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Peter D. Rosenstein

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To Be a Moderate, or Not to Be? That Is the Question!

Posted: 04/ 3/2012 3:30 pm

Late at night or in the early hours of the morning when it's difficult to sleep because the mind won't shut down President Obama must often think to himself, "To be a moderate, or not to be? That is the question". I am not sure he has adequately answered that either to himself or explained what it means to the nation. He is a moderate and whether people view him that way may be the deciding factor in this election.

If one doesn't cater to the 10% of the population on the very far right and the 10% on the very far left we are left communicating with the 80% who inhabit what those on either end would call the squishy middle. I would rather call them the sane moderates. A moderate being the term defining those who understand that our country's political institutions were based on the principle that no one would always get everything their way and that to govern our leaders would have to compromise; a concept that appears to have been lost.

Compromise doesn't mean forgoing one's principles. It does mean finding a solution to problems that allows each side to walk away with a feeling of having accomplished something. So the first thing a good politician needs to do is define and own their basic principles. By that I mean knowing what line in the sand they will never cross and on which issues they will rather walk away from the table than compromise.

It must be hoped that the principles that remain inviolable will be those concerning human and civil rights, life and death, war and peace. Those line in the sand principles shouldn't involve issues of money for money's sake. If they do we lose track of what is really important to our souls. Basic principles aren't how much the national debt can be; what we should spend on the arts or infrastructure; or how much we should tax someone. Those are the issues that call for compromise and rationality and on which we need to act to move the nation forward.

President Obama was nominated and elected because people believed they knew his core beliefs/principles encompassed equal justice for all and a willingness to fight for the civil and human rights of all people. They understood that he believed in a woman's right to choose as something that was not to be compromised. There have been times when some questioned where his line in the sand on these issues is. That is something the president and his conscience must deal with.

But on the other issues of the day, where compromise is always needed, I believe that our president has shown he is a moderate. While I may not always agree with his decisions I respect that he has had to compromise on issues such as the debt limit, taxes and infrastructure, and on how much the federal government needs to spend to stimulate the economy. The fact that he is a moderate when it comes to these issues needs to be made clear to the electorate. It is what we need a president to be during these difficult times.

Too often politicians today claim money issues as their basic principles and say they are willing to walk away from the table and refuse to compromise on them. There were those elected with the help of the Tea Party who thought defaulting on the national debt was a principle they had to stand up for. They had no understanding of the repercussions of that and the impact it would have had on those who elected them.

What America needs instead are leaders who understand that financial issues are debatable and that true moderates understand that our national leaders have always been able to reach compromises on them without the acrimony we have seen in the last few years. Through compromise our country has grown and prospered because we have always reached consensus to move forward.

The president and his campaign must define for the nation what a moderate is and show the country that he is one. In actuality he is closer to some old line conservatives than many of the Republican Primary voters of today and some even say he is a fiscal conservative. Of course the definition of a fiscal conservative has changed over the years, but the reality today is that both Democrats and Republicans know we need to curtail government spending and the argument is not whether we should but rather how. This is where the moderates in both Parties need to come together and compromise to move America forward.

The Republican candidates for president are clearly not claiming to be moderates. They are fighting to see who can move farthest to the right and stake out uncompromising positions on a host of issues. When a senior adviser to Mitt Romney, who will likely be the candidate of the Republican Party, talks about Romney changing his views for the general election as easily as you can rewrite something on an Etch-a-Sketch; he gets excoriated first not by Democrats but by Republicans. They don't want a moderate in office but rather an ideologue and that would be a great mistake for our nation.

Moderation is not a sin. A political moderate is someone with an understanding that to govern and ensure that government works for all the people compromise and creativity are needed. I think that President Obama has shown he is a moderate. That doesn't mean he is above reproach or that people shouldn't strive to move him in the direction they believe is right. It does mean he is the best candidate that the American people have in 2012 to keep America strong and moving forward.