How Moderate is Moderate When Moderates Move Left?
SAN DIEGO. From the Kavanaugh hearings to government shutdowns over border security to the recently concluded Mueller investigation, it is no understatement to say America seems more divided than ever.
In times like these, it is common to hear calls for unity and moderation. Ironically, it has become next to impossible for a moderate politician.
As the left moves leftward, its ever-morphing demands continue to redefine “moderation.”
Just ask Republican Senator Susan Collins.
Collins recently demonstrated her current “moderation” by joining 9 other GOP senators in a resolution. Those senators broke ranks, rebuking President Trump’s Executive Order declaring our border situation a national emergency. Nevertheless, her political future seems up in the air, even amongst those who once admired her for being somewhat “middle of the road.”
Collins’ situation was well described earlier this year by Roll Call:
“The Maine Republican’s great strength over the years has been her moderation and thoughtfulness. She mulls over issues extensively, almost always looking for middle ground.
She supports abortion rights and LGBT issues, and she has broken with her party on topics ranging from the environment to taxes to the Affordable Care Act.
But Collins’ vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court gives Democrats an opportunity to retire her next year — as does the fact that her contest could determine which party controls the Senate.”
Are you catching the significance of this commentary?
Collin’s credibility as a moderate is under fire because she stood for the fact that a man is innocent until proven guilty, a standard most Democrat senators participating in the same confirmation process did not share.
But it goes beyond Kavanaugh! Something much more subtle and significant is going on here. Notice how this piece in Roll Call describes the positive credentials of being moderate with examples of abortion rights and LGBT rights.
Supposedly, such positions are not on the left but are instead examples of “thoughtfulness.”
If Collins came down on the other side, she would be viewed as a conservative. It’s as if “left” is no longer the opposite of “right.” Instead, the opposite of the right is considered mainstream.
What is moderate?
These days, conventional water cooler wisdom keys in on the word moderate, as if such a term somehow embodies sacredness and hope for all sensible people. Yes, doing things in moderation always sounds good. Compromise may be a mark of maturity when children are learning to share their toys, or adults deciding which movie to rent, or who to invite for Thanksgiving Dinner or what to serve.
Nobody should be stubbornly insisting that a group always do things his or her way.
But with broader social issues, cooperating with an opposite position is a little trickier. Indeed, depending on the subject or proposed law, compromise may be simply impossible for those who seek to embrace important standards with any degree of consistency.
Getting back to the abortion issue for a moment, if you believe abortion is the taking of human life, how do you moderate that position? It does not mix with the notion that abortion is not the taking of human life.
Should abolitionists have been more moderate in their desire to see slavery end?
Should they have worked with southern Democrats in a “bi-partisan” fashion? What would they have come up with? Some kind of new law that gives slaves extra benefits without actually granting them their freedom?
I would also ask those who believe in a happy middle to define “far right” inasmuch as the left’s definition of “far right” is ever changing.
What is “Far Right”?
Most liberals, when they think of the far right, imagine some kind of fascist teaching. And yet, it is the liberal who wants the government to control virtually every sector of our lives. These days, those who believe in less government are viewed as dangerous, extreme fanatics. By that definition, our forefathers were every bit as out of the mainstream. Why? Because they wrote a constitution calling for substantially limited government.
But let’s not go so far back in history: Twenty years ago, who could have believed the day would come when those who want to protect our own borders would be viewed as extreme whackos or bigoted racists? Other countries believe in protecting their borders, even countries that chastise Americans for caring about theirs.
How about marriage? Twenty years ago, most liberals, regardless of their view of same-sex marriage, would have laughed at the idea of calling people hateful, simply because they had the audacity to believe marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman.
Old fashioned? Sure, that title might have been used, but not hateful. And just five years ago, who would have considered it “insensitive” to use gender pronouns in school classrooms or on public bathroom doors?
As the left moves further left, does the center move further left?
You see, as the left moves farther left, our real genuine center, by comparison, is “farther right.” Those embarrassed by such a designation, feeling continual obligation to embrace the left’s opinion of what is “too far right” leave the “former center” for the “newer center” discovering that the only way to stay evenly between an anchored location and the flowing left is to crawl a few spaces leftward themselves.
One might ask where liberals obtained their authority to issue classifications such as “extreme right” without referring to themselves as “extreme left.” After all, if we hold to their definition, centrists are no longer centrists. They are instead, people who pat themselves on the back for being moderate, all the while failing to watch the undertow. They, themselves, are traveling unawares.
Gradual and unnoticed as the change in the landscape may be, we should stop for a moment and look how far down the beach we drifted. Chances are, our towels and umbrellas are nowhere in sight.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and a regular CDN columnist. His novel “The Dangerous Christmas Ornament” is a 2017 “Distinguished Favorite” of the Independent Press Award and the New York City Big Book Award. “About Read” lists this book as one of its Top 30 Recommended Action Adventure Books for 11-Year-Olds.
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