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RADICAL MIDDLE, THE BOOK:
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WHO WE ARE:
American politics, we've had the silent majority, the far left, the far right,
the neo-cons, the ultra-liberals, and now the radical middle. . . .
Mark Satin aims to educate the American public about this new movement.
. . .”
50 Thinkers and Activists (Try to) Describe the Radical Middle
For many years, and especially since the beginning of the 21st century, writers, policy analysts, activists, and even some politicians have tried to describe the radical middle (aka radical center, creative center, postpartisanship, transpartisanship . . .). Many of their most significant or stimulating formulations through the year 2009 are collected here. - M.S.
Renata Adler (1969)
There is an authentic radicalism in this country now, but it does not abuse the metaphor of revolution. It is not the radicalism of rhetoric. ... And it [does not view] every human problem at a single level of atrocity. ...
I guess a radical middle, in age and in politics, acts out of a consciousness of how much has been gained, how far there is to go, and what there is to lose. It is content to ... measure and implement accommodations with the System: how many blacks and former poor in jobs, ... how many soldiers withdrawn, how many arms unmade, how many material, aesthetic and technological advances applied to ameliorating the human condition, how to divorce liberalism from arrogance and violence. ...
We are non-violent. Our values are corny ones: reason, decency, prosperity, human dignity, contact, the finest, broadest possible America.
Some of us have despaired. ... But somewhere there is a reconciliation of that [white] auto worker and that black, not on a symbolic plane, but because history is irreversible and there is a real common interest in the rich. mixed quality of life.
-- from Renata Adler, Toward a Radical Middle: Fourteen Pieces of Reporting and Criticism (1969). For many decades, Adler was a writer for The New Yorker, and this was her first collection of political essays. I have never seen it discussed in any political book by any author, of any political stripe. Amazing oversight given that the book is by a prominent writer with degrees from Bryn Mawr, Harvard, the Sorbonne, and Yale Law School, and was issued by a major publisher (Random House). Guess it wasn't easy being radical centrist in the 1960s. Or a woman with something truly original and challenging to say about Politics.
Sherry Anderson and Paul Ray (2000)
Between the extreme positions of the culture wars lies a third way[, that of the Cultural Creatives]. It is not simply a neutral center but a distinctive expression.
Rather than defending an old way of life, Cultural Creatives are bridging an old way of life and a new one. They seem to be unraveling the threads of old garments and weaving new fabric, cutting original designs and sewing together a new one. Many (though not all) want to carry forward what is valuable from the past and integrate it with what's needed for the future. . . .
Often the integration involves spanning differences between diverse groups of people, or bridging disciplines, or both. For example, . . . Cultural Creatives are creating wellness centers that include both Western medicine and acupuncture. . . .
They want to see the big, inclusive picture, and they want to work with the whole system, with all the players. They regard themselves as synthesizers and healers, not just on the personal level but on the planetary level, too.
-- from Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives (2000), reviewed by us HERE. Ray is a market researcher, Anderson a psychologist; just as important, they've been active -- for five decades -- in many of the social movements they write about.
Walter Truett Anderson (2001)
The events of spring 2001, at the summit in Quebec convened to discuss a hemisphere-wide free trade zone, formed a wonderfully revealing microcosm of the world's unity and disunity. In the streets were . . . several different strains of protest, . . . ranging from bomb-throwing anarchists to peaceful marchers for social justice. Inside the barricaded buildings . . . government officials representing another range of political orientations, mainly from the globalist-center-right to globalist-center-left, managed to agree on a declaration of intent to move toward a free-trade agreement that would include strengthened democratic institutions at the national level, plus protections for labor and environment.
All parties to the agreement knew it was only the beginning of a long march . . . , but for all that it looked like movement in the direction of -- yes -- more liberal democratic governance and free trade, with regard for the concerns of the antiglobalists. Its very existence tended to support the belief that a certain rough consensus is indeed achievable around such issues, despite and even in some ways with the assistance of the antiglobalist right and left.
Evidence along roughly similar lines comes from the extensive research of an international team of social scientists [under the direction of Terry Nichols Clark and Ronald Inglehart]. The orientation they have discovered doesn't fit the usual categories; it combines some of the market liberalism associated with the right with the social progressiveness identified with the left. Its adherents are not strongly committed to any identifiable party or traditional ideology and seem to have lost interest in some of the traditional themes of political conflict. . . .
There is reason to believe . . . that a sizable number of people in the world, perhaps already a majority, have come to places somewhere in this somewhat amorphous and ill-defined political center.
-- from Walter Truett Anderson, All Connected Now: Life in the First Global Civilization (2001), reviewed by us about two-thirds of the way down HERE. Anderson is one of the leading independent political scientists in the U.S. today; his other books include Reality Isn't What It Used To Be (1990) and The Future of the Self (1997).
John Avlon (2004)
The American Heritage Dictionary defines Centrism as "the political philosophy of avoiding the extremes of right and left by taking a moderate position." But Centrism is far more than a collection of cautious gestures toward the middle ground. It is a principled political philosophy with a distinct set of political strategies and a distinguished history. . . .
Idealism without realism is impotent. Realism without idealism is empty. By effectively balancing idealism and realism, Centrism offers both a principled vision of governing and a successful strategy for winning elections. . . .
Critics sometimes call Centrists "fence-sitters," but that is like calling a wise man "dull." Building upon the belief that neither party inherently has a monopoly on good ideas, Centrists have a unique ability to search for the best solutions to persistent problems and emerging issues. . . .
[The] Centrist perspective [is] pro-business but determined to stand up to corporate corruption; resolutely opposed to individual discrimination but resisting the drift toward a culture of victimization; looking beyond the old "hawk vs. dove" debate toward an eagle foreign policy. . . .
-- from John Avlon, Independent Nation: How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics (2004), discussed by us HERE. Avlon is himself an independent -- he's been Chief Speechwriter for Republican New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, AND he worked on Democrat Bill Clinton's 1996 presidential campaign.
Michael Bloomberg (2007)
America, the most wonderful country in the world, is at a crossroads. The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision-making, primarily at the federal level, and the big issues of the day are not being addressed -- leaving our future in jeopardy. . . .
