The Lament of the Abandoned Middle

One of the benefits of running under the party that has both houses of Congress and the executive is that you get to visit a friendly Washington DC. Not only are the people friendly, so is the weather this time of year. Even the reporters are friendly. The political side of the city is populated with people who are willing to meet with you.

I took the trip to meet an organization of women that have been guardian angels to my campaign, Republican Women for Progress. Centrists like me, these women were Republicans who voted for Hillary. They feel that a Trump Presidency has not been consistent with a lot of their values. This is a centrist group that embraces identity politics (women for women) but does not agree with other parts of the Democratic Party Platform. In other words, this was a group of moderates—activist, vocal, policy-writing moderates.

In my personal heaven, at least one of the rooms is filled with people like this.

One of the presenters in the room (aside from me) is a movement called Champion Women (ChamptionWomen.com), whose objective it is to champion and amplify the voices of women. “Too often on social media, in public, and in the news people try to diminish the influence, perspective, and policy solutions put forth by women by degrading their appearance and delegitimizing their qualifications. Champion Women pushes back and calls out those who objectify, dismiss, or degrade women,” says their website.

The following day was a bipartisan panel of female congressional candidates. While most candidates had run in races for the first time and did not win their primaries, the majority of women who ran said they would do it again. Regardless of party, their message was similar—cooperation across the aisle, consensus building, temperance. This was particularly true for the Republican women.

Here is the disappointing part: with politics increasingly polarized in the United States, both parties are fielding more extreme candidates. It is the extreme message that brings in the money, goes conventional wisdom. Throughout my campaign, I have been encouraged to go more extreme. And I have resisted.

Not only is the temperance of the middle under-expressed in public discourse (perhaps because it is boring), it is suffocated at the party level. Another thing I learned in DC…legislators are expected by their party to raise money two hours a day. These funds would presumably be funneled into the DNC or RNC, depending on the legislator’s party, and allocated to races at the discretion of the respective political teams. In other words, centrists will fund extremists. Stable races will fund unstable ones. And a moderate Republican may find herself (or himself) raising funds that will fund the race of a racist just as a fiscally conservative Democrat may end up raising money to elect a socialist. Within party, money is somewhat fungible. This is why candidates are often judged by the money they raise rather than the votes cast.

It is a system that has been in place for decades and stands no threat to its continuance. It foments polarization and drowns out the voice of the middle, the part of the political spectrum willing to adopt the best ideas regardless of party.

When faced with the momentum of crowd behavior, such as the polarization of political discourse, we individuals may only watch and sigh. I’ll add a question to my sigh: is this what the founding fathers intended?

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