominees ... a future president not a party to this political skirmish.  They are very poor losers.

But even worse, they are very poor winners: They have no respect for the opinion of the losers, even when the losers are only just barely in the minority: Republicans, after all, represent merely 51% of the  Senate and had less than 50% of the votes counted for president, yet they had 98% of their nominees confirmed.  But that isn't enough, no that isn't enough at all: they want it all and so they want to reek vengeance down on those that have voiced concerns about the remaining 2%.  The Republicans seek total victory, total domination, no compromise.  No longer for them is politics “the art of compromise”, but the exhaltant boot heel grinding on those not in power.

And that attitude extends to moderates within their own party, as life-long centrists, such as Senator Jeffords, were isolated, ignored and threatened.

But the Republicans have forgotten a simple political fact: the opposing senators were elected by roughly 50% of the citizens of this country!  So, when they plot revenge, they plot revenge on half of this country.  When they want to silence almost half of our elected representatives, they want to silence half of us!  They are also our elected representatives and WITH the majority they are our country's collective voice in politics.

The constitution was written to bring us together to promote the GENERAL welfare, not the welfare and viewpoint of one group over others.  Our forefathers, in drafting the constitution and the bill of rights, were much concerned about this “tyranny of the majority” who doesn't respect the out-of-power minority.  Why was this so important to them?  Precisely because it was a recognition that human societies have discrepancies of political power, and that as the political winds shift over time, we will all be in one of those minorities!  And we don't want to be trod upon when that happens.

The Republican vitriol over judicial nominees is just one example.  But whether the debate is about nominees, the scope of civil liberties, the veracity of the justificaction for the Iraq war, the budget deficit, and all the other issues of our times, the Republicans today insist on getting everything they want and falsely accuse the opposition of abetting terrorists or of being unpatriotic and  stifle the voice of representatives elected by almost half of us.

Thus has the Republican party has shown itself unable to promote the GENERAL welfare of this country.

So this is the precipice we stand on: with arrogance and  lack of respect for others, the Republican party is using their elected positions to force a right wing agenda on all of us.  So now we see and hear the clamoring by the left as they rise up to fend off the right.  It is this polarization that the Republicans are creating which looms before us.

Moderates all: we must not be complacent in the face of a rending of the fabric of civil political discourse and respect for other political opinions.

Moderate Republicans: it is up to you to stand up to your idealogues and take back your party ... or quit the party (as some of my own family have done), after all a political party is a collection of like-minded individuals with common aims, and if you aren't like-minded and don't agree with their aims, what are you doing with them?  You must do one of these for ultimately, but after great turmoil, Americans as a whole will not stand for such brutal behavior.

For the rest of us moderates, WE have still, but just barely, an opportunity to bring this country back from the brink of this precipice.  But because of the right-wing domination of the Republican party and it's candidate selection process, we moderates must vote against EVERY Republican candidate, no matter how moderate and reasonable they may be since moderate Republicans are so out-numbered and so out-flanked that they are unable to move their party to the center and to craft compromises with the rest of us in the middle.

We must vote for ANY opposing candidate because each additional position of power the Republicans add will be another divisive blow struck for the radical right wedge that is splitting our country apart.

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