|Crooked River Gorge and Bridge -- Oregon|
As I was pondering what to write this morning for the blog, wondering what direction to go, I was directed to an article by David Brooks in the New York Times. The tip comes from Scot McKnight's Weekly Meanderings. In this article Brooks points out the difficulty of moderates to navigate the political realm. This is especially true of center-right folks who traditionally have found a home in the Republican Party. The focus of the story is Nathan Fletcher, a California State Rep who is seeking the office of mayor of San Diego. This office is often held by moderate Republicans, but that animal is a rare bird in this age of polarized politics. So, Fletcher is going Independent, because as a moderate he's finding it difficult to find a home.
Having been born into the Episcopal Church -- before converting to Pentecostalism -- I am genetically predisposed to the principle of "in all things moderation." It is the hallmark of Anglicanism, which sought to find a middle path between Reformed Protestantism (Calvin) and Roman Catholicism. The way this has evolved is an interesting story in its own right, but not a story to be told here. My point is, that I am by nature a moderate, even if I'm a liberal one. This is as true in my faith commitments as in my political ones.
I know all the reasons why moderation is a bad thing. You're wishy-washy. You're a collaborator -- etc. But the question is -- how do we get things done if there are only two rather starkly divided poles, with no room to maneuver in the center. How do we get things done when no one talks with the other side?
Yes, principle is important, but what is the nature of this principle? There are things worth dying for, but what what are these things? And are there incremental ways of reaching the goal?
I'll give you an example -- the Affordable Health Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Many liberals oppose it because they want a single-payer government option. I think that this would be best, but is it going to happen in this time and place? This measure, which is under review by the Supreme Court, is largely based on a proposal offered by Conservative Republicans as a counter to a more government controlled system. Now they oppose it, but I'm wondering if it's on the merits or because of politics. President Obama, who campaigned against an individual mandate (supported by Hillary Clinton) adopted it, because it seemed to be the only game in town. We'll see. If overturned, the only options left on the table will be a single-payer system or a completely unregulated system (at least at the federal level).
Why can't we figure this out? Is it that there is no place for moderation left in the system? There isn't in the Republican Party, and there's increasing pressure within the Democratic Party to weed out moderate dissenters. And what is true there is often true in the religious realm. Polarization -- a winner take all -- position takes over, but what is the result?
So, I wonder -- is there a place for the moderate, for the bridge-builder, in our systems?