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October 24th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #643 'Moderates in moderation'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama used to talk a lot about finding common ground between the political left and right. It seems like that would almost certainly have to be somewhere in the middle…

Dear Mr. President,

On the radio the other morning, I heard yet another one of those calls that leave me puzzled. The subject was the rising frustration of moderate voters, the Militant Middle as I’ve often referred to them. This caller, and a compendium of others who followed, said something along the lines of, “Moderates are simply disengaged, uninformed people who stand for no principles and can’t get anything done. Elect moderates and all you’ll get is the gridlock of indecision.”

Correct me if I’m wrong (and I frequently am) but we’ve been electing partisans for ages now. You, me, and the dog can all see that the result has certainly not been a finely tuned machine of government. To the contrary, the reason moderate voters are foaming at the mouth is the sense that partisans have created not theoretical, but actual, gridlock.

How can the idea of compromise, especially in a democracy, seem so troubling to some? I don’t have any complaint with either side “winning” when they have the votes, and thereby pushing the policies they truly think are best for all of America. After all, if they get it wrong, they’ll be loading up their cardboard boxes and heading home soon enough.

But I don’t see how it is good for anyone, let alone everyone, for people on the far left or far right to simply dedicate themselves to scuttling any hope of any agreement on anything. Aren’t there things most of us would like, regardless of our political views? Safe neighborhoods. Reliable jobs. Good schools. Isn’t the very essence of leadership finding ways to provide such things in a way that both sides can support? And it seems to me that this requires, yes, moderation and compromise.

As I often put it, plenty of Americans disagree with their neighbors from time to time, but most of them don’t want to burn the other guy’s house down. They work out agreements with which they both can live, and which maintains peace and progress for the whole neighborhood.

Just a thought. Hope your Sunday is going well.

Regards,
Tom

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