Turn on CNN or Fox News, and you would have to assume that all American politics settle nicely into two buckets -- two opposite extremes. With the patterns of brinksmanship and divisive politics that have defined much of our political dialog in recent years, it's easy to see how people form this opinion about the USA.
However, the truth is that extremist tactics are typically much less successful than moderate ones. Out of all of the important political decisions that define our way of life in the United States, many more of them have been more moderate than we may think.
Ask your Friends, the World is Moderate
If you’re someone who frequently has conversations with friends about politics, you know how uncommon it is for a person to subscribe wholeheartedly to the rhetoric of a single political party. Even when a person feels aligned with a given side, there are almost always small details about the platform they would change. It’s a condition that affects liberals and conservatives alike.
In politics, as with many things, natural forces set in once the balance of power sways too far to one side. American politics have become increasingly partisan recently, but things can’t stay this way forever. Moreover, it is better for the American people when they don’t.
There are quite a few examples of recent policies and political endeavors that many people have entirely wrong, probably due to media bias or misunderstanding. Many of the arguments we may have on a day-to-day basis with our friends who oppose us politically are actually pretty meaningless when looked at through a centrist perspective. Here are five big ones:
1. The Obama Administration
The current crop of hyper-conservatives would like to paint Barack Obama’s presidency as a paean to big government and a liberal fantasy, but Obama was actually a fairly successful moderate leader. While his health care policy and social politics were decidedly liberal, he championed extremely mainstream fiscal policies, led the nation into multiple conflicts, and used tax cuts to fuel an economic stimulus plan.
2. The Pro-Choice Movement
While the pro-choice movement is typically viewed as receiving support from liberals, the country’s general decision to embrace it through initiatives like Planned Parenthood is a moderate political decision. Pro-choice rhetoric does nothing to limit the ability of those who recognize themselves as "pro-life" to practice their own beliefs. It just gives people who don’t an option that pro-lifers would seek to deny them.
3. Repeal and Replace
It remains to be seen whether President Trump will mount a fervent attack on the Affordable Care Act through the use of executive orders, but Congress has been moderate in their response to Trump. Even though it was a cornerstone of the president's campaign, multiple Republicans have come forward to cite the potential dangers of the gap it would leave in our health care system should the ACA be repealed.
4. DACA and Immigration
Media outlets have shifted gears away from DACA with more pressing matters arising, but President Trump has shown signs that he's willing to work with Democrats and find a path for “Dreamers,” children of illegal immigrants with a legal right to stay in the USA. It is a wise call, and a surprising departure from Trump’s otherwise typically rigid immigration policy.
5. Funding the Government
Another surprising move by the Trump administration was the agreement between the president and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to increase the debt ceiling and fund the government through the end of the year. It’s not the eighteen-month agreement that Republicans hoped for. However, it does allow Congress to put their energy into more important matters through the end of the year.
Learn From the Examples
When we put aside the divisive tactics that extremists promote, the results are good for the majority of Americans. Even though those extremists can sometimes raise their voices loud enough to drown out the majority, they don’t represent our country.
Extremism will probably never completely go away. Even if it seems like a problem now, there is sometimes a need for people to make radical suggestions, to push the envelope of what’s acceptable, if only as a thought exercise.
These examples show that common sense and compromise can still inform the way that we make decisions as a country. It’s important not to lose sight of that.