Centrism is Dead. Time to Rebuild the Left.
Tyler Norris

In this current age of politicization of everything, I guess I can’t read an article, disagree, and not at least try to offer something towards a dialogue.

I agree with your call to action, but I do take issue with your analysis. I would consider myself a “centrist” and I can absolutely define that as more than what I am “not”: I believe in socially progressive ideas, that transgender people should be able to use the restroom of their choice and that gay couples that want to marry not only should be able to do so, they should be able to buy a cake from anyone selling cakes to the public. I hate the arguments over abortion because it drowns out a much broader and (for me, at least) more important issue, which is women’s health and access to contraception. There are a whole host of other things to say there, but hopefully that’s enough to make my position there clear.

I am also what I would consider “fiscally conservative”, but I find it increasingly difficult to find a party or even a candidate who reflects my views, which I would also consider not traditional to the definition of fiscally conservative but definitely closer to that than the progressive view. The tax system is out of whack and it does need fixing. Not with a big tax cut for the rich, but with a simplified system that is progressive. I believe that the tax code should not be used to incentivize behaviors like home ownership or whatever. It should just be a method of funding government. But I also believe that our health care system, besides being completely whacked, is out of date for the times. Health care should not be a condition of employment, and I am constantly shaking my head at both the right, who seem to think that if workers in the US no longer have to work to get healthcare they will instantly stop working, and the labor unions on the left, who fight tooth and nail to keep a big bargaining chip in place when negotiating with employers, even though it’s clear that system is no longer working for anybody — workers, employers, even the health care system itself.

I don’t think that higher education should be free. I think that public education should be evolved so that high school graduates can get good jobs right out of school if they so choose. Our public school system hasn’t delivered on that kind of promise in decades. More schooling isn’t the answer. More focused schooling that graduates high school students capable of balancing a checkbook and with a set of marketable skills is.

And if you’ve got a certain level of assets saved up for retirement, I don’t think you should be eligible for Social Security. And Social Security benefits need to be reduced if you hit certain income levels in retirment. And the retirement age needs to be raised drastically, to bring it back to what it was originally intended as: a safety net for those who have none, not an entitlement for all.

I can’t bring myself to side with progressives on a lot of these issues because there just seems to be a general willful ignorance over how much progressives’ top issues cost and how we’re going to pay for those things. Yeah, free healthcare and college would be great, but we can’t even pay for the spending we’re conducting right now! I’d be much more supportive if we had our fiscal house in order as a country, but we don’t.

As a result, I’ve been an Independent voter for decades now. I’ve tended to vote Democrat over Republican because most Republican candidates I see have been operating on a platform of religious aggression for years — aggression against anything socially liberal. And the Democratic party and supporting organizations have played on my sensibilities in that regard for years, while ignoring the fiscal side of the equation. I vote in every election. It’s my duty as a citizen. But I can’t even remember the last time I voted for a candidate I actually supported — mostly, I’ve voted against the stance of religion-fueled conservatism.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying, don’t make the same mistake over and over again. Don’t label “centrists” so blithely. I’m not part of some professional political class, not by a long shot. This is the first politically-oriented thing I’ve ever written. I’m a small business owner trying to afford my health insurance and my taxes, while trying to figure out how to save for my kids’ college and my own retirement. None of that is going anywhere as well as I would like it to.

I agree that pretty much everyone who is not in love with Trump needs to resist his unique, and uniquely depressing, brand of politics with all their might. But don’t fall into the same trap of listening only to your own echo chamber. Instead, maybe it would be valuable to ask: in the age of polarization, why ARE there so many independents out there? Why have they spurned BOTH parties? The answer may not be to declare centrism dead, or that the left needs to get even more left-y. The answer may be, just listen to people other than yourselves and acknowledge their frustrations. Speak to their pain, rather than to your own agenda.

I believe demographics are on the side of liberals, and we may be seeing the last painful gasp of the alt-Nazi-right (I sure hope so). But we could get to a better future much faster if progressives would take the time to address the fiscal concerns of people who have historically voted to preserve social freedoms, but still also believe that our country can’t keep spending like there’s no tomorrow.

Sorry to rant and drag on. But I’ve watched all the hair-pulling and chest-beating, on both sides, and I just wish there was someone out there who would stop labeling, and stop advocating for “digging in deeper” or more extremism in any form, and start advocating for listening, and acknowledging, and responding.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Nikki Baird’s story.