Lewis: The case for centrist activism
Judging by the numbers, we Americans are not a happy bunch right now. According to a recent Fox News poll more than 50% disapprove of President Biden’s handling of every single issue polled. From the economy to China, from guns to immigration, all are below the 50% approval mark.
This might make you think that the Republican approaches fare better, but this is not the case. All Republican presidential candidate’s approval ratings rank even lower than Biden’s. It’s clear that the majority of Americans don’t like the approach of either party.
What is driving these strange numbers where a majority of Americans don’t like either side? It comes down to basic math. Over the past 30 years, our nation has become much more politically polarized. In 1994, only 10% of the population held far left/right views. By 2014, that number had more than doubled to 21%.
Thirty years ago, the distribution graph of political views looked like an alpine mountain. Most Americans landed somewhere in the middle with only a few on the fringes. The winning approach for a successful politician was taking a slightly left-of-center or right-of-center view. Back then, politicians would ignore the “radical” side of their own party as the numbers were small. The big numbers were near the center. Today, that same curve looks more like a gently rolling hill. Most importantly, the winning dynamics are now radically different (pun intended).
Increased polarization has pulled the “center” of each party further apart, but this is not the full story. There is a more critical factor. Activists on the extreme left and right, on average, now donate between three to four times more per person and vote at approximately 1.75 times the rate of moderates. When you take voting into account, that “gentle rolling hill” goes pretty much flat. Politicians have simply adapted to what works — pandering to the extremist views in their party because that’s where the votes and donations are.
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It is time for moderates and centrists to take a stand. Moderates are the largest segment of the population, and the polling shows that they are not happy with either party right now. The problem is that they are not making their voice heard. Only 39% of moderates voted in the last election and the result is that this pivotal group has relinquished their voice in politics.
Moderates in both parties have become the exception rather than the rule. Both parties need to be reined in from their extremes, but that will only happen when left-leaning Republicans and right-leaning Democrats engage in the process. There is a place on most issues that represent a middle ground — somewhere between being woke or anti-woke — somewhere between book banning or the lack of choice in schools. There are viable alternatives to the all-or-nothing politics of today.
While unlikely to happen, Republicans could change the game by nominating a more moderate presidential candidate like Phil Scott or Chris Sununu. Scott, the governor of Vermont has a whopping 81% approval rating in a state that has a Democrat-controlled legislature. Joe Biden and Donald Trump have never been close to those numbers. In addition to having a much greater chance of winning nationally, this type of selection would force Democrats to move more to the center as well. Unfortunately, the only current major Trump challenger, Ron DeSantis, has proven himself to be even more extreme than Trump. It is interesting to note that DeSantis’s approval rating in Florida (having a Republican-controlled legislature) is only 59%.
Activism is defined as a vigorous effort to bring about political or social change. While that is generally associated with the more extreme views, the activism we need now is unifying our nation by finding common ground and bringing back moderation into our political system. To achieve this, the centrists and moderates must become activists and engage in the process by voting and more vocally supporting candidates that reflect their views.
Mark Lewis, a Colorado native, had a long career in technology, including serving as the CEO of several tech companies. He retired from technology and is now writing thriller novels. Mark and his wife, Lisa, and their two Australian Shepherds — Kismet and Cowboy, reside in Edwards.