I believe we can turn around our country's current, wrong-headed course -- if we start basing our actions on ideas, shared values, and a commitment to solve problems without regard for party. . . .
We do not have to settle for the same old politics. We do not have to accept the tired debate between the left and right, between Democrats and Republicans, between Congress and the White House. We can and we must declare a ceasefire -- and move America forward.
While a ceasefire is essential, it must be followed by change. Real change -- not the word, but the deed. Not slogans, but a fundamentally different way of behaving -- one built on cooperation and collaboration. . . . By thinking outside the box, and bringing creative ideas to the table, we can increase the overall benefits that both sides can achieve, and, more importantly, what America can achieve.
-- from Michael Bloomberg, "Speech to the Ceasefire: Bridging the Political Divide Conference," June 18-19, 2007, Los Angeles, CA. Bloomberg is Mayor of New York City. For an analysis of this speech and of comparable Arnold Schwarzenegger speeches, see our article HERE.
David Broder (1995)
The 4,000 people who spent their own time and money to attend Ross Perot’s issues conference [in Dallas in 1995] are a tiny fraction of the most potent force in American politics. They are the “radical middle.”. . .
They disagree on many things -- including the desirability of Perot’s making another run for the presidency in 1996 -- but they have found mutual reinforcement in telling each other that the political system is failing them. . . . Ann Seaman of Panama City, Fla., said the smell of money in politics is so strong that “when I look at a politician, I wonder who really owns him.” . . .They responded warmly to [speakers] who said they were battling “the system,” even when conventional politics places [those speakers] at opposite ideological poles. . . .
Dawn Larson of Oswego, Ill., said . . . : “We’re very independent people. We have trouble ordering pizza together. But we know what we want from government -- accountability, responsibility and vision.”. . .
Because they are listening hard and searching for answers, the people in the “radical middle” are the principal target for politicians of both parties. . . .
-- from David S. Broder, “Radical Middle Feels the Squeeze,” Washington Post (August 14, 1995). Broder is a staff writer and columnist for the Post and co-author of The System, an excellent analysis of how and why The System is broken. If Broder wrote for Rolling Stone, the book's transformational implications would have been more apparent to reviewers.
Marian Chertow and Daniel Esty (1997)
[O]ver the last several years, environmental policy has become a bitter battleground, often dominated by extreme points of view. [We seek] to find not only the middle ground but higher ground. . . .
[We argue] for a new generation of [environmental] policies that are not confrontational but cooperative, less fragmented and more comprehensive, not inflexible but rather capable of being tailored to fit varying circumstances. We see a need for a “systems” approach to policy. . . . Fundamentally, we seek an ecologicalism that recognizes the inherent interdependence of all life systems. . . .
An emphasis on interconnectedness [means that] policy thinking [must be] infused with knowledge from outside the environmental sphere about real people’s real lives. Failing to understand the competing desires that citizens everywhere have for a cleaner environment and other things -- mobility, economic growth, jobs, competitive industries, and material comforts -- leads to policies that are out of sync with the people they serve. . . .
[Ultimately t]his focus on linkages and an ecological perspective leads to a more benevolent view of human activities and a belief in the possibility of sustainable development.
-- from Marian R. Chertow and Daniel C. Esty, eds., Thinking Ecologically (1997). The book grew out of the work of the “Next Generation Project” of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. It is a sort of beyond-left-and-right, radical-middle manifesto of the environmental movement. Over 250 professionals and activists from across the U.S. had a hand in it.
Lawry Chickering and Jim Turner (2008)
As a “conservative” (Chickering) and a “liberal” (Turner), we see the world very differently from those proclaiming a divided America. We believe there is little evidence of cultural conflict. . . .
We look around the country and the world, and we see manifold examples of cooperation – people working together without significant conflict. Such cooperative interaction we call “transpartisan” – focusing on what unites us rather than what separates us. Transpartisan action focuses on understanding issues in new ways and creates spaces for cooperation that are sadly often hidden. . . .
The central transpartisan insight has to do with broadening the meaning of “public” beyond governments to include citizens engaging each other often in informal partnerships with governments to solve public problems. . . .
Transpartisan solutions, which promote collaboration, succeed by drawing on both conservative and liberal traditions and the values of each that are woven into the fabric of American culture.
-- from A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner, Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life (2008), discussed by us HERE. Chickering is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Turner is a Washington DC lawyer; both walk their talk by being deeply involved in two “transpartisan” political organizations, Reuniting America (described by us HERE) and Transpartisan Alliance.
Diane Coyle (1997)
[G]lobalization is not what's special about today's world economy. . . . We live in a weightless world [characterized by, e.g., miniaturization, use of new materials, the "knowledge economy," and expansion of services as opposed to manufacturing], not a global village.
[Weightlessness] is a more realistic vision [than globalization], neither inevitably apocalyptic nor necessarily utopian. You do not have to become an extremist about weightlessness. It restores the possibility of normal political debate. . . .
[The] fortunate minority of mobile professionals, which has so far reaped the fruits of technological change, cannot be allowed to get away with presenting the economic transformation of our world as a merely technical question, a matter of hard facts not difficult choices. A new politics of weightlessness is needed so that the economic benefits can be captured and shared. . . .
The experts' unpalatable "either-or" menu [free market liberalism, embracing change, or statism / corporatism, resisting it] is bogus. This book is my contribution towards the creation of the radical centre. Economic progress is possible in the weightless world. . . . Sharing the benefits fairly is a matter of political will, and can be achieved with the right set of policy tools.
-- from Diane Coyle, The Weightless World: Strategies for Managing the Digital Economy (1997 England, 1998 U.S.). Coyle is a British economist with degrees from Oxford and Harvard who left academic economics for journalism, in order to help ordinary people understand the extraordinary world we're entering. See esp. the book above and Paradoxes of Prosperity (2001). She writes in an intense, not altogether linear style (called "cyberpunk" by a British critic) that beautifully conveys the excitement and mystery of our time.
Stanley Crouch (1995)
The ideas and assessments brought together [in this book] add up to the vision of a radical pragmatist.
I affirm whatever I think has the best chance of working, of being both inspirational and unsentimental, of resonating across the categories of false division and beyond the decoy of race.
