Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Is 'Moderate versus Progressive' a False Choice?

Senator Bernie Sanders has tweeted that a person can't be a progressive and a moderate. He said it as a criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who, Sanders claims, tells some people she's progressive and others that she's a moderate.

I understand that Sanders is basically saying that Clinton has no strong philosophical core, but, out of blind ambition, says whatever she thinks will appeal to the demographic crowd she's addressing at any given time.

That's a political judgment about which people have their opinions. With rare exceptions, I don't express political preferences here.

But I do object to the notion that a person can't be a moderate progressive. Or a moderate conservative or a moderate liberal.

To me, being a moderate defines how one approaches political issues, not a specific set of political propositions. As I wrote in a piece for The Moderate Voice nine years ago:
...being a moderate is less a matter of ideology than it is of the prism through which one views life, including politics.
When teetotling Christians have criticized we Lutherans over our fondness for beer, we’ve typically said, “All things in moderation,” meaning of course that as long as one doesn’t get soused, harm someone else, or abuse one’s body, there’s nothing wrong with having a beer. I became a Lutheran as an adult after several years as an atheist. Moderation, like beer, is an acquired taste for me. But I find that moderation appeals to me. That’s not because I’m wishy washy as some, usually those who want you to agree with their ideological program, insist.
Instead, I believe that a moderate…
…may be conservative or liberal, but refuses to close his or her mind to what others say. 
…has core convictions, but not so many as to prevent her or him from agreeing with a conservative on one issue and a liberal on the next.
…asks three basic questions when considering national political issues: Is it right? Is it constitutional? Will it work?
…is an advocate of civility in the political process.
…has an equal loathing of all special interests getting special attention from those in power. A moderate believes in fairness.
Frankly, I'd like to see a lot more moderation in our politics, whatever the politicians' party or philosophy. I said back then:
For our politics to work in this deeply Red-and-Blue-divided nation, we need a strong dose of the moderation our Founders enshrined in our Constitution. Around the world today, we’re seeing that it isn’t enough to grant people the vote. Immoderate voters elect immoderate leaders, people who are duly-elected despots, tyrants, and hare-brains.
Moderate voters and moderate candidates, whatever their political philosophy, form better governments.

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