The reality is simple and the ideologues are wrong. Politicians and voters who heartily espouse a right-wing or left-wing ideology can rarely be successful without support from their centrist counterparts. Critics will chirp that committed conservatives and progressives win elections. They are right to a point: many congressional districts and perhaps half the states regularly elect leaders that eschew centrist ideas. But greater scrutiny reveals a different tale.
Every free society’s spectrum of political beliefs has a society-relative center-point. Not surprisingly, the breadth and depth of political opinions in the United States ensures that no viewpoint on the political grid can command a majority, or change the central terms of the political debate. Moreover, widely accepted campaign strategies, years of opinion polls, and well established voting trends, all suggest that centrist voters subtly control the political high ground. In this capacity moderate voters can help a candidate’s ardent supporters achieve their goal: victory.
However, the United States’ diverse geo-political landscape ensures that moderates are only king-makers in districts and states that are politically balanced. And since this is the exception rather than the rule, the natural paucity of centrists in congress has enabled some powerful individuals to ignore the importance of moderates in the US system.
Yet since legislative reforms, unlike violent revolutions, cannot be won by a gritty few, problems like the spiraling national debt remain unsolved. Given the present electoral math in various districts and states, this impasse will only end when principle-driven Americans admit that centrists are the key to legislative achievement.
Nevertheless, individuals need not abandon their beliefs at the ballot box, nor should candidates strive to broker deals for the sake of doing so. Instead principled individuals should embrace realism: goals worth achieving are rarely reached rapidly. Absent such a realization, America’s elected leaders will lead her to the edge of a financial abyss – hopefully not a step farther.