That is: I don't care who conceives of a better strategy for dealing . . . with public education, with improving the quality of our competition in the world arena, with crime, and with the central issue of our time, which is maintaining democratic morale.
It doesn't matter to me if the cow comes from the left, the middle, or the right side of the pasture; I'm concerned with whether or not the milk is sour.
-- from Stanley Crouch, The All-American Skin Game, or, The Decoy of Race (1995). Crouch is one of the most thoughtful political writers in the U.S. today, and one of the bravest. See also his first book of essays, Notes of a Hanging Judge (1990), and his novel, Don't the Moon Look Lonesome (2000).
E.J. Dionne (2000 / 2006)
The largest group up for grabs in the American electorate [in the year 2000] is what Jane Vinson, a McCain supporter who traveled from Maryland to South Carolina to support her champion, called “the radical middle.”
These voters are . . . deeply suspicious of Washington’s “iron triangle” of “money, lobbyists and legislation” that McCain condemns in every speech.
President Clinton and the Democrats had a chance to win them over after the 1992 election. But the president and his allies squandered the opportunity. ...
There has long been talk about the rise of a ":radical center," made up of voters essentially moderate in their philosophical leanings but radical in their disaffection with the status quo. This  looks to be the year of the radical center. If it is, the Democrats will win. And if they win, their task will be to meet the aspirations of a diverse group of dissatisfied and disappointed Americans. Not an easy chore, but one that certainly beats being in the opposition..
-- first excerpt is from E.J. Dionne, “Colluding With the Enemy,” Washington Post (February 21, 2000); second is from Dionne, “Rising Radicak Center” Washington Post (October 24, 2006). Dionne is a scholar at the Brookings Institution as well as a syndicated columnist. His books include Why Americans Hate Politics and They Only Look Dead.
Peter Drucker (1993)
The new society -- and it is already here -- is a post-capitalist society. This new society . . . will use the free market as the one proven mechanism of economic integration. It will not be an "anti-capitalist society." It will not even be a "non-capitalist society". . . .
But the center of gravity in the post-capitalist society . . . is different from the one that dominated the last 250 years. . . . The basic economic resource -- the "means of production," to use the economist's term -- is no longer capital, nor natural resources (the economist's "land"), nor "labor." It is and will be knowledge. . . .
The leading social groups of the knowledge society will be "knowledge workers" -- knowledge executives who know how to allocate knowledge to productive use, just as the capitalists knew how to allocate capital to productive use; knowledge professionals; [and] knowledge employees. . . .
The economic challenge of the post-capitalist society will therefore be the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker. The social challenge of the post-capitalist society will, however, be the dignity of the second class in post-capitalist society: the service workers.
-- from Peter Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society (HarperBusiness, 1993); italics in original. Many people think of Drucker as our very best writer on business and management issues. But he started out as a philosopher and social critic, and it's nice to see him "end" as one with the book excerpted here. His business/management books go back to the 1940s and include Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1985) and Managing the Non-Profit Organization (1990).
Amitai Etzioni (2001)
[C]enter-based policies should involve much more than a compromise between Democrats and Republicans.
We have learned over the last several decades that despite dominating so much of our public give-and-take and policy debates, the old opposition between statist liberalism and laissez-faire conservatism does not pay enough attention to a whole slew of issues. These all concern the body of society rather than either the state or the market; they concern our communities, culture, institutions, and values.
These issues are often addressed (quite differently) by the religious right and by a new group of moderate thinkers (from which I hail) with the awkward title "communitarians." . . .
[Communitarians reflect] a way of thinking that is centered around people convincing one another to be better than they would be otherwise, on having faith in faith, on persuasion rather than coercion, on what might be called "soft morality." . . .
-- from Amitai Etzioni, Next: The Road to the Good Society (Basic/Perseus, 2001), reviewed by us about one-third of the way down HERE. Etzioni is one of the best known communitarians in the world today (others include Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, and Michael Walzer), and he is unusually public-policy-oriented for a communitarian. A more philosophically substantial book than Next is Etzioni's The New Golden Rule (1996).
Marilyn Ferguson (1980)
The [emerging] political perspective . . . is best described as a kind of Radical Center. It is not neutral, not middle-of-the-road, but a view of the whole road.
From this vantage point, we can see that the various schools of thought on any one issue -- political or otherwise -- include valuable contributions along with error and exaggeration. . . . Anthropologist Edward Hall lamented our cultural inability to reconcile or include divergent views within one frame of reference. We are so indoctrinated by our right/wrong, win/lose, all/nothing habits. . . .
[But t]he rare successful reforms in history -- the durable Constitution, for example -- synthesize. They blend old and new values. Dynamic tension [is] built into the paradigm. . . .
[T]he evolving Radical Center constituency . . . will admire [politicians who] refuse to make simplistic choices. [And i]t will encourage them to foster the kind of growth that charts and figures cannot measure. . . .
-- from Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980). Ferguson (1936-2008) edited newsletters and wrote books on science, consciousness, and social issues. The Aquarian Conspiracy, originally published by a then small and experimental L.A. press, sold over 800,000 copies -- far more than any other "New Age" social or political book.
Richard Florida (2002)
Because creativity is the driving force of economic growth, in terms of influence the Creative Class has become the dominant class in society. Only by understanding the rise of this new class and its values can we begin to understand the sweeping and seemingly disjointed changes in our society and begin to shape our future more intelligently. . . .
If you are a scientist or engineer, an architect or designer, a writer, artist or musician, or if you use your creativity as a key factor in your work in business, education, health care, law or some other profession, you are a member.
With 38 million members, more than 30 percent of the nation's workforce, the Creative Class . . . has the power, talent and numbers to play a big role in reshaping our world. Its members -- in fact all of society -- now have [sic] the opportunity to turn their introspection and soul-searching into real energy for broader renewal and transformation. . . .
The task before us is to build new forms of social cohesion appropriate to the new Creative Age -- the old forms don't work, because they no longer fit the [ever-questioning and constantly learning] people we've become -- and from there, to pursue a collective vision of a better and more prosperous future for all.
