The political middle is composed of a wide range of ideals. There are millions of independents, tired of partisanship and extremists hijacking parties and elections, who agree with some of the policies of each major party.
Then, there are several minor parties claiming to be “moderate” or “centrist” who feel the same as those independents, but they disagree on several core platform issues. More importantly, they disagree on how to get their parties into the spotlight and win some national seats, even though some have had successes in the past.
The differences in platform are significant and social issues are a good example. The Reform Party‘s position is that social issues should not be a part of their platform:
“The Reform Party … believes that social issues or values issues … should not be our focus as a party. Instead our focus should be on issues such as the economy, government fiscal accountability, trade, national security, and jobs.”
The Modern Whig Party has a different view:
“Modern Whigs oppose all forms of favoritism or discrimination based on arbitrary factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, etc. We reject identity politics and race-based affirmative action programs.” And, “Each state can determine the extended rights of same sex couples based on their own local values.”
In “The Centrist Manifesto,” a celebrated book by Charles Wheelan, the author describes his Centrist Party platform on social issues:
“So how can a party built around the idea of pragmatism and compromise deal with issues … of right and wrong? With pragmatism and compromise.” Later saying, “The key to diffusing these ideologically charged social issues is refocusing them”.
Wheelan follows with examples of gay rights, abortion, and guns. The most important part of his stance on social issues is acknowledging that they will have to be dealt with eventually. This is correct because many voters are more passionate about these issues than those of governance.
There are several issues third party and independent groups agree on, albeit with subtle differences. This includes environmental issues where most moderates/centrists agree that resources should be used so that the impact of climate change is reduced.
For energy, they promote reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and building alternative sources of energy, but they put different priorities on energy independence and sustainability.
They agree that education should be one of the nation’s highest priorities, even though they disagree on which standards to use. Most agree that our foreign policy is short-sighted, self-centered, and has wasted money that could be used at home, but they disagree on what the priorities should be.
There is one position all moderates and centrists agree on: the two-party system does not truly represent the people of the United States, their policies exclude people from the political process, discourage participation, promote gerrymandering, and are heavily influenced by money. They agree that lobbyists and special interests have a grip on policymakers that is difficult to break. They also agree that it is possible to break that grip.
Reaching a Common Goal
The Wheelan Centrists propose targeting a few key Senate seats to become the “swing votes necessary for either the Republicans or the Democrats … to do anything.” The Modern Whig Party is going with the grassroots approach by creating local and state chapters. This has started to show some success, winning their first municipal election with Robert Bucholz’s victory in Philadelphia.
The Reform Party, the oldest of the moderate parties, began with the most notoriety because it was founded by Ross Perot after his unsuccessful attempts at the presidency. It continues to take the more traditional route of building state parties — 24 have been established. The party currently holds no offices, but has several candidates participating in national races.There are millions of independents who are tired of partisanship and extremists hijacking parties and elections.
With all these differences in position and strategy, it is no wonder moderates are struggling to earn a seat at the national political table. Although some have come together to support independent candidates in a select few instances, their divisions are limiting their ability to influence national politics and realize their common goal of breaking the grip of the Republican and Democratic parties.
These groups need to have a “meeting of the middle,” which includes independent moderates, to devise a strategy around their common goals. Not much is likely to change unless they come together to train candidates on running campaigns, raise funds for advertising, and bring attention to their agenda.