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Developing a Centrist Consensus is Critical

February 9th, 2010 at 1:02 pm | 1 Comment |

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American public opinion in almost every way we can measure bunches up toward the moderate middle. Yet increasingly the tone of politics seems to invite and reward extremism. FrumForum examines whether it has to be so. We have asked a range of individuals who identify themselves as centrists (or are so identified by others) some questions about their politics.


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1) Would it be possible or desirable to create a broad consensus on the basics of public policy, ed either domestic or international?

A broad consensus on “the basics of public policy” remains desirable and eventually will become critical.  As the nation faces the consequences of its domestic spending policies, treatment developed during the past many decades, a centrist-driven effort to fundamentally reform entitlement spending and the tax code is the only answer to a growing domestic and international threat.  Agreeing on what international situations demand United States military involvement also requires a centrist consensus.



2) On which domestic issues and international issues do people with whom you generally agree take positions that trouble you?

The emphasis on “social issues”—abortion, values training, sexual policies—that many of my colleagues have seems out of place in a national government dedicated to maximum freedom for the greatest number of people.  The desire to interfere in the private choices by individuals, and measuring the “goodness” of others by their choices seems the height of arrogance and contrary to the vision of the Founding Fathers.



3) On which domestic issues and international issues do people with whom you generally disagree take positions that you welcome?

Emphasizing more environmental considerations in public policy, federal assistance for the truly impoverished, and improved educational standards are issues on which I generally agree with those who are on the opposite side of many other issues I consider important.



4) Which issues are so important to you that you cannot envision compromising on them?

Almost none, if the proposals from the other side are reasonable and consistent with both personal freedom and national security



5) Conversely have your political adversaries ever made arguments so compelling that they made you reconsider or revise long-held positions?

I have few rigidly-held views that flow from public policy.



6) How can civility be brought back to political discourse?

Reduce the time allowed for campaigning, as the British do;  work hard at forming centrist groups, like the bi-partisan Chiefs of Staff meetings established in the Senate several years ago; having the personal courage to resist the “tribal” pull of colleagues in either party caucus.


Click here to read other contributions to this symposium.

Recent Posts by Steve Bell



One Comment so far ↓

  • Mike at The Big Stick

    I’m curious as to how one comes to define themselves as ‘Centrist’. If we take Centrist to roughly mean the half-way point between liberal and conservative, what is the threshold for giving one’s self that label? Is it 50% of your views? 60%? 70%?

    My concern remains and has always been the notion that if one holds some traditionally ‘liberal’ views and some traditionally ‘conservative’ views, they believe that makes them a Centrist by default. It doesn’t. It makes them, ideally, an Independent. It is my sincere opinion that there are relatively few real ‘Centrists’ in this country if we follow the logic I laid out above.

    Maybe the notion of ‘Centrism’ is coming from a banding together of moderate liberals and moderate conservatives and a few honest-to-goodness centrists into a center coalition. If so, does this originate from a belief that all good ideas lie in the middle or is it just their natural inclination to prefer shades of gray in their politics?