-- from Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (2002). See also his provocative article "Creative Class War" (Washington Monthly, Jan./Feb. 2004). Florida is an increasingly influential consultant to cities and businesses; see his website at CreativeClass.org.
Al From and Will Marshall (1996)
The industrial order of the 20th century, with its great concentrations of economic and political power, is giving way to a new society shaped by the centrifugal forces of the Information Age. . . .
America needs a third choice that replaces the left's reflexive defense of the bureaucratic status quo and counters the right's destructive bid to simply dismantle government. Such a "new progressive" governing philosophy sees government as society's servant, not its master -- as a catalyst for a broader civic enterprise controlled by and responsive to the needs of citizens and the communities where they live and work.
New Progressives seek to replace the old politics of top-down paternalism with a new politics of individual and civic empowerment. Because we can no longer rely on big institutions to take care of us, it is time to craft new policies and institutions that enable us to take care of ourselves and each other.
Ultimately, our challenge is to create a new way of governing that fosters the skills and habits of civic enterprise that have atrophied over the past century of centralization.
-- from Democratic Leadership Council, "The New Progressive Declaration: A Political Philosophy for the Information Age" (July 10, 1996). Don't watch what the DLC does, watch what it says!
Tony Giddens (1998)
The overall aim of third way politics should be to help citizens pilot their way through the major revolutions of our time: globalization, transformations in personal life, and our relationship to nature. . . . Our problems and possibilities are not within the reach of the left/right scheme. [Thus] the idea of the radical centre. . . .
Third way politics should take a positive attitude towards globalization -- but, crucially, only as a phenomenon ranging much more widely than the global marketplace. [We] need to contest economic and cultural protectionism. [P]rotectionism is neither sensible nor desirable. . . .
A high rate of business formation and dissolution is characteristic of a dynamic economy. This flux is not compatible with a society where taken-for-granted habits dominate, including those generated by [the welfare state]. We all need protection against risk, but also the capability to confront and take risks in a productive fashion. . . .
One might suggest as a prime motto for the new politics, no rights without responsibilities. [It] must apply not only to welfare recipients, but to everyone. . . .
-- from Anthony Giddens, Third Way (1998); see also the provocative sequel, The Third Way and Its Critics (2000). Giddens is director of the London School of Economics. In the late 1980s-early 1990s, his scholarship and networking helped move many European socialist parties away from the conventional political left.
Dan Gillmor (2004)
People say there are two Americas. I think there are at least three.
One is Bush's America: an amalgam of the extreme Christian "conservatives," corporate interests and the builders of the burgeoning national-security state. Another is the Democratic "left": wedded to the old, discredited politics in a time that demands creative thinking.
I suspect there's a third America: members of an increasingly radical middle that will become more obvious in the next few years, tolerant of those who are different and aware that the big problems of our times are being ignored -- or made worse -- by those in power today.
That third America needs a candidate. Or, maybe, a new party.
-- from Dan Gillmor, "Four More Years," Dan Gillmor E-Journal (November 3, 2004). Gillmor is the technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News -- the Silicon Valley daily -- and author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People (2004).
Ted Halstead and Michael Lind (2001)
We call our new political program the Radical Center. We chose this name to differentiate our principles and policies from those of the Democratic Left and the Republican Right. To us, it seems obvious that the familiar varieties of liberalism and conservatism . . . are largely irrelevant in the . . . first half of the twenty-first century.
"Centrism" itself has become something of a shallow mantra in recent American politics. . . . We use the word radical -- in keeping with its Latin derivation from "radix," or "root" -- to emphasize that we are interested not in tinkering at the margin of our inherited public, private, and communal institutions but rather in promoting, when necessary, a wholesale revamping of their component parts. . . .
In redesigning our . . . institutions . . . , we believe that one design criterion above all others should guide us: increasing the amount of choice available to individual citizens.
So far, the information era has enabled most Americans to enjoy newfound choices only as consumers in the economic and entertainment spheres. Any new political program worthy of the Information Age must be capable of translating this so far narrow expansion of choices to many other spheres of society: voting choices, educational choices, medical choices, retirement choices. . . .
-- from Ted Halstead and Michael Lind, The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics (2001), reviewed by us HERE. The authors are founders of the New America Foundation, an influential Washington DC-oriented think tank specializing in "post-partisan" policy ideas. See esp. New America's anthology The Real State of the Union (2004).
Alanna Hartzok (2001)
Permit me to dream for a moment, for sometimes out of our visions flow new realities. Here is my wish list for the Next Economy:
The Next Economy will be deeply unifying. Moving beyond either/or to both/and, it will embrace the diversity of human cultural expressions.
The Next Economy will be built upon the highest values of both the Left and the Right. It will be a fair economy and a free economy, using but not abusing the earth and her many resources. . . .
The Next Economy will have [as its goal] first and foremost the well-being of all the people on the planet. It will be based on the triple bottom line of social justice, restoration and protection of the environment, and the strength and stability to provide security in basic needs [for everyone].
-- from Alanna Hartzok, “Democracy, Earth Rights, and the Next Economy,” 2001 E.F. Schumacher Lecture, available HERE; also available in Hartzok, The Earth Belongs to Everyone: Articles and Lectures (2008), discussed by us HERE. Hartzok is co-founder and co-director of the Earth Rights Institute. Her uncompromising visionary spirit makes her less than radical middle in some people’s eyes, but I prefer to see her as occupying the hyper-visionary end of the radical-middle spectrum, just as I see Fareed Zakaria occupying the hyper-pragmatic end (see Zakaria below, and see HERE, where I discuss both authors).
Vaclav Havel (1997)
I have said more than once that the decades we spent under totalitarianism were not entirely wasted. They gave us a specific intellectual and spiritual experience that can be drawn upon and put to good use. . . . I believe [we] have something special to offer the rest of the world.
What if that something were a new wind, a new spirit, a new spirituality, that might be interjected into the established stereotypes of present-day politics? . . .
I wonder whether genuine intellectuals, philosophers, and poets are not virtually duty-bound to stop fearing and loathing politics and to take upon themselves all the risks and requirements that go with it.
