Beyond Centrism: The Real Radical Middle Solution

07/16/2006 07:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

In Ed Kosner's recent posting, he bemoans the unwillingness of both Democrats and Republicans to reach centrists in America because of hard-line activists in either party.He asks, "Why are both parties forsaking the center, where American elections are won? And why doesn't a new political movement--call it the radical middle if you like--coalesce to seize this nearly unprecedented opportunity?"

Kosner apparently doesn't know it, but the new ideas, political groups, activists and thinkers who make up just such a movement that goes beyond traditional left and right platitudes has been very well explored in Mark Satin's book, Radical Middle, and on his insightful web magazine, Radicalmiddle.com. Here's Satin's summary of some of the idealistic yet sensible ideas that animate the "Radical Middle Newsletter":

Radical Middle Newsletter doesn't just report on innovative political ideas, books, and national meetings. It expresses an emerging political perspective and sensibility that we like to call "radical middle."

We call it a "sensibility" as well as a perspective because it's not necessarily positional. Journalist E.J. Dionne expresses it as a series of questions (see Writers And Politicians Try To Describe the Radical Middle elsewhere on this website). Political philosopher Andrew Schmookler found he could best express it through a fictional e-mail discussion among people of divergent views (Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America's Moral Divide,1999).

As a political perspective, it's not a "safe" middle ground between the extremes of left and right. It's off the traditional left-right spectrum . . . free to gather up ideas from everywhere.

But it's not counter-cultural, either. Some of its spokespeople -- including our editor -- grew up in the alternative culture and learned first-hand the limitations of a utopian politics disconnected from governing.

It's "radical" because it's seeking solutions that are holistic and sustainable. It's "middle" because it accepts that you can't change people very much. The Biblical vices will always be there . . . in every one of us, in fact.

Although the radical middle perspective can't be summed up in a couple of glib phrases, here are some aspects that Radical Middle Newsletter likes to stress:

One-world citizenship. A commitment to overarching human values and to a cosmopolitan identity as world citizens.

Business and law. A recognition that what's going on in certain boardrooms and law offices today may be more important -- and more promising -- than what's going on in the traditional political arena.

Consiousness. A recognition that values, virtues, attitudes, religion, and culture may have more to do with individual happiness -- and social progress -- than economic growth.

One-world compassion. A refusal to accept that the well-being of people in Rumania or Nigeria or Malaysia is any less important than the well-being of people in Arizona.

Ambition, achievement and service. In the Sixties it was a badge of honor to drop out. The strategy backfired. Today's most socially committed young people are rushing to become doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, social workers, academics, and that is -- or can be -- a good thing.

The radical middle infuriates many activists because it's in love with messy, ambitious, exuberant humanity. It says "YES!" to science and technology, to entrepreneurship, to bringing us all into One (admittedly imperfect) World. And it infuriates many others because it wants to give everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, a fair start in life. Most of its preferred solutions won't be debated on the floor of the Senate anytime soon.

The best thing about the radical middle perspective, though, is that it's just beginning to be articulated, examined, refined. YOU can still affect it. And in many different guises, it's emerging everywhere -- in Silicon Valley, in community groups that don't just focus on protest, in the words (if not often the deeds) of Vaclav Havel and Tony Blair [my note: mostly his domestic policies], in over 300 organizations and professional associations both prominent and obscure. . . .

Some say it could emerge as the humane governing philosophy of the 21st century (see Writers And Politicians Try To Describe the Radical Middle).

And many say the best place to watch it emerge is Radical Middle Newsletter.

Radical Middle's Board of Directors created this vision-and-purpose statement in 1999 and I still stand by every word. For my description of the "third force in American politics" two decades earlier, c. 1979, see my contribution HERE [link on original website]. -- Mark Satin

Here's some summaries of his recent reporting on the fresh thinking about such important issues as race, global cooperation and remaking the American political landscape, plus links to dozens of Radical Middle-oriented blogs chronicling news and political issues in a provocative, innovative way.

Here's what he's covered recently:

John McWhorter's Prescription for Black America: Stop "Therapeutic Alienation" Now!
July 1, 2006
Despite what Americans may say in public, fewer and fewer of us believe that "white racism" explains most of the problems in black America today. In his new book Winning the Race, John McWhorter offers a plausible new primary explanation -- the appeal of "therapeutic alienation" as lifestyle and worldview. He even offers some solutions.


International Crisis Group: Get Your Solutions Here!

June 15, 2006
Today's most memorable organizations are turning out to be pragmatic and visionary and SOLUTIONS-ORIENTED, and International Crisis Group -- which recently celebrated its 10th birthday -- may be Exhibit #A in that regard. It sends bright young people into hotspots around the world to help it come up with "practical and imaginative" solutions, then promotes those solutions to policymakers and opinion-shapers -- some of whom appear to be listening.

Unity08: The Most Promising Political Initiative of Our Time!
June 1, 2006
If all goes well, "up to 20 million Americans" will take part in an online political convention in mid-2008 (after both major parties have pretty much decided on their nominees). The goal: to come up with a Presidential ticket of one Democrat and one Republican, then win the election by seriously addressing the real issues of our time. The secret weapon: the key people behind Unity08. They are experienced, well-connected, hyper-motivated, and decent.

Satin's website isn't the place to go for breaking news, investigative reporting on Bush's misdeeds or cheer-leading for left activism. But it is a place for people open to understanding the longer-term trends affecting today's crises and looking for fresh solutions.