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Centrist Politics and Selecting Electable Candidates: Are the Arguments Still Valid?

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It used to be that the citizens of this nation were represented by leaders from different points on the political spectrum, and those leaders governed through necessary compromises on issues important to their constituents. Today, compromise is largely dead. And with it have gone some important elements of governance, such as the notions of common good and leadership, itself, gone in the name of stricter representation. But even stricter representation is not as it would appear. For the people are no longer being represented. Corporate America is being represented, but only that portion of it that has the most money to spend on the purchasing of politicians.

So, what does the current condition of the playing field suggest about the old notions of centrist politics and compromise? What it suggests is that these notions are no longer needed, no longer desirable, no longer useful.

But this leads to another question. What about the selection of a candidate who is deemed electable in a general election? If centrism and compromise are no longer seen as useful elements of the system, how do we now define an "electable" candidate? One of the two major parties is clearly leaning away from the center and in the direction of extreme representation of fewer and fewer Americans.

Problem: They still need votes.

So, how do you set up a platform that clearly represents only a select few citizens but still attracts a plurality of voters? There are several options, but the majority are all built around deceit of the electorate. Which is why we see today's GOP doing the following:

1. Block almost all meaningful legislation so the current administration will accomplish less and have less to brag about. The fact that this is to the detriment of the nation's climb out of recession is unimportant as far as the welfare of the nation is concerned. What is important is that it actually plays a positive roll for a GOP that can now claim the administration "Didn't do enough."

2. Consciously court the most radical elements of the party. The Tea Party's rise to prominence was no accident, nor was it the grass-roots populist groundswell it claimed to be. It was engineered by big money as a megaphone for big money's interests. Nothing about that has changed, which is why we see big-money shills like Ted Cruz coming out in favor of auctioning off large pieces of National Parks, to private interests seeking logging and mining locations.

3. Create an aura of incompetence surrounding the administration, such that the president is seen as wrong no matter what he does or says, even if he just agreed with you. This has long been a tool used by both parties, but its current level of development is extreme by any measure. We currently have pending law suits and impeachment proceedings against the president, neither of which have the least grounds for consideration. But they do serve the purpose of keeping the mind of their constituents off of the lack of leadership by the GOP, and focused on the well-crafted hatred they have been conditioned to feel for the president.

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Any time the media presents information that could take voters' attention away to actual issues, another scandal must be created, or an old one reiterated for further consideration. The party's ramrods have the tools in place to handle any such situation, with convenient catch phrases and retorts. Thus the public's interest in the World Cup must have been a deliberately manifested diversion (by the administration) to take due attention away from things like a re-re-repeat of the now-stale Benghazi investigation(s), or the president's "obvious vulnerability" to a law suit.

After all, a party that has nothing constructive to offer, must do something with its time. But that still does not address the issue of what to do about selecting a presidential candidate for 2016 and what sort of platform to construct from which to run. The air is thick with this problem, as relatively moderate Mitt Romney seems prepared for another go at it, and the extreme elements of the party will surely have at least one or two alternatives who are decidedly farther out there to the right.

Today, courting the moderate voter is anathema to the Republican Party. Centrist incumbents are being threatened and defeated in party primaries by more radicalized right-wing Tea Partiers. Centrist elements that have moderate viewpoints, or who have demonstrated even the least tendencies toward compromise are labeled RINOS, Republicans in name only. They are being hounded out of the party in the name of more radical viewpoints that specifically exclude compromise and denigrate centrism as an evil infection attacking party purity.

Can a party such as this win a presidential election if moderate voters are needed to win? More importantly, does the party even think it needs or wants moderate voters anymore? It would seem from all outward appearances that they believe party purity dictates a candidate from the extreme right. It would seem they believe the argument that an electable candidate must attract moderates is no longer meaningful.

And the Democrats?

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So, if centrist politics is dead to the GOP, what does that mean for the Democratic Party? If Republicans are truly abandoning the center as a poison pill, then Democrats are fools if they don't move into the void. On the one hand that seems to play nicely into the hand of Democrats, who will gladly snatch up whatever crumbs are left behind to further expand their numerical superiority over Republican voters. And it does seem that we are talking about far more than a few crumbs, here. Moderate and independent voters are ever increasing demographics in America in the wake of the exhausting and sometimes humiliating extremism that is prevalent today.

There can be little doubt that the Democratic Party has followed, at an admittedly slower pace, the movement to the political right. It has been stated with some legitimacy that Barack Obama is farther to the right than Reagan was. This, too, should bode well for the party's pick-up of what used to be defined as moderates who are now aligned more closely with the left. So what does the Democratic Party do to present the most electable candidate? It would certainly seem that courting the middle is in order.

Unfortunate truths

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Dan Cooper is an award winning freelance writer/editor living in the Texas Hill Country. He has worked in news and sports journalism and is currently working on several projects, including an autobiography and the editing of a California Gold Rush (more...)

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I'm sure it's not easy to be a moderate Republican... by Dan Cooper on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 10:30:16 AM
If such a person exists or is permitted to act on ... by Norm Conrad on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 1:08:03 PM
You are probably more 'right' than you realize. Le... by Bill Johnson on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 7:03:54 AM
In our current circumstances, "centrism"--which se... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 11:53:00 AM
Very wise comment. Thank you. ... by Hosea McAdoo on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 3:49:08 PM
Apparently, only a few of us reading this article ... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 9:03:47 AM
Once again, and hopefully for the last time, this ... by Dan Cooper on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 1:03:10 PM
It would seem you are completely unconcerned with ... by Dan Cooper on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 1:05:56 PM
I'm sorry, but I found the premise of your article... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 1:30:47 PM
Mr. Cooper buys into an argument that ignores vote... by Norm Conrad on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 1:02:45 PM
Thank you, Norm, for your comment. I would like t... by Dan Cooper on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 4:13:52 PM
My article is not about what is best for the natio... by Dan Cooper on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 4:17:05 PM
An intelligent interesting article. The argument ... by Shirley Braverman on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 2:49:51 PM
Shirley, thank you. I appreciate your comment. And... by Dan Cooper on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 3:23:29 PM
Weren't you paying attention to the cool $2 millio... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 11:51:10 AM
I said this many times before.By supporting our cu... by kappie on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 2:53:10 PM
You make a couple of very good points here. But I ... by Dan Cooper on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 9:27:15 AM
The differences on climate change, for example, ar... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 1:13:48 PM
I agree that a disastrous depression would probabl... by Dan Cooper on Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 9:28:39 AM
I've heard of centrists all my life, but I've neve... by Jerry Wesner on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 3:20:35 PM
Bill Clinton moved the Democratic Party to the rig... by E. J. N. on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 6:03:49 PM
You have obviously given this some serious thought... by Dan Cooper on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 6:34:19 PM
It certainly does appear to be ahead of its time, ... by E. J. N. on Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 at 9:57:44 PM
Any efforts by activists to reform the electoral s... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 7:32:49 AM