[Who] is better equipped to perceive the global context in which political actions take place [and] restore to political prominence values such as conscience, love for one’s fellow humans, and respect for nature, for the order of Being, and for the pluralism of cultures? Who else should give politics that much-needed spiritual and transcendental dimension and bring to it that dwindling supply of human perception and sensitivity?
-- from Vaclav Havel, The Art of the Impossible (1997). Havel, a prominent Czech playwright and dissident, became president of the Czech Republic in 1993.
John Judis (1995)
The concept of the radical middle was first used to explain George Wallace's support in 1968 and . . . Ross Perot's appeal in 1992. What, or whom, it denotes is very different from what [Colin] Powell calls the "sensible center."
The unruly, unfashionable and downscale denizens of the radical middle think the country has been mortgaged to Wall Street bankers, Washington lobbyists, welfare bureaucrats and their shiftless clients. . . . [W]ith the cold war's end, the attention of [such] radicals has shifted to America's declining international economic position and to the stagnation in living standards -- which they blame on illegal aliens, runaway shops and unscrupulous trading partners. . . .
The sensible center can be traced back to . . . the Ripon Society, which was founded after the 1964 election to save the Republican Party from Goldwater conservatism. Its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Leadership Council, has tried to combat what it calls "liberal fundamentalism."
This center is based in the wealthy, cosmopolitan suburbs of the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and in the gentrified neighborhoods of major cities. Its economic outlook is global rather than national; it sees free trade and immigration as a boon to prosperity; it prides itself on its racial tolerance and its support for feminism and gay rights; but it sees government as bloated, antiquated and in need of reinvention. Like the radical center, it has often found itself politically homeless in the party system.
-- from John Judis, "Off Center," The New Republic (October 16, 1995). Once a theorist and activist in Democratic Socialists of America, Judis has become one of the most perceptive political commentators in the U.S. today. His book The Paradox of American Democracy (1999) was reviewed by us HERE.
Richard Kahlenberg (2001)
In the conventional wisdom, patriotism in American politics is thought to be a conservative impulse while the desire for strong, activist government is associated with liberals.
But think of all those blue-collar heroes who responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September: the firefighters, police officers, and construction workers who led rescue and recovery efforts. Where do they fit in politically?
Perhaps in what some are calling the "radical center." Beyond the familiar categories of left and right, untold numbers of Americans are somewhere in the middle. They are centrist in the sense that they represent a broad part of the American mainstream. But some are radical, too, in that they are deeply disapproving of the untrammeled privilege and unbalanced power that mars American democracy.
In fact, political scientists have been contending for more than three decades now that there are two distinct political centers: a "moderate middle" that consists of upscale, socially liberal, and fiscally conservative citizens and its mirror opposite, a "radical center" made up of people who are downscale, socially conservative, and economically populist.
-- from Richard D. Kahlenberg, "Radical in the Center," American Prospect (Dec. 3, 2001) (a review of the Halstead & Lind book above, and other books). Kahlenberg is author of an exemplary radical middle analysis of a social issue, The Remedy: Class, Race, And Affirmative Action (1996) (arguing we should privilege economic need rather than skin color). He's also author of a memoir of Harvard Law School that qualifies as radical middle because it's both appreciative and devastating, Broken Contract (1992).
[Viviane Stein on] PHIL Keisling (1998)
Radical middle: contradiction in terms or a positive force in Oregon politics? According to Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling, speaking at the year's first Eastern Oregon Forum, it's the latter.
The term "radical" can be a positive term, Keisling told the crowd of 60 at the Pendleton Convention Center Thursday night, if defined as "people who don't necessarily accept the conventional wisdom and traditional choices." [And] the "middle" of politics in Oregon is a [population in which] 20% of registered voters identify themselves not as Republicans or Democrats but as "none of the above."
[Keisling] urged Oregonians to "disenthrall ourselves of what we think is possible" and to take some risks as political entrepreneurs. Open discussion of ideas will help push back the tide of cynicism, he promised. "Our children are depending on us, not just to balance the books and take care of business, but to have some vision and some bravery in thinking anew," he said.
Over the years, Oregon more than any other state has passed "brave statements" indicative of such a radical middle, Keisling claimed. He pointed to the Oregon Health Plan as an example. . . . Important issues such as education need the radical middle's ability to "think outside the box" to ensure the future, Keisling said.
-- from Viviane Gilbert Stein, "Keisling: Time for Radical Ideas," in the East Oregonian, Pendleton, Ore. (October 16, 1998). Two decades ago, Keisling was an editor at the Washington Monthly. He walked away from a high powered journalism career to become a public servant.
Joe Klein (1995)
The radical middle includes all the screechers and malcontents of years past -- those who protested politics as usual by voting for everyone from George Wallace to John Anderson -- but it's also grown to include your mild-mannered pediatrician, the florist on Main Street and Madonna's personal trainer (perhaps).
It is closer in spirit to Ross Perot than David Gergen. It doesn't merely split the difference between Democrats and Republicans; it has a distinct, coherent political agenda. And it constitutes what my prove to be the pivotal slice of the presidential electorate. . . .
[C]andidates who hope to stalk the radical middle will have to address matters of political substance and style. Beneath the fury and the ferment, there seem to be four common principles on the agenda: Clean Up the System. . . . Balance the Budget. . . . Restore Civility. . . . Decide What Comes Next.
[The latter] is the toughest to describe. It is what replaces the government we have now. [I]n fact, there are dozens of different efforts underway -- most of them small ideas . . . -- to chip away at the old system and attempt something more flexible.
-- from Joe Klein, "Stalking the Radical Middle," Newsweek (September 25, 1995). The article was Newsweek's cover story and more than any other writing brought the term "radical middle" into the mainstream political dialogue. Klein is author of Primary Colors (1996) as well as a book about a more substantial group of people, Woody Guthrie: A Life (1980).
Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman (2006)
We are two foreign policy thinkers from what are usually taken to be opposite camps who . . . share a common exasperation with the pieties and orthodoxies of both U.S. party establishments. . . .
There are many liberal hawks in the Democratic Party who are just as messianic in their ideology and aggressive in their basic attitudes to the outside world as are members of the [George W.] Bush administration. They [fortunately] are opposed by Democratic “radicals” who resemble old-style conservative realists in calling for America to see the world through the eyes of other nations and learn to take their interests and views seriously.
