Monday, October 7, 2013

A Question of Moderation

We're all moderates.

Or at least that's what we tell ourselves.  Excluding the few who refer to themselves, often in a self-depreciating manner, as "right/left wing nut jobs", most of us consider ourselves "moderate".  And what does that mean?  It means we're not ideologues or extremists (words that even the "nut jobs" would shake off).  We prize the idea of compromise.  This shutdown makes no sense to us.

A recent column by Laslo Boyd on the Center Maryland page has been making the rounds entitled "Why are you still a Republican?"  Interestingly enough, Boyd focuses a great deal on the Howard County Executive race as it relates to Allan Kittleman's posture as a moderate.  He suggests that any Republican running for statewide or Executive positions in Maryland will have to explain their views on the "Republican agenda" (I hate the word "agenda" outside of the Board room, but that's the word used in the piece).

I was out door-knocking yesterday and walked up to a man raking his yard.  About four words into my introduction, he said "I don't want anything to do with you.  You all drive me crazy.  I want nothing to do with politics."  Aha.  A moderate.  I explained that his concerns were a large reason why I am running for office and that if people like him alienated themselves from the process, it would only get worse.  After about five minutes of constructive dialogue, we parted ways.  I promised to infuse new energy and new ideas to government.  He promised to hold me to task ("I have your phone number right here").

"Moderate" is normally considered in relation to something else.  I have friends on the right who consider themselves moderate, but would put every union out of business if they had the chance, dissolve most regulatory agencies, and drill-baby-drill.  I consider myself a moderate, but think we need to make significant changes to help the working class, improve economic mobility, and protect the environment.  Contrast those two "moderates" and you have "extremes".

But here's what we're missing - the overlap.  The right-sided moderate may agree that same-sex couples should have all of the same rights as the rest of us.  They may want to work on initiatives to improve gender-equality in the workplace.  They may agree that we need a progressive corporate tax code that treats small businesses making less than $200,000 a year differently that multimillion dollar corporations.

As for those already in office, I evaluate "moderation" based on what they've done.  What partnerships have they formed across the aisle to pass important legislation?  If they voted outside of their party, did their vote matter?  Did they bring other cross-party votes with them?  What coalitions have they built?  Because at the end of the day, moderation is worthless if it doesn't help us pass good law, build better public works, and create more opportunity for advancement across all levels of income.  "Moderates" rule Facebook, but what happens when they go off-line?  Show your work.

The word "moderate" is an invitation.  It says "this is who I am, but I want to hear your side too".  A moderate in office builds teams on that premise.  A moderate in the community is a conversation starter, not a finisher.  It is not an ideology as much as it is a practice.

Are you a moderate?  Show me your work.

(Housekeeping Note: HoCo Rising is going to be shifting to a three post a week schedule - Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  The campaign continues to go strong and take up most of my "free" time.   I've found that I need more time to think about what I want to write.  Ultimately, I expect this will result in better, more engaging, posts.)

Have a great Monday doing what you love!