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Is the Middle the New Higher Ground?

August 5, 2011

In recent days, it would appear that the middle ground has born some fruit in the arena of national politics. But appearances are almost always deceiving. While President Obama touts the idea of “compromise” as a sacrosanct concept that too few in power take advantage of, he has been fairly roundly criticized for putting together a compromise deal that gives too much away to the republicans and that puts off the fights he keeps saying he’ll wage for another day–probably in the near future. Will the revenue fight actually result in a republican give-in? Time will tell, but history tells us that the answer is “no.” Republicans push for a zero-tolerance agenda; that’s zero tolerance for anything the other side puts forward. The democratic base is fed up with the White House. They’re getting nothing for all their efforts. And they’re not just fighting for the upper hand in upcoming elections. Progressive democrats are generally safe because they represent constituencies that aren’t interested in tea party talking points. They’re fighting, generally, for the preservation of a class that’s destined to go the way of the polar bear, white sharks, and a stable financial and atmospheric environment: the middle class. That it takes extreme measures with no innate chance for passage to save the middle class–while the middle ground approach offers little or no hope–is somehow beyond the constraints of irony. Deficit spending, a national campaign not unlike the programs of FDR’s early presidency, is the answer according to progressive-minded economists. But, unfortunately, we’ll never know. Progressives have never been good at coming up with simplified catchphrases to use as battle calls.  But we’re also beyond the idea that the federal government can do anything visionary or transformative. If America needs anything, it’s a little more whimsy and a little less hard reality because realism only goes so far.  But we’re in the throes of continuing economic decline. To find the hope that’s out there, one must turn down the media circus and venture out into the main streets and side streets of America. This is something that politicians don’t do anymore.  The middle is a worthy badge to carry.   And I think that much can be achieved in this middle ground.  But for it to work, the sides that are engaged must be willing to actually give up on some of their new and sacred positions and see what the middle really entails.    Old school politicians like Alan Simpson understand the no bull, take some prisoners, put it on the table, but put up some sweat approach.   Perhaps our elected leaders will pull themselves out of this present morass.  The truth is that the American people have always existed in this middle ground.  At least 60% of us have.  That number hasn’t changed much over these many years.  It’s not so much that the American people have to move themselves toward Washington, but that Washington needs to move itself.  Toward the American people and the heart that beats in the various heartlands that exemplify this country.

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