[Meanwhile], large parts of the core Republican tradition are radically alienated from the policies of the [Bush administration]. They are searching for a way back to the . . . ideological and cultural roots of the Republican Party in the thinking of the Founders of the American republic. . . .
We propose [a] philosophy of ethical realism. . . . In ethical realism, a sense of national modesty and limits is linked to a capacity to see ourselves as a nation as others see us.
-- from Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, Ethical Realism: A Vision for America’s Role in the World (2006), reviewed by us HERE. Lieven is a senior research fellow at the “post-partisan” New America Foundation; Hulsman was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation until he began expressing doubts about Bush policies on postwar Iraq.
Michael Lind (1995)
Alienated voters tend to divide into two distinct and incompatible camps: the moderate middle and the radical center.
Members of the moderate middle tend to be old-fashioned Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans [as well as] neo-liberal New Democrats based in the suburbs and successful in the private sector. Th[eir ranks] are heavy with managers and professionals with advanced degrees. They tend to combine liberal views on social issues like abortion and gay rights with concern about excess government spending on welfare and middle-class entitlements. . . .
The "radical center" (the term was coined in the 1970s by Donald Warren, a sociologist) consists largely of alienated Democrats, who broke away from the New Deal coalition to vote for George Wallace[, Nixon and Reagan. They] tend to be white, blue-collar, high-school-educated and concentrated in the industrial Middle West, the South and the West. They are liberal, even radical in matters of economics, but conservative in morals and mores. . . .
The difference [between moderate middle and radical center] is reminiscent of the class and cultural divide between upper-middle-class metropolitan Progressives and rural and small-town Populists at the turn of the century, who viewed each other with suspicion even though they shared many criticisms of the existing order.
-- from Michael Lind, "The Radical Center or the Moderate Middle?," New York Times Magazine (December 3, 1995). Six years after this article, Lind co-authored a book called The Radical Center; see under "Ted Halstead" above. His book The Next American Nation (1995) is reviewed by us about three-quarters of the way down HERE.
Matt Miller (2003)
Since 1994, when the Clinton health care plan imploded in a fiasco that cost Democrats control of the Congress, Democrats have been too scared to think big again. Republicans, emboldened by this Democratic timidity, have chosen to push harder for their traditional priorities of cutting taxes and regulations.
What's been lost in the dysfunctional debate of the last decade is a commitment to two long-standing American ideals: equal opportunity and a minimally decent life for citizens of a wealthy nation.
What American politics urgently needs, therefore, is not a new left, but a new center. Domestic debate needs to be re-centered around a handful of fundamental goals on which all of us can agree, whether we call ourselves Republicans, Democrats, or Independents.
Yes, there will always be fights over details. But if we first ask, "What does equal opportunity and a decent life in America mean?" can't we agree that anyone who works full-time should be able to provide for his or her family? That every citizen should have basic health coverage? That special efforts should be made to make sure that poor children have good schools? And that average citizens should have some way to have their voices heard amid the din of big political money?
-- from Matthew Miller, The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love (2003), reviewed by us HERE. By the time he wrote this paradigm-bending book, Miller had been an aide in the Clinton White House AND a corporate management consultant with the great McKinsey & Company. Later he became co-host (with liberal Robert Scheer and conservative David Frum) of the innovative syndicated radio program "Left, Right & Center."
John Naisbitt (1982)
The political left and right are dead; all the action is being generated by a radical center.
The two-party system died because people gave up on it. Writes [John] Herbers [in The New York Times], "What has happened is that many people have given up trying to achieve goals through contests between Republicans and Democrats." ...
Said a Melrose, Massachusetts, housing engineer in 1980, "Every politician is the same, regardless of whether he's in Boston or Washington. That's why a lot of us may choose not to vote this November."
As a result, people are focusing efforts on the local level. There, one sees not apathy but intense political activity.
-- from John Naisbitt, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (1982). Naisbitt is a prominent futurist, and was a crucial early financial supporter of Mark Satin's "post-liberal" political newsletter, New Options (1983-1992, r.i.p.).
Camille Paglia (1991)
What we have right now is this ridiculous situation where if you criticize liberals, people say, "She's a conservative!" Now, what kind of a lack of information is this about intellectual history?
Liberalism is only 200 years old. There are other points of view on the world besides that of liberalism in its present decayed condition. We of the Sixties were often in revolt against liberals. Lenny Bruce, when he recited all those dirty words, was trying to offend liberals, not conservatives.
So in the present situation I don't know what to call myself. I would maybe say "libertarian" or something like that. I'm trying to create a new system -- I call it "Italian pagan Catholicism." But that may be too esoteric!
I'm thinking that I want to bring about an enlightened center . . . a liberalism that has learned the political lessons of the past 25 years.
-- from Camille Paglia, "Crisis in the American Universities," speech (1991, reprinted in Paglia, Sex, Art, and American Culture, 1992, and available online at http://gos.sbc.edu/p/paglia.html). Paglia is one of the most creative thinkers in America today -- just as I envisioned in 1966, when we were both students at SUNY-Binghamton. See esp. her book Sexual Personae (1990).
Rudolph Penner, Isabel Sawhill, and Timothy Taylor (2000)
When a storm is raging, sometimes it is all one can do to plug the leaks and stay afloat. But when the weather is fair, it is time to mend sails, caulk the hull, and plan the next trip. . . .
We focus on three . . . long term issues. . . . First, productivity growth has increased more slowly in recent decades than in some earlier eras. . . . Second, economic inequality has risen sharply since the late 1960s. . . . Third, the retirement of the baby boom generation . . . will pose challenges for public policy and for society as a whole.
Each of these three issues has a strong economic component, but their resolution will require that the nation reach beyond purely economic considerations. These issues are all part of America's "social contract." . . .
In addressing [these issues, we] offer the perspective of economists who are also radical middle-of-the-roaders. . . .
-- from Rudolph Penner, Isabel Sawhill and Timothy Taylor, "An Agenda for the Radical Middle," Chapter One of Updating America's Social Contract (2000). All three authors are at major think tanks -- Penner at the Urban Institute, Sawhill at the Brookings Institution, and Taylor at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs / University of Minnesota.
