My New Center

So JP, you want to talk about a New Center. I see your vision and ideals for it. Let me offer mine.

What characterizes the New Center for me?

Is it the will of the people? Splitting the difference? A sense of, “we’re all in this together?” Is it a true democracy, where laws are enacted after polls are released? Nope. It’s none of those.

First, I’ll point out the flaws of your approach. Fundamentally, good politics are about wisdom, and bad politics are about numbers, dollars and power. I am not so naïve as to think only about ideals, leading to hugs and singing Kum-ba-yah. I do, however, keep my eyes on the prize, which is not the combat itself. It is good government; even better, justice, peace and prosperity. Realpolitik is part of how to get there. Without trying to be too lofty, the New Center should take reality and the hearts and minds of voters into account, all before the posturing begins. It is my nature to take a deeper look, and this is a fine skill to use in the pursuit of how society and government should treat me and us all.

I still have faith in a representative government, which is not a true democracy. We elect people who are supposed to be wise, and can act as a filter for the political (usually media-generated) idea-of-the-month. Polls are nice, but they are fickle; the medium, not the message.

Chris Mooney, author of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–and Reality, and a recent column in the Washington Post, looks at emerging brain research that begins to explain the fundamental differences between the poles of view:

Perhaps most important, liberals consistently score higher on a personality measure called “openness to experience,” one of the “Big Five” personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires. That means liberals tend to be the kind of people who want to try new things, including new music, books, restaurants and vacation spots — and new ideas.

“Open people everywhere tend to have more liberal values,” said psychologist Robert McCrae, who conducted voluminous studies on personality while at the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

Conservatives, in contrast, tend to be less open — less exploratory, less in need of change — and more “conscientious,” a trait that indicates they appreciate order and structure in their lives. This gels nicely with the standard definition of conservatism as resistance to change — in the famous words of William F. Buckley Jr., a desire to stand “athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’ ”

They answer questions differently, according to their need for closure versus tolerance for variety. “I dislike questions which could be answered in many different ways” and “In most social conflicts, I can easily see which side is right and which is wrong.”

The New Center acknowledges the points of view of either side. Not because either of them may be right, but because of realpolitik; we cannot get a solution without understanding where each is coming from. The right wants clear answers, capitalist and moral principles which often include religion. The left is more likely to look for problems which may be discovered through science or various reports, and finds solutions for them.

The right rejects a premise of “we’re all in this together,” because it might imply some instant government remedy, at the expense of what private enterprise can accomplish (and may have already done). The New Center should not utilize principles of either pole, but ones that focus on wisdom and justice, and realistic hope of getting there.

Principles are a good thing. Which principles and how they are derived is what matters. I do not support any of the following polar principles:

  • Legalistic biblical interpretation.
  • Trickle-down economics at any cost.
  • Simple democracy, the fickle will of the people.
  • Instant government solutions to all problems.
  • Compromise defined as splitting the difference.
  • Fear as a motivator: fear of security, or fear of corporations.
  • Power maneuvering.

I’m working on the principles for the New Center. So far I have come up with these:

  • People need to listen to, respect and learn from each other.
  • If everyone is truly equal, then anyone could be right or wrong, any time.
  • The best source of truth is rational, skeptical induction.
  • When possible, solutions should use market forces, morality, and a long-run approach.
  • Simple solutions are the best ones (the political version of Occam’s Razor)
  • Win-win solutions are desirable.
  • The Constitution is a darn well written document, not only because it includes good principles, but it also acknowledges that times change.
  • Preventing problems is better than correcting or punishing after the fact.

Let me give a couple practical comments, before everyone is lost in the sky.

Al Sharpton versus Rush Limbaugh. These two guys may be heroes to their own causes, but the other side quickly dismisses each of them as a buffoon. Both Al and Rush appear to exist for their own publicity and to energize their own team, with no respect or consideration of the other side. Both sides have a list of people whom they summarily reject. Their names probably come quickly to mind. Check yourself: does your buffoon list tilt toward one side more than the other? This kind of person and this kind of labeling just polarizes everyone. We need to get over the hot buttons.

The guns issue as an example. Every crime committed with a gun seems to make each side stronger in its beliefs. Gun sales went through the roof when Obama took office, bolstered by rumors that the new President would enact all sorts of gun restriction laws. In actual practice, Obama has been nearly completely silent on Second Amendment issues. So the left thinks the right is crazy on this count. Still the right is scared, and they tell themselves that Obama will still steal their gun liberties through judge and political appointments and subtle laws. It’s not as simple as each side reminding themselves that the other guys are wrong and stupid. We need to build trust.

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About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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