The moderate paradox

By Joe Schembrie
web posted February 21, 2000

Goldwater was wrong. Extremism in the pursuit of liberty really is a vice -- and moderation in the defense of freedom is officially a virtue.

At least that's what Big Media tells us now. A recent Zogby International poll shows that thirty-one percent of American voters identify themselves as 'Moderate.' And when moderates align with liberals, conservatives are far out-numbered.

So decrees Big Media: The Era of Big Government isn't so over after all. People are happy with the status quo. They don't want 'risky' tax cuts, they like government benefits, they don't want the boat rocked.

Maybe you're confused. Maybe you thought that since the Carter Administration, liberalism is a spent force -- forever tagged with uncontrollable spending, double-digit inflation, high crime rates, and global capitulation. Maybe you've seen the many other polls showing that when voters choose between Liberal and Conservative labels, Conservatism wins by nearly sixty percent.

So just how did conservatism go from sixty-percent voter identification to electoral marginalization -- and why is liberalism resurgent, and the welfare state triumphant?

We can thank the Moderate Politicians for that.

Moderate politicians have no guiding lights, no moral compass -- and no ideological anchor. What they do have is the itch for Power. In a democracy, you get power by being popular. And moderate politicians are the kind of people you became all too familiar with in high school -- who attempt to become popular by finding a crowd and standing in the middle of it.

All a liberal must do is persuade a moderate politician that the crowd is moving left, and the moderate politician follows sheeplike.

Sure, it'll only be a timid half-step -- but the shuffle is always leftward. If a liberal wants a $10 billion spending bill, the moderate politician counters with $5 billion. If a liberal wants a ten-day handgun waiting period, the moderate politician offers five days. The net effect of moderate political compromise is always a bigger governmental role.

The moderate politician's strategy is to stake out the middle of the political spectrum by downsizing liberal demands a notch; liberals have learned to upsize their demands a notch. Net effect: Full Speed Ahead. Government spending grew even faster under 'moderate' Presidents like Nixon and Bush than under liberal Presidents like Johnson and Clinton. The moderate politician, who is not looking at his speedometer but only at his velocity relative to the other cars, ends up racing with the liberal hot-rodders down the road to serfdom.

So welcome to the Moderate Millennium -- and what an extremist, immoderate age it is!

Under our 'Moderate' economic system, workers slave until May to pay their taxes, five-trillion dollars in short-term debt is called 'financial stability,' and retirees celebrate the survival of a public pension system that threatens national insolvency -- and has personally robbed them of million-dollar private pensions.

Our 'Moderately'-intrusive government pops air bags in our faces, restricts the water in our toilet flushes, and mandates how much tomato paste we're allowed on pizza. It already skims our e-mail, and seeks to scan our hard drives.

In the name of 'Moderation,' the government subsidizes pornographic art and pays teenagers to have babies out of wedlock. Our public schools teach homosexual values but won't allow a glimpse of the Ten Commandments for fear of warping precious children's minds. Those schools rank last in science and math -- but first in self-esteem and marksmanship.

Our society is not the middle of the road, it's the middle of the Twilight Zone. Is this what Moderate Voters truly desire?

It seems unlikely, because Moderate Voters as people are typically straight-arrow types who obey the law, salute the flag, believe in God, work quietly at their jobs -- and mind their own business. Far from embracing Big Government, they take tax deductions and shun welfare handouts.

Moderate voters are basically apolitical. They are wrapped up in their private lives and tend not to think much about government. To them, 'moderate' government means one that is as well-behaved and self-restrained as themselves.

Yet when they vote, they somehow get caught up with politicians who listen to Nine Inch Nails and serve beer to underage teens -- and plot to curtail the First Amendment while slouching toward the Gomorran superstate. So is anyone paying attention?

Maybe not. Over half the country is so apolitical that it doesn't even vote. And of those who do vote, a third are so politically-uninformed that they end up supporting an ever-expanding, Amazing Super-Colossal Government . . . in the name of Moderation.

It's the Moderate Paradox: Because of voter ignorance, Apolitical does not translate into Anti-Government.

If only conservatives could figure out how to make that translation, they just might start winning elections by the same sixty percent that their label wins in polls.

Joe Schembrie is a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right and no moderate.

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