Elliot Richardson (1996)
I am a radical -- a radical moderate. I believe profoundly in the ultimate value of human dignity and equality. I therefore believe as well in such essential contributors to these ends as fairness, tolerance, and mutual respect. In seeking to be fair, tolerant, and respectful I need to call upon all the empathy, understanding, rationality, skepticism, balance, and objectivity I can muster. Those are the attributes of moderation.
For me, moderation is not a fighting faith but a faith worth fighting for. My commitment to it is passionate, uncompromising, and deep-rooted -- hence, radical.
Moderates have ideals, but they are not starry-eyed idealists. Moderates perceive clearly the ugly aspects of human behavior, but they are not hard-bitten cynics. Moderates try to see the world clearly and see it whole. . . .
Being problem solvers, moderates put a premium on solutions. It takes much more than split-the-difference, down-the-middle compromise to work out a sensible accommodation among valid competing claims. To achieve and maintain a creative balance you have to be resourceful and inventive.
-- from Elliot Richardson, Reflections of a Radical Moderate (1996). Richardson resigned as U.S. Attorney General rather than carry out President Nixon's order to fire Archibald Cox (the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal). He was also Secretary of Defense under Nixon and Secretary of Commerce under President Ford, but all international law students know that his greatest service was as head of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Law of the Sea Conference under President Carter. He died in the year 2000.
Mark Satin (1979)
The basic approach to politics that this book takes has always been with us here in America, in bits and pieces at any rate. The beauty of the social movements of our time is that each of them represents one of those pieces -- and if you put them together, you are able to see clearly and coherently, maybe for the first time, what I like to call the perpetual “third force” in American politics.
Third force politics is a radical politics, not so much in the sense of radical versus liberal as in the sense of going to the roots of things. Specifically, third force politics goes to the psychocultural roots of our problems. It does not concentrate exclusively on the institutional and economic symptoms of our problems.
It is a radicalism that is neither of the left nor right -- a radicalism that is modest enough to borrow what it needs from each of the old political “ism’s” but bold enough to transcend them. (It is not a wimpy “mean” between the so-called “extremes” of American power politics.)
It is a radicalism that is more interested in healing society than in championing the exclusive claims to rightness of any one faction or segment of society; a radicalism that is more interested in reconciling people to each other’s needs and priorities than in winning people over to its side (and so producing a losing side, poised for revenge). . . .
-- from Mark Satin, New Age Politics: Healing Self and Society (1979, orig. 1976).
Mark Satin (2004)
There is a hunger n this country for a new kind of politics [-] a politics that can take us beyond the usual venomous blame games in Washington, D.C.
There is a hunger for a politics that appreciates the genuine and often very reasonable concerns of the left and right, and builds on them toward something new.
There is a hunger for a politics that's idealistic but without illusions, a politics that dares to suggest real solutions to our biggest problems but doesn't lose touch with the often harsh facts on the ground.
There is a hunger for a politics that expresses us as we really are - practical and visionary, mature and imaginative, sensible and creative, all at once.
-- from Mark Satin, Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now (2004).
Andy Schmookler (1984)
The present battle between the defenders of the traditional social order and the advocates of more countercultural values [demands]
an integration at a higher level of human wisdom than either side of that war has yet
Arnold Schwarzenegger (2007)
In 2005 . . . I saw that people, not just in California but across the nation, were hungry for a new kind of politics -- a politics that looks beyond the old labels, the old ways, the old arguments. . . .
I believe that we have an opportunity to move past partisanship -- to move past bi-partisanship -- to move to post-partisanship. Post-partisanship is not simply Republicans and Democrats each bringing their proposals to the table and then working out the differences. No, post-partisanship is Republicans and Democrats actively giving birth to new ideas together. . . .
At one time, the greatest public policy innovations came from the liberals, such as during the New Deal. Then the most innovative ideas came from the conservatives, such as Ronald Reagan. It is time that we combined the best of both ideologies into a new creative center. But this is a dynamic center that is not held captive by either the left or the right or the past. . . .
No one ideology can solve prison reform or immigration reform or any of the other challenges facing us. It will take the best ideas of everybody, everyone. It will take creative thinking. It will take negotiations. And it will take letting go of the past.
-- from Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Second Inaugural Address," January 5, 2007, Sacramento, CA. Schwarzenegger is Governor of California. For an analysis of this speech and two other 2007 Schwarzenegger speeches, see our article HERE.
Ron Sider (1997)
Both the liberal and the conservative policies of the past few decades have failed to solve the problem of poverty in the richest nation in the world. The good news is that both liberals and conservatives seem ready to try something new. Both sides seem eager to explore a holistic approach. . . .
For several decades, secular policy elites have, explicitly or implicitly, worked on the assumption that persons are essentially economic/materialistic machines. Both liberals and conservatives thought that all we had to do to get the right behavior was switch the economic incentives and change the external environment. . . .
People immersed in the Judeo-Christian tradition know this is much too simplistic. . . . Both unjust social structures and bad moral choices together create social problems.
Solutions, therefore, require both inner, moral, spiritual change and outer, socioeconomic, structural change.
-- from Ronald J. Sider, Just Generosity (1999), discussed by us HERE. Sider is President of Evangelicals for Social Action and has lived and ministered in working-class neighborhoods in Philadelphia for over three decades.
Heidi Toffler and Alvin Toffler (1991)
Much of the Third Wave sector is engaged in providing a dazzling, ever-changing array of services. Instead of decrying the rise of the service sector, . . . shouldn’t it be expressly supported and expanded? . . . A Third Wave economic policy should . . . clear away the obstacles to professionalization and development of the services needed to make life in America less stressed-out, less frustrating and impersonal. Yet no political party as yet has even begun to think this way.
Despite this political lag, the Third Wave constituency is growing in power every day. Increasingly, it expresses itself outside the conventional political parties because neither party has so far noticed its existence.
Thus it is Third Wavers who fill the ranks of the ever more numerous and potent grassroots organizations around the country. It is Third Wavers who dominate the new electronic communities springing up around the Internet. . . .
