A moderate revolution

By Billy Joe Mills

Few politicians today would be among the Revolutionaries, most would have been Loyalists.

About a year ago, I had the great fortune of having lunch with conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks. He proposed the idea of the McCain-Lieberman Party. He sees this party as potentially the dominant force in American politics. It is a coalition of centrists that would create compromise on divisive issues. Brooks also believes that this party will never come to fruition, never rise up against the daunting political parties.

I disagree.

Primaries filter out centrists, since mostly devoted party members and extremists vote in them. Candidates emerge in the general elections that are satisfying to loyal party bases. This cripples the attempts of centrists to gain power within one of the two major parties.

The average American is moderate, their views lay somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum. But, because of the primary structure, they are rarely able to express their views by electing an equally moderate candidate. They are simultaneously forced to build a coalition with those more extreme than themselves.

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Americans believe in free markets and the efficient outcomes they produce. Yet, our election system produces inefficient outcomes; primaries nominate candidates the middle majority does not prefer. Washington D.C. needs someone bold enough to take advantage of the inefficient primary system, a system that consistently uplifts candidates that would not win if no primaries existed.

The prospects of a McCain-Lieberman Party are not impractical or doomed to non-existence. In fact, tapping the centrist reservoir can be highly practical and a strategically powerful play. Most third parties do not understand how to get votes; this party would have the potential to dominate the political game by capturing the middle 50 percent of voters.

Moderates can build a party across the aisle with people who are more like themselves than the extremists they are currently forced to align with (“That is one rule up with which I will not put.” – Winston Churchill).

The marketplace of ideas fuses the best parts of every argument in a furious collision. If either side, left or right, were absolutely correct, then the logic of one side would be so logical and persuasive as to overwhelm all opponents. Even in the philosophical realm, compromise is the logical conclusion to debate.

Because the views of the McCain-Lieberman Party are moderate, it does not mean that their ends must be pursued with moderation. Rather, moderate views need to be promoted with the same aggression and fury as extremist views. No one finds compromise more passionately than John McCain.

A McCain-Lieberman Party would force every party to compete more intensely for votes, thereby becoming more responsive and innovative. Politicians are mechanical. Most have distinguished educations and backgrounds, but indistinguishable courage and character. Vibrant competition would tear down the corruption, complacency and aristocratic stagnancy of both parties.

The times are eager for the powerful center to arise. Fueled by the perfect playground for the First Amendment, the Internet, a political cataclysm can be realized.

The middle majority has not yet been tapped because no leader with sufficient audacity and pragmatism has arisen to revolutionize the traditional American political structure.

If McCain, Giuliani and Lieberman all fail to win a nomination from their parties in 2008, two of them will form a ticket to run as a new third party. Amongst the three there is sufficient skill, guts and ego to break from their parties. All three would have been Revolutionaries in 1776.

The late Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who was one of the first to reject McCarthyism, said, “It is time that the great center of our people, who reject the violence and unreasonableness of both the extreme right and the extreme left, searched their consciences, mustered their moral and physical courage, shed their intimidated silence, and declare their consciences.”

Sorry extremists, the future is in the middle.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. His column appears Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected].