The imperiled political center

Leigh Morris

The other day, I was driving down a road that was recently repaved but had not yet had striping to designate traffic lanes. It occurred to me that the signs cautioning drivers could well apply to voters as well.

As a political centrist, I’m beginning to think of myself as a part of an endangered species. It seems to me that the political center – the middle of the political road – has been shrinking rapidly, allowing the far left and the far right to increasingly dominate the political scene. Nowhere is that more evident than in the U.S. Congress where there’s been such deterioration in the capacity to carry out its important role in dealing with scores of major issues.

No Labels, a group that advocates rising above partisanship, has evaluated our current political climate this way:

The far right and far left are holding America hostage – becoming ever more strident, uncompromising and making governance impossible. They are small in number but drive the national agenda because they are organized, because they vote, contribute to and volunteer for campaigns. In short, they show up, while the vast political center has remained on the sidelines

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman feels that one of the reasons that extremists are dominating so much of the political process is that the major political parties have become more ideological and fewer and fewer people are voting. She observed that political parties “used to be like umbrellas, where you had a central handle which was the shared core beliefs, and then you had all the spokes that held up the canopy, and those were different ways of interpreting those beliefs. But you could still have that central core.”

I’m a student of history, and I’ve been looking increasingly at the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was a centrist. He called his political philosophy “The Middle Way.” He appealed to the majority of Americans by being neither a reactionary nor a socialist; neither an appeaser nor a warmonger.

Ike disliked extremists and demagogues, believing the far left and right were wrong on all political and moral issues. He referred to the political spectrum as a bowling alley and the extremes as the “gutters” and said he was on the right track when getting attacked by “both sides.”

In his book, The White House Years, author Jim Newton noted that Ike “was a gentleman, not a bomb thrower. He did not publicly insult opponents by name. He also avoided criticizing the intelligence and motives of other politicians, believing this was impolite and unforgivable.”

Times have clearly changed since the 1950s when Ike’s Middle Way enabled the political parties and three branches of our federal government to function productively. However, I think Ike’s basic principles are still valid. Revisiting them could lead us away from the current gridlock that comes from the prevalent “my way or the highway” approach to governing. I hope and pray we can find a way to regain some of the many the many advantages of Ike’s Middle Way.

Leigh E. Morris is the former mayor of La Porte and former chairman of the La Porte County Republican Party. He can be reached at lmorris@csinet.net.

(7) comments

fire111

I took a break for awhile. Too cheap to pay the high rate of the Truth. Joe hasn't changed a bit. I'm doing better. Seems most people are doing better. 2 record years of RV manufacturing. It seems to have hit it's stride. Remember the last 2 years have been record years. My only tax outlay to increase is my homeowner's. That due to the fact that my value has increased substantially. By State Constitution your percentage cannot increase over 1% of your assessed valuation! According to US Bureau of Labor statistics, the median pay in the Elkhart Goshen area has increased quite nicely. Unemployment is at record lows for blacks, Hispanics, women, kids! Just leaving those unable to work(?) and those who just won't without jobs! Still help wanted signs out in Bristol. Come and get a job!


global hoosier

Not so long ago Republicans believed in lowering deficit global free trade, and standing up to Russia or N. Korea..Then came Trump alley cat. sad


sidearm

e cutting taxes and strengthening the economy at the same time.



Sorry you don’t approve.


Joe King

You mean cutting taxes for the wealthy 1% and corporate elite and businesses....while raising taxes for the rest? Hurting the farmers and the poor with a tariff war? Shunning and embarrassing us from our allies? While being a useful idiot for Putin and Russia while choosing not to believe America’s own intelligence agencies! Still waiting for Mexico to pay for a wall.....


sidearm

Other than you hate the president what are you complaining about? While taking on China, our real economic enemy, cutting taxes and growing the economy at the same time, I guess he has yet to cure TDS. Sorry you don’t approve.


sidearm

Joe, you repeating the Dems talking points, wrong as they are, only proves my point. You hate Donald Trump and the success he has had.



I thought he and his family were going to jail Joe, you promised me.


Joe King

So actual facts are just talking points....like fake news? How sad...when did your mind stop believing what you see and hear? How sad you try to convince others that he is “winning”... Mexico paying for that wall? Nope...we are...he lied and you chanted they were...Even now he claims...3 times..that the hurricane will hit Alabama...just like he said he didn’t have affair and paid money..illegally..to try to cover it up..just like he made fun of a handicapped reporter...on video..and lied and you believed him...how sad and telling of you and the former party know as the GOP...


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