The Third Wave forces in America have yet to find their voice. [But when they do they] will dominate the American future.
-- from Heidi and Alvin Toffler, Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave (1991). The authors have defined the practice of futurism in the U.S. Their most significant radical-middle book is The Third Wave (1980).
Leif Utne (2004)
It's the politicians and special interests -- and the media that egg them on -- that are driving the polarization of political debate in this country.
Thanks in large part to that polarization, our political system is sick, dysfunctional, and driving people away. . . .
Yet there are real signs of hope. More and more people fed up with partisan gridlock are not responding with cynicism and inaction; rather, they're rolling up their sleeves and coming together across ideological lines, building unlikely coalitions and moving toward solutions to seemingly intractable problems that don't easily fit the tired old left-right paradigm -- like . . . energy independence, education, . . . globalization. . . .
The "radical middle" is not about cynical, poll-driven attempts to find the mushy political center. It's about people who have stepped outside old ideological boxes to fight boldly for the common good.
-- from Leif Utne, "The Radical Middle," Utne Magazine, now Utne Reader (September-October 2004). At the time he wrote this article, Utne was the youthful Associate Editor of Utne Magazine and co-coordinator of Let's Talk America, an organization dedicated to getting Americans talking across political lines.
Donald Warren (1976)
There is a distinct force in American society which is both volatile and pivotal in its activism . . . -- the Middle American Radical (MAR).Their perspective does not fit readily the traditional molds of liberal and conservative ideologies. . . .
On some issues, MARs are likely to take a "liberal" stand, on others a "conservative" one. For example, the MAR expresses a desire for more police power. He feels that granting the police a heavier hand will help control crime, i.e., [Alabama Governor George] Wallace's Law and Order program.
However, MARs are also adamant about keeping many social reforms, often wrought by the left, such as medicare, aid to education, and social security.
Often MARs feel their problems stem from the rich and the government working together to defraud the rest of the country. They blame the situation on defects in the system such as bad taxes. However, their causal analysis does not suggest what effective remedial actions they can pursue as individuals.
-- from Donald I. Warren, The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation (1976). Warren, a sociologist / anthropologist, is generally regarded as the first U.S. author to have used the specific term "radical center" n a mainstream political book (above) or periodical (The Nation, 1974). Unfortunately, he used it to describe George Wallace Democrats, as you can tell from the above. He went on to write a well-received biography of a populist-fascist from the 1930s, Radio Priest: Charles Coughlin, 1996, before passing away in May, 1997. A tribute to him appears in the Michigan Sociological Review (Fall 1997).
Christie Whitman (2005)
It's time for Republican centrists to become radical moderates -- people ready to fight for what they believe even if it makes some waves in the party. . . .
It is time for moderates in the Republican Party to become activists -- activists for the sensible center, for reasonable policies . . . which address the challenges America faces at home and in the world. . . .
I believe moderates have to pursue a concerted strategy if they want to succeed. . . . First, they have to decide on the issues that are of most importance -- fiscal restraint, reasonable and open discussion of social issues, environmental policies that promote a balanced approach to environmental protection, and a foreign policy that is engaged with the rest of the world.
Then they must begin to organize at the local level, involving like-minded moderates in the state and local party structures to ensure that the candidates the party nominates do not represent just the far fringes. . . .
-- from Christine Todd Whitman, It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America (2005)., reviewed by us HERE. Whitman was EPA Administrator in the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-03; prior to that she was the first woman governor of New Jersey, serving two terms, 1993-2000. The chapter excerpted here is titled "A Time for Radical Moderates."
Alan Wolfe (1996)
Tomorrow’s social critic should be someone who cares deeply enough about her society to understand and appreciate its leading ideas and dominant institutions, yet who, precisely because of that caring, is willing to elaborate and defend a standard against which those ideas and institutions can be judged. Neither attack nor apologia will do. . . .
[T]he critic who tries something like this will . . . meet opposition from both ends [of the political spectrum]. . . . Such a critic will be marginalized in the middle rather than isolated at the extremes.
Marginalized in the middle is perhaps the best place for the social critic to stand, for the middle looking out gives a clearer perspective than the sidelines looking in.
One usually thinks of the center as solid and the extremes as precarious, but in the ideological climate of today the reverse seems more accurate; the extremes of right and left know where they stand, while the center furnishes what is original and unexpected.
-- from Alan Wolfe, Marginalized
in the Middle (1996). Formerly
a Sixties-style radical, Wolfe has transformed himself into one of the most
thoughtful, and prominent, sociologists in the U.S. today. See his
illuminating book One
Nation, After All.
Fareed Zakaria (2008)
As it enters the 21st century, the U.S. is not fundamentally a weak economy, or a decadent society. But it has developed a highly dysfunctional politics.
An antiquated and overly rigid political system to begin with – about 225 years old – has been captured by money, special interests, a sensationalist media, and ideological attack groups. The result is ceaseless, virulent debate about trivia – politics as theater – and very little substance, compromise, and action.
A “can-do” country is now saddled with a “do-nothing” political process, designed for partisan battle rather than problem solving. By every measure . . . the political process has become far more partisan and ineffective over the last three decades. . . .
[P]rogress on any major problem . . . will need significant support from both sides. It requires a longer-term perspective. And that’s highly unlikely. Those who advocate sensible solutions and compromise legislation find themselves marginalized by [party] leadership, losing funds from special-interest groups, and being constantly attacked by their [own] “side” on television and radio.
-- from Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World (2008), discussed by us HERE. Zakaria came to the U.S. from India at age 18, and is now editor of Newsweek International and a weekly host on CNN. His emphasis on “compromise” rather than creative new transpartisan solutions makes him less than radical middle in some people’s eyes, but I prefer to see him as occupying the hyper-pragmatic end of the radical middle spectrum, just as I see Alanna Hartzok occupying the hyper-visionary end (see Hartzok above).
ABOUT THE RADICAL MIDDLE CONCEPT
GREAT RADICAL MIDDLE GROUPS AND BLOGS:
SOME PRIOR RADICAL MIDDLE INITIATIVES:
SOME PRIOR WRITINGS BY MARK SATIN:
NOT JUST RADICAL MIDDLE: