There are moments in contemporary American political life — most moments — when noise obscures complex realities. A constant, loud barrage of nonsense from the extremes blurs what is actually going on in this country. Too many people with time on their hands listen to far too much talk radio; too many watch and believe too much of what passes as “news” on cable television. As their opinions are fed back to them and fortified, they make more noise, and move more distant from critical changes occurring out of their sight.
When credible, impartial research takes place, the picture flips from the sad, superficial comedy dispensed by extremists to one that reveals interesting and potentially enduring trends taking place in this country’s politics.
As an article in the current edition of Esquire magazine shows, these changes are best represented by the term “center.” And, perhaps, there is not a truly profound change occuring; the “center” has always been in place and its current illumination merely seems bright set against the empty black hole of the extremes. But, the “center” is growing.
We think it is this “center” that must, and will prevail. Where the choices made in the near future by this growing number of American voters will take us is anyone’s guess, but a guess can be educated with the help of research such as that relayed in the Esquire article.
The goofs on the fringe will sputter when they learn polling companies did the research; their ire will prove empty when it is shown that each polling interest represented a different candidate in the last presidential election.
The “center” comprises three groups of voters who loosely identify themselves as Democrat, Republican or independent. Most (55 percent) call themselves “moderate,” 25 percent are “conservative,” 20 percent “liberal.” The majority of the “center” doesn’t like the two-party system, is put off by politicians, and does not believe the Constitution can provide guidance for numerous current problems. The majority supports ID for registered voters at the polling place, is pessimistic about our political future, is slightly more positive or neutral than negative about the economy, and is opposed to the church having a role in politics. The majority of the “center” does not own guns and is in favor of the Second Amendment and background checks, with a majority agreeing that government needs to maintain food stamp, welfare and Medicaid programs for those who certifiably need them. Most of the “center” is tired of the U.S. tending to overseas problems rather than those at home and most want government to spend less and to ease up on regulatory moves. As many as 77 percent of those in the “center” favor a Constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its yearly budget, while 59 percent support raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million per year. The “center” watches football and prefers beer.
The poll reveals the “center” is malleable, with voters able to go in any direction relative to the issue. The “center” tends to be socially more liberal — with the majority urging government to avoid legislating how people lead their personal lives — and somewhat conservative on financial issues.
The number in the “center” is growing and the lack of firm attachment to either party is, in our mind, positive. For this balanced, increasingly disappointed “center” to be more effective, it needs more candidates to step forward, unafraid to counter extremism, and more in the “center” to voice stable opinions to quiet the noise.