Democrats & Liberals Archives

Musings about Moderates

A political moderate would tell you he wants to avoid extremes of the left and right. What he is saying essentially is that he does not believe in, or at least he does not think it worth fighting for, the principles driving either party. Some moderates don’t see either party standing for principles, but only for gaining power. To change things, they form a third party. In the past, third parties have not prospered, but they did have influence on one or both of the major parties. Some today are so upset with both major parties, they want to establish an anti-incumbent party. This is a losing proposition.

What does a moderate stand for? He is not a liberal and he is not a conservative; he is something in between. What does this mean? There are two kinds of moderates:

  • PRAGMATIC - He is not motivated by principle but by pragmatics. He is ready to compromise. Two examples are Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman? One claims to be a Republican moderate and the other says he is a Democratic moderate. Conservative Republicans think Collins is too liberal. Liberal Democrats think Lieberman is too conservative. Both don't uphold the major principles of their party. They are both moderates, ready to compromise

  • PRINCIPLED - He has principles that are different from those motivating the Democrats or the Republicans. He may be infuriated by the way both parties have been corrupted. This may lead him to join a third party, like the Greens. Ralph Nader ran as a Green, thereby assuring Bush's election
Now, third parties work well in parliamentary systems where it's possible to gain a few seats even if you don't represent a lot of people. Third parties do not work well in the U.S. But they can influence major parties. I think that the Greens have already influenced the Democratic Party.

I hear that a movement is gathering to build an anti-incumbent party. In order to prevent the growth of corruption, this third party would work to defeat incumbents of either party and to get only non-incumbents elected.

This is a big mistake. No third party has a chance unless it is based on some principle, such as slavery abolition, temperance or environmental protection. What's the principle here? What are you for? What would members of this party work for? Anti-incumbency is not a principle.

A few years ago, California passed the Term Limits initiative, a form of anti-incumbency. Now lobbyists are running the place because no elected official has enough experience to know how to stop them.

An anti-incumbency party is a dead end. Suppose I decide to run for Congress and the anti-incumbency party endorses me and I win. The very minute I take office and start my duties as a representative, my party is against me because I am an incumbent now. All my friends in the party who worked so hard to get me elected are now my enemies. I have nobody available to help me fight for my bills. I am alone. Is this the way to build a party?

You can compare this situation with what happened to the Shakers, a religious group that believed in celibacy. Nobody was around to propagate their faith. It died.

Moderates have two good choices. If you feel both parties are irredeemable, you may join or start a party that represents a principle you believe in. If you feel the principles of one of the parties is closest to what you believe - even though the party has strayed from these principles - then join it and try to change it.

Forget about an anti-incumbency party. Today, you can achieve your anti-incumbency goals by joining the Democratic Party.

Posted by Paul Siegel at October 13, 2005 5:54 PM