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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Anti-Politics: The Liquid Center

What is the Center?  And who resides there?  You?

As I attempt a mad dash away from rigid political ideology, I find myself caught in the slippery net of what the media likes to call "centrism". Yet another attempt to box up our ideas like chocolates for easy consumption.

NBC and Esquire (there's a combo for ya) have put together a survey where you can chart yourself on their pre-arranged "political spectrum". They also collect the data as a poll to allegedly show trends in political thinking in the US. 

The poll results opine that there is a "new American center". I resist this characterization as, well, un-American. "Center" compared to what? Left v. right? Why are we limited to such a narrow spectrum?

Anyway, a summary of the survey findings to date stated the following:

The new American center has a socially progressive streak, supporting gay marriage (64 percent), the right to an abortion for any reason within the first trimester (63 percent), and legalized marijuana (52 percent). Women, workers, and the marginal would also benefit if the center had its way, supporting paid sick leave (62 percent), paid maternity leave (70 percent), tax-subsidized child care to help women return to work (57 percent), and a federal minimum wage hike to no less than $10 per hour (67 percent). But the center leans rightward on the environment, capital punishment, and diversity programs. [NBC News]

Does this sound familiar? Maybe this sounds like you, or me? 

It sounds like people with more important concerns than what their fellow citizens do with their private lives, and expect their fellow citizen's same lack of concern in return. (Gay marriage, abortion, recreational drug use)

It sounds like people trying to earn a living, particularly in the real world where a two income household is necessary to keep a toehold in the middle class (paid sick leave, maternity leave, child care)

It sounds like people who base their views on day to day experience, not rigid ideological hectoring. 


The Environment- Everyone wants clean air, clean water, and open spaces, but they don’t want to revert to a pastoral, agrarian existence, or give up air conditioning. And until some scientist proves that eating organic produce at three times the cost is better than the regular stuff, they should just be glad  we are eating fruits and vegetables from Shop-Rite, and stop providing free advertising for Whole Foods (aka "Whole Paycheck")

Capital Punishment-  I know there are people of good conscience who are against capital punishment in all circumstances. And I am well familiar with the uneven way these sentences are handed out (I always remember my law school classmate, an ardent “hang 'em all” supporter of capital punishment, who, after spending a summer internship reviewing clemency requests, became an anti-capital punishment advocate) I think most of us are big fans of those due process protections we inherited from England -  public trial by jury, right to counsel, opportunity to cross-examine, a jury verdict, and rights to appeal – but most of us can't shake the idea that there are some crimes so horrible (I need not list them here) that it is an injustice not to punish the guilty with anything short of execution.

Diversity Programs- No decent person today thinks anyone should be denied a job, housing, education or anything based on their race, gender, religion, ethnicity or even sexual orientation. However, diversity programs that use those criteria (rather than economic disadvantage) to give people preferential treatment, however well intentioned -- and perhaps necessary a generation or two ago--- now smack of unfairness.

Americans at their best are respecting of equality as well as individuality and base decisions on facts and experience, not ideological purity. As Emerson said "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Why can't we tack left, then right, then up, then down, as the situation or problem demands? 

So let's not let ourselves be boxed up. To be continued...

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