Amid the battlefield that has been created for us by inviting us to bait and battle our political opponents, I fancy myself striding, gladiator-like, into a no-man’s land below the fireworks to lay down a modest proposal for the rest of us. I’m calling it Radical Centrism.
Radical Centrism (RC) recognizes the humanity of all sides, and the importance of multiple inputs in discovering reality. Honesty and meaningful conversation lead to actions that help everyday people. These are the people we know and care about, and the people whose posts on Facebook and Twitter show how much they care for our country.
RC draws inspiration from both progressive and conservative dialectics. Still it frequently comes up with its own critique; its own solutions. RC looks for evidence, tries to find the actual truth inside of each of us, as opposed to the “clothes” of our “party” identities. It presupposes that a curiosity to learn from each other, no matter what our political leanings, is vital to the enterprise.
Radical Centrism is radical because it’s NOT satisfied with finding a median point between existing power structure players, but seeks to create dynamic new solutions by considering everything — even what may today be considered extreme positions.
I have no idea how this kind of centrism it plays out in detail. But it does seem there must be a place for a new kind of thinking. Responsible Republicans feel acutely that party of Trump has deserted its once proud tradition of ethics and ideas. Now centrist democrats are feeling the pinch as they fear the party may be moving the party to more untenable positions.
So where in the current debates that animate both parties could we find some open ground to build a new, dynamic center? Let me start with a few suggestions — not comprehensive, but they do give some shape to the idea.
- Recovery of Civic Life and Citizen Responsibility: There is no “Set It and Forget It” policy, no simplistic slogan, for citizenship and governance. It’s continual work and vigilance — our duty and joy as citizens! It’s about creation, not destruction; teamwork, not obstruction; compromise, not ultimatum.
- A Return to Ethics and Morality: Neither laissez faire capitalism, nor minute government-enforced “rules” can replace the efficiency and effect of a good person trying to conduct themselves with ethical behavior for the common good.
- Universal Service: We have lost, and must return to, the concept of service to country. In RC we suggest lifetime access to advantageous programs should be conditioned on an individual’s significant contribution to the betterment of our country through service — military and otherwise. Can we suggest two years as a starting point?
- Estate Tax: Wealth should be earned, not guaranteed. The very rich have a solemn responsibility to give back to the citizens and government that helped make their riches possible. We all hope to pass on to our families a decent amount of money, but large estates should be taxed. Otherwise, we build a rigged classist system that isolates the very rich from the rest of us.
- Global Leadership: RC is very clear that we need to treasure institutions and traditions of Democracy as well as US Postwar International leadership. Promote democracies or republics that believe rule of law, liberty, and freedom from tyranny are paramount. US internationalism helped create stability in an unstable world and hope for the oppressed.
- Deconstruct Institutional Racism, Misogyny: This may be the toughest one for us because it is so embedded. Remember Martin Luther King’s call for a society where merit, ambition, and hard work replaces sex or color of skin as determinants of value and success. Individual racism is a tough call. But all of us can work to recognize structures that unjustly create barriers for minorities and women. Go HERE to find a few of the most egregious examples. Finally, admit this goal cannot be achieved fully in a nation with our history — but that we must continue to make progress.
Radical Centrism is NOT satisfied with finding a median point between existing players, but seeks to create dynamic new solutions by considering everything…
- The meaning of business, entrepreneurship and profit to our communities and our lives. Business, innovation, individualism, and entrepreneurship are part and parcel of every citizen’s life — no political party should forget that. Small Businesses in local communities are totally different than large corporate bureaucracies with national/global reach. RC suggests that the way we treat them legally should be quite different.
- Small local businesses are pure gold for their communities: they are our fathers and mothers, sisters, brothers and children. Small businesses are the backbone of philanthropy in many smaller communities. Opening a business is a fallback source of employment when the economy goes bad or when the model of “labor” is erratic and unrewarding. These entrepreneurs and innovators embody the best of America, and they should be encouraged for their risk. For them: regulatory relief, ombudsmen, small business assistance, access to capital, and tax relief.
- Global corporations, are a whole different animal. In spite of years of trying to masquerade as “just like mom and pop businesses, only a smidge larger,” they are, in fact, more like the Crown of Thorns gobbling up coral reefs. As they become market capitalized, profit seems to be their dominant motive. At their largest, they aspire to escape the reach of the rule of law which they achieve with purchased influence — market monopolies, media outlets, global labor markets, national taxation policies and political influence peddling. For them: regulation, taxation, and a new generation of “trust-busters.”
(But, as rational beings, can we admit at the same time, that there is evidence of Adam Smith’s “unseen hand” of capitalism — that freer trade and global corporations have helped level off the world economies and create marginally better economic conditions in some formerly destitute areas of the world?)
- Government Control and Size: Dealing with pernicious and systemic issues is an important role for our government, but vague unrestricted mandates can easily lead to government overreach. RC believes in right-sizing the government response to any given individual or organization. This issues deserves real attention because in the current political climate it seems our only choices are obtrusive government or no government. Neither choice satisfies RC. Customer satisfaction surveys? Working WITH individuals and small businesses? Reduce pencil-pushing “accountability” so government employees can do their jobs? Increase investigation and impose high penalties for bureaucrats who violate voter trust? Whatever way the government operates, right now it is trying to enforce legitimate governmental goals, but blowing it with consumer interaction. Here’s where government has been involved in trying to make life better for all of us.
- Rebuild Our Infrastructure: Trump is right; our infrastructure of roads, bridges, electric service, and now, broadband is miserably underperforming. Political obstruction and hyper-partisanship has crippled the unanimity that used to prevail on Infrastructure bills. We are now at least a decade behind a reasonable maintenance and replacement schedule. In the immortal words of Bob Newhart: “Stop It!”
- Legislate a Real Solution to Immigration: Reasonable quotas and vetting are a necessity and have been part of immigration policy forever. The U.S. has always been a melting pot — not least because immigrants see the vast advantages of being a nation of laws, not tribes. But that doesn’t keep people from fearing a culture fragmenting from the diverse influences that immigrants bring in. Trump and Obama are both right on one thing: immigration policy should be legislated, not a political football, subject to constantly changing executive orders.
- Terrorism as Part of a Range of Threats: Our biggest threats by statistics are local gun violence, right-wing terrorists, and self-radicalized religious terror, frequently muslim in origin. The thing we appear to fear the most — direct muslim immigrant terrorism — is less than the risk of being struck by lightning. Let’s focus not on skin color, but on documentable facts and demonstrable threats to order and law.
- Environmental goals that are sustained and science-driven to the extent possible. RC hopes and believes that secretly, many of the most fervent critics of these issues are reacting more to the way they are enforced than the actual science behind them. Can we focus on the real problem of enforcement (see above)? Can we agree to let the overwhelming scientific majorities stand in for actionable fact — and ignore paid propagandists that insist the opposite? Let’s not imitate the tobacco disgrace of the 1950’s and try to suppress and confuse the facts.
- Back to the Basics Education: Perhaps we all should admit that the Federal Government should not be involved much in education. Great teachers, working with the most minimal government interference, can deliver stunning results! Pay them what they are worth, provide them the latest research, and set them free. Political and religion-based interference has driven our education down the tubes, while increasing “standards,” political wars, and so-called accountability to insane levels. I’m not sure you’d find many people who think it’s really working.
- Leadership, but Not Imperialism, in International Affairs: Focus on diplomacy over saber rattling. Our world is being drawn together by travel, technology, and the global reach of corporations. International agreements are a reliable way to keep the world away from war and exploitation. Here are some principles of trying to establish American ideals in a negotiated world:
- There’s not just an “American” solution: Stop trying to control every international situation in narrowly-defined American interest. Take pains to understand each nation’s unique identity. Continue to support democracies and democracy world-wide, but develop a wider range of tolerable outcomes. Be an example to the world, not a cautionary tale…
- Free Trade is not necessarily “good” even if it is inevitable. In principle Free Trade should raise all boats to new levels of affluence, but its resulting wealth inequalities, are instead provoking a world frustration and backlash. We must at once be patient while the impact of globalism works through the world economy, but also vigilant about its negative impacts.
- Likewise, we need to rein in giant financial corporations. The very banks that caused the Great Recession, are increasingly having a disproportionate impact on national destinies. They appear now as always, to roam the globe looking for countries-in-need to whom to write loan at exorbitant rates. Inevitable default measures keep these states in a condition of permanent impoverished dependency while funneling billions of local dollars to global financial institutions. The upshot: entire countries and their citizens are being deprived of essential services for the profit of their shareholders. Morality has never had great purchase in the banking industry, which seem always to come out on top no matter how dirty their hands. How to get banks’ great benefit — access to capital — without being victimized should be a top policy priority for RC. Certainly, deregulation has been shown as counterproductive in achieving this aim. So “Stop It…”
- Bottom line: Multi-lateral agreements between governments are necessary to deliver benefits of freer trade, as well as ward off economic threats with global reach. In a nutshell this is the “ethical globalism” proposed by Radical Centrism.
So, that’s an outline of some major policy ideas that could help define a new politics called “Radical Centrism.”
Readers, I hope you will participate! It will, I hope, be a communal exercise in replacing hatred and division with mutual respect and workable solutions. Use the comment button liberally; write a whole article if you want; like and share with friends on social media and invite them to be involved. I’m hoping my metadadablog will become more like a forum for the exchange of creative ideas about government, culture and politics. I plan to feature reader comments on about every 10th post, and will do so more frequently as necessary.
Can we forge a new center with these tenets? It’s time now for you to weigh in. Please comment liberally (or conservatively). Think of it like baking bread: it needs a LOT of kneading, pushing, pulling, rolling, rising — by YOU (and you and you) — until it is really capable of turning into a tasty, nutritious loaf. Can you help?