Where’s the Energy in the Middle?

I see the money, energy, and effort in education on both extremes. Do you?

The side that fights to the death to protect the status quo has tons of it and pours tons of it into play. So does the other side that wants to go purely to private school choice as if that will be a panacea.

But where’s the energy in the middle? Where are the people and the resources that need to be deployed to improve the schools and truly and vigorously hold them accountable to bringing students to high levels of proficiency?

I have been in the game for over 35 years, and, while there is commendable action in the middle still, I don’t see much any longer that is truly effective at pushing such accountability.

I see the money, energy, and effort in politics on both extremes. Do you?

The side that wants to fracture the world from the left has tons of it and pours tons of it into play. I had forgotten until recently the practice of paying people to engage in violent and disruptive protests.

And there’s the other side that spreads poison from the right, discouraging any moves to the middle as if seeking compromise is disloyal to the good and the right.

Where’s the energy in the middle? Where are the people and the resources urging mutual effort and compromise to achieve common sense solutions to today’s challenges, including immigration, health care, and economic growth?

I have been in the game for over 35 years, and I see little effective action from groups in the middle that drives consensus any longer.

I see the money, energy, and effort in the media on both extremes. Do you?

The side that pushes leftist ideology can be seen in many newspapers and magazines and abundantly on the networks. The same is true with the right, on its networks and blog sites.

But where’s the energy in the middle? Where are the people still committed to reporting the truth, whatever their ideology might be?

I have been in the game for over 35 years. There are some oases in the vast desert, but they are few and far between today.

I see the money, energy, and effort in the culture wars on both extremes. Do you?

The side that pushes the most awful, tawdry, and lewd programs, movies, and music in the history of the world operate without excuse or limits. And the other side is frequently horrified but tries mostly to escape into its own private world of resentment.

Where’s the energy in the middle? Where are the people who want to put the genie of indecency back in the bottle, encourage decent self-expression, and insist we be true to the values, largely from religion, that made us good and great in the first place?

I have been in the game for over 35 years. I don’t see much such movement in the middle.

This nation has been successful, for the most part, because the middle has held throughout most of our history, as the force that keeps us in balance. The middle has been the difference maker, the deciding factor.

This is because the majority has typically come from the middle and has been willing to assert itself when one side or the other or both extremes get carried away.

Where is the middle today? They don’t seem to be present, or play much any more.

I have seen their absence blamed on everything under the sun. It’s because of rotten re-districting, too much money in politics, life’s too complicated or busy, etc., etc.

Are regular folks just burned out? Have they lost their commitment?

Well – it’s time for them to return. It’s their civic duty. Damage is being done in their absence. It’s not irreversible, but the condition gets more serious each day. A good reading of our founders’ thoughts teaches it’s essential, fellow citizens. The old US of A is counting on you.

Where’s the energy in the middle?

Bannon Pays Soros to Pay Protestors

OK, OK – there’s no truth at all to that headline. One could even say it’s a “fake headline.”

Steve Bannon would never support anything George Soros does. And George Soros would never be associated with Steve Bannon.

But there’s a serious point I hope to make by it.

Before I do, I want to issue a few caveats. I admire people who engage in protest activity through legal and peaceful means. I was once an active protestor myself, and I support the exercise of First Amendment rights on behalf of deeply held beliefs. Further, I am not opining on the substantive merits of either side’s positions.

Rather, I merely want to explore the efficacy of certain strategies that are currently at play in American politics. The hypothesis of this short essay is grounded in the observation that we are an evenly and bitterly divided nation, in which the balance of power now resides with folks like the roughly 150,000 voters in the Midwest who swung the presidential election to Trump. Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are all states that have recently voted Democratic, yet, by narrow margins, voted Republican in this election.

Who were the voters who turned the tide? There has been some analysis of them, and there should be more. From what we know, they, essentially, appear to be today’s version of another era’s “Reagan Democrats.” They include independents and working class Democrats; people who believe they have been hurt by economic trends that have created difficulty and uncertainty for them; some who believe that cultural change has both gone too far, too fast and undermined their mores and values; and many who feel physically insecure in a world in which terrorism is ever-more threatening.

There clearly were “tremors” leading to the 2016 “earthquake” in elections during the past decade. The losses for Democrats in Congressional seats, governorships, and control of legislative chambers since 2010 have been unprecedented.

In the face of such massive defeats, the fundamental strategic question for Democrats must be: “what do we do now?”

Some suggest the party should go further to the left to excite the base. This approach was not the winning strategy in the late 1980s when the Democrats successfully responded to Reagan’s power by moving to the center, which helped bring Clinton to office. Indeed it’s not clear this strategy has ever worked anytime in the past for either party.

The principal tactic of choice for those who want to go left is the highly visible use of protests. Many such protests during the pre-election period turned violent. I think principally of Baltimore and Chicago. Since the election, there has been the Women’s March after the Inauguration, which had considerable support, but which featured the highly offensive comments of Madonna and Ashley Judd. And, after the ham-handed and poorly executed Trump Executive Order on immigration (which, by the way, was still supported 49-41% by the public, according to Reuters/Ipsos), there were more protests at airports and across the land.

As I mentioned, I once was an active protestor myself. As a student at Berkeley in the 1960s, I joined others in actively protesting Governor Reagan and the Vietnam War. My principal sense then and now about all that activity was that when the average “person on the street” saw the protests negatively, students lost ground politically. Indeed, it was a big win for Reagan when student protests were unappealing.

The only time students actually gained ground was when our means of opposition appealed to the middle, when the messaging spoke to the middle, and when the middle got exhausted by, and began to oppose, the Vietnam War.

What’s the lesson for today? Until the opposition to Trump appeals to the 150,000 voters who swayed the election and moves them away from Trump and to an alternative perspective, the left will make no progress, and, in fact, may even further alienate those who hold the balance of power. These voters most certainly didn’t care for the Alinsky-style tactics of many recent protests. The continuation of these tactics might feel good to the protestors but will work against the left’s interests.

My bet is that Steve Bannon is hoping George Soros continues to fund these tactics and that the left chooses to deploy them. He is likely counting on it to assure his man stays in power.

If Democrats are smart, they’ll turn instead to a current version of the Democratic Leadership Council to guide the opposition.