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Front Page » October 22, 2002 » Opinion » Where have all the moderates gone?
Published 4,413 days ago

Where have all the moderates gone?


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

As I have watched the events of the last year, and the lead up to the election this year, I have begun to wonder one thing.

Where have all the moderates gone?

In the past the halls of American government were filled with those that held that middle ground on almost any subject. Ask them about gun control and they would state they were for gun safety, and for banning assault weapons, but were against registration. Ask them about abortion and they would set some kind of limits on abortion but would not want to ban it. Ask them about land use, and they would say we need some wilderness, and that some areas needed protection, but not at the ruination of whole industries and communities. Ask them about pollution legislation and they would vote for those measures which held polluting industries feet to the fire to come up with constraints, but not so much that they burnt their lower extremities off and became completely uncompetitive in the world market.

These days however, it seems hard to find anyone at the national level who we can consider moderate in their views on most subjects, and when they do exist they are few and far between. It's not like in the old days, when moderates dominated congress. Even many of our presidents also fell within those bounds. And when they didn't the moderates in the legislative branch of our government found a way to compromise with the executive leadership and get real things done.

But no more, because they just don't seem to exist in great enough numbers now. People seem to want to elect people who are one way or another, but never in-between.

When I was in college in the early 70's the liberal movement had been dominating much of politics for at least 10 years. True Richard Nixon was the president, but the liberal agenda had been strong ever since Dwight Eisenhower left office. I pictured myself as a liberal in those days, and it seemed everyone I knew under 30 was. Of course that was a warped belief of my own with no real basis other than the people that surrounded me fit that mold.

Today the tone of politics on college campuses among students seems decidedly more conservative. That isn't just due to the 9-11 events either. It has existed for quite a while.

Right now if one watches what congress does it is always a struggle between the left and the right with the breastbone in the middle being of little consequence. If you will notice too, the stalemates in congress continue to increase in number. Legislation that does get passed is either so watered down that it is ineffective or there are so many amendments to it that it doesn't resemble the original intent in the least.

This issue of moderation is actually more than Democrat vs. Republican.

It used to be that moderates existed in both parties but the idea of Democrats only being liberals and Republicans only being conservatives has taken our politics by storm.

The few moderates that exist in either party are often labeled traitors by their own group.

One of the problems with this perception is that people are continually mislabled, particularly in this state. Generally in relation to national politics, Utah is a very different place.

Our Republicans are often very conservative, but their ideas about what conservatism is continues to vary from the national perspective. And sometimes I am amazed at the moderation some of them show in their voting records.

On the other side of the story are the Democrats, but they are not necessarily sitting on the other side of the bus from the GOP.

Utah Democrats are not generally the same as national Democrats, yet they get identified with eastern liberals whose politics little resemble what the Utahns believe.

Rocky Anderson recently endorsed Mitt Romney, the former Salt Lake Olympic boss for governor of Massachusetts where he is in a pitched battle with a democrat for the statehouse.

I heard one television announcer say that in Utah Romney's political views would be considered quite liberal. I have to admit that I thought when Romney came to Utah the underlying Republican plan was for him to eventually replace Mike Leavitt when he moved on or up or something.

But I was obviously wrong. His more liberal views may have made it hard for him to get nominated in Utah when it came right down to it.

I have a friend in Worcester, Mass., who is a dedicated Massachusetts liberal. I emailed him the other day and asked about the situation there.

In the email, I mentioned the Anderson endorsement. When my friend emailed back, the first thing he asked was if we really did have any liberals in Utah, as Anderson portrays himself to be in the ad.

Then my friend sent another email telling me that he actually thought the ad would help Romney's Democratic opponent because she is considered a conservative Democrat in some circles.

He felt that Anderson's endorsement might send some Republicans out to vote for her.

He wrote about the war going on back there within both parties and told me how disgusted he was with the whole thing.

His final line in his latest email said, "Where are some moderates when you need them?"

I guess the problems, depending on your point of view, are the same all over.


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October 22, 2002
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