Being a moderate in politics is very dangerous. Just look at this last election. Moderate politicians in both parties were targeted and taken out in the primaries. Some people view politicians in the middle as untrustworthy, unprincipled, and dangerous.
Let’s look at two recent examples of a moderate being eliminated in an election primary:
- Nevada: In the Republican Primary, Sharon Angle beat two other candidates – Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden. By some accounts, Mr. Tarkanian had a better chance of winning over Senator Harry Reid. The other two candidates may have been more center right; nevertheless, Ms. Angle won the battle but lost the general election.
- Delaware: Again, in the Republican Primary, Christine O’Donnell won over U.S. Representative Mike Castle. Rep. Castle is a moderate Republican and was a clear favorite over Christopher Coons. In the end, Democrat Coons won easily.
With the Tea Party, this past election may have been a little different from others. However, if you look at many other races in the past, moderates are always at risk for a primary challenge. If they survive the primary, they may be in reasonable shape, yet they are “damaged” and will face a tougher general election.
I have heard Peggy Noonan talk about America being “center right” in their outlook and attitude. Although I don’t know if she coined that phrase, I do believe it is essentially accurate. My phrase would be the “tilted moderate.”
Surviving as a moderate politician takes extra effort, a special skill. It would be interesting to research whether political moderates are middle children or not. If they are, then this is where they gained those special skills!
Part of the reason for this peril is that the more “extreme” ends of the spectrum are more likely to vote in primaries. More importantly, they are more likely to contribute money to their candidate. Tilted moderates seem apathetic in comparison, at least in the primaries.
Maybe tilted moderates lack passion. Probably. Or, more accurately, they are the majority of Americans who have much on their plate, balancing families, work, and tight budgets. They are just trying to make life work.
Having said all of this, why are moderates important in politics? Several reasons:
- They bring the two sides together to get things done. Making progress and achieving results are their goals.
- They provide balance in the outcomes. If there are not enough votes on the extremes, then the middle is essential in tailoring the outcome to bring a coalition together.
- They play a critical role in negotiations. Again, moderates balance the extremes.
- They bring civility to political debates. In a sense, they become the voice of reason.
Here’s the wake-up call for the tilted moderates out there. Get passionate. Get involved. Take the time to vote. The tilted moderates need to make their voice heard.
Whether you tilt left or right, lend your hand and, more importantly, your practical zeal to the tilted moderates in your area. It is what makes our country work best.