Sept. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Let’s Empower the Moderate Near-Majority

The two scholars also recommended that Congressional and state legislative lines be drawn by nonpartisan commissions, a system pioneered in Iowa and now working in eight states.

At present, districts usually are gerrymandered to protect incumbents or maintain a heavy partisan majority, discouraging candidates from appealing across party lines.

And the third idea is for Congressional leaders, both Senate and House, to be elected by supermajorities, not simply by the majority party. The scholars acknowledged the idea had no chance of being adopted now but was worth proposing anyway.

For many party activists, “moderate” means “mushy,” but Galston and Kamarck show with poll data that moderate voters have distinct views: skepticism toward government, pro-business and low taxes; liberal on social issues such as abortion and gay rights; and hawkish on Afghanistan, if not Iraq.

Asked whether “God has granted America a special role in human history,” one poll showed that 54 percent of moderates agreed, compared with just 34 percent of liberals.

Moderates are certainly somewhat to blame for their own marginalization. They tend not to show up to vote in primary elections.

With rare exceptions (like me), the term “militant moderate” is an oxymoron. But it’s clear that the parties have built up institutional barriers for moderate influence that ought to be reformed.

Moderate doesn’t just mean middle of the road. It also means measured, rational, logical, deliberate, steady, consensual, results-oriented, tolerant, problem-solving.

I think this is what the public wants. It’s what presidential candidates always say they will be — “kinder, gentler” and “uniter not divider” Republicans, “new” and “not Red or Blue America” Democrats.

But the current system causes them to fail to deliver. Problems don’t get solved — and, persistently, majorities of Americans think that the country is headed in the wrong direction. It shouldn’t be that way.

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