By Lauren Wynn
On a return trip from visiting my dad for Father’s Day, I was scrolling through Twitter — partly because I needed a distraction from my husband’s driving, which terrifies me — but mostly because it is a regular part of my morning routine. Somewhere around Dumfrees, Virginia, I came across a Tweet storm by conservative commentator and author Steve Deace that piqued my interest and, frankly, formed the basis for this article. In it, Steve was bemoaning the fact that conservative activism often fails and explained why he believes that to be so.
It occurred to me that many of his assertions could be equally applied to both sides of the aisle — right and left, Republican and Democrat were interchangeable. Crazy concept, huh? If everyone is being this reactionary – which conversations with and observations of both sides indicate might be true – then is a middle ground even possible?
During the 2016 Presidential election, deep fissures appeared in both the Democrat and Republican parties. The Democrats were divided between a far-left candidate in Bernie Sanders and a more traditional Democrat in Hillary Clinton. Likewise, Republicans were divided among far-right candidates, traditional Republicans and a complete outlier — Donald Trump.
There were only two unifying themes throughout the election – fear and loathing; fear of what the other side would do if we didn’t elect someone with the proper letter beside his or her name and loathing of the other side’s candidate.
In 2016, Pew reported that 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats felt that the other party’s policies posed a threat to the nation. The New York Times reports:
The fear of what harm the other party could cause appears to be a major motivator behind party affiliation. “It’s at least as much what I don’t like about the other side as what I like about my own party,” said Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center.
The article goes on to say that even independents seemed to be guided by fear,:
Independents, who outnumber members of either party and yet often lean toward one or the other, are just as guided by fear. More than half who lean toward either party say a major reason for their preference is the damage the other party could cause. Only about a third reported being attracted by the good that could come from the policies of the party toward which they lean.
Fear as a motivator is almost never a good thing. Fear clouds judgment, leads to impulsive decisions, causes unhealthy suspicion and worry, and can lead to the misperception of risks – giving them greater weight than they actually carry.
These fears, however, seem to be driving the left and right further apart and magnifying the loathing that each seems to hold for the other. The election did little to unify either party. Sanders began his own political action organization called Our Revolution to help further the progressive agenda and conservative groups like The New Conservative Movement, sought to reclaim conservatism from the party that hijacked it in order to elect Trump.
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the only unity or agreement that spans the chasm between left and right seems to be a shared loathing for Donald Trump. This cross-section includes Democrats, Never Trumpers, disenchanted moderates, conservatives and even libertarians. It is this odd consortium of strange bedfellows that has given rise to, perhaps, the best thing to come from the election of Donald Trump: a call for the renaissance of the Sane Center.
Moderatism seemed to have all but disappeared over the past several decades with progressivism’s constant march to the left and conservatism’s to the right, but following the election, people from both sides began discussing a path forward that would help heal the gaping wound of division in our country. Morton Keller, a professor emeritus of history at Brandeis University, said this in an article in The Atlantic:
“Beyond the deprived Deplorables of the Midwest and the ideologues of the House Republican Freedom Caucus, or the take-no-prisoners left liberals of New York, California, and the college towns, there is a larger, conflicted, concerned plurality hungry for a politics and government that is less polarized and more effective. The party that is first to figure out how to appeal to the muddled middle without alienating its convinced core is the party that is most likely to flourish in the future.”
The question is, can either party see its way clear to pull this off? Magic 8 Ball says, “highly unlikely.” Perhaps it’s time for a new direction. Will it be a new party that peels off the center left and right? Will grassroots projects like Stand Up Republic or The Centrist Project gain traction and swell the independent ranks? While it’s too soon to tell, one thing is certain: movements need leadership and they need a rallying cry. We’ve seen the overwhelming power of a charismatic figure with a simple mantra.
What will that look like for the Sane Center? Who will be the face of this new movement? What will be their cry? All of these things remain to be seen, but they will not happen without the committed involvement of everyday people who are sick and tired of polarized politics. It’s time for the Sane Center to come off the bench and stake a claim for our country. America’s future depends on it.
Photo via Good Free Photos.