“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world …” The Second Coming. William Butler Yeats
In brief: Partisan politics threaten the operation of every governing body; centrifugal ideological forces pull citizens farther and farther apart; the security of individuals and institutions is in peril. Those who have longed for the apocalypse may be cheered by the fragmentation of democratic institutions; those who hoped to simply shake things up may be less sanguine. Many of us simply fear that we have lost our way, lost our common identity, lost the ability to find common ground.
On the day after the election, we awoke to find signs proclaiming that there was “No Safe Place”, not a warning but a promise, and, as promised, we’re hard pressed to find much that has remained secure. Two thirds of voting Americans feel that neither political party has shown the ability to govern in the interest of ordinary people.
Stalemate. Gridlock. We’re stuck. And yet, effective government remains the best hope of securing a democratic nation. What’s a pragmatist to do? How can deeply held and contending principles be set aside in order to secure the institutions that protect us all?
I’m a progressive with strongly held convictions; I would have been pleased to see a nation as imagined by Bernie Sanders. And yet, perilous times have forced me to identify primary principles that cannot be abandoned, even as we agree to disagree issue by issue and crisis by crisis.
The rule of law must remain secure, and the rights of individuals as identified in the Constitution have to be protected.
I am now willing to join forces with people who do not share my conviction that the global environment is at risk, that the disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor is disgraceful, that the best government promotes the capacities of every individual. I would rather travel and speak with those who share my beliefs, but we are in rough water and need to find a boat buoyant enough to protect us all, a “Safe Place” for us all.
Black Lives do matter, holding an armed paramilitary police force accountable is still necessary, the health care system has to be reformed, religious freedom must be maintained, banks do need to be regulated, the rights of transgender people have to be protected, financial equality for women in the workforce has to be secured, hungry children have to be fed. But none of that happens in a nation in which bullies are allowed to celebrate hatred and violence, in which race war is the stuff of nightly news.
I’ll stick close to my progressive friends and continue to press for reform, but I no longer believe the Democratic Party has the capacity to offer leadership at this point in our history. Our best hope at this point is to reclaim decency, and that means finding the ability to identify with people whose experience of the world is different from my own.
With regret, but with hope, I’ll move to the center.
The Centerist Project gained momentum as interest in the “NeverTrump” movement intensified , presenting Utah’s Evan McMullen’s candidacy as an independent who might gain enough traction the electoral college to disrupt Trump’s bid for the presidency. That strategy did not succeed, but the identification of an agency by which candidates running independently might seek political office is interesting. I do not share McMullen’s version of fiscal responsibility, but I can endorse the principles held by Centerists:
Social Tolerance, Functioning Government, Economic Opportunity, Solving Problems, Environmental Responsibility.
I would rather endorse inclusion than settle for tolerance, but for a while, let’s just make sure we protect tolerance, the rule of law, and justice. In the interest of endorsing independent candidates eager to make government work, I’ll huddle under a tent that looks big enough for now.
I don’t know if the center can hold; old partisan habits die hard. It isn’t easy to think of moderation as revolutionary, but perhaps desperate times call for a measured response.