PARKER: In the defense of American moderationIt may be boring, but it’s crucial.
By: Kathleen Parker, Syndicated columnist
As the sun rises and dabs Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with morning rouge, irony struts down the strip of casinos, shops and nightclubs.
What better place to contemplate moderation, the topic of a panel and my purpose for being here, than in the epicenter of human excess?
The Black Mountain Institute posed this question to a panel of three, which also included Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Fox News’ Juan Williams: “Is moderation possible in American politics?”
The implied consensus would seem to be: Probably not. Or at least not without massive reforms and/or a renaissance of civic duty.
Once upon a time, moderation in all things was the maxim by which most people tried to live their lives.
Today moderation is merely boring. Extreme is the virtue of the cool.
What we need are calm voices and pragmatic minds. Instead, we have fewer people self-identifying as moderate, down from 40 percent to 35 percent in the past 10 years. Yet, stop people on the street and they’ll tell you they’re sick of the partisanship and gridlock. They want Washington to reform itself. But do they?
I’m not so sure. Meanwhile, mightn’t we cast an eye inward? Yes, there are substantive changes that might alleviate the partisan nature of our political arena.
First, we must recognize moderation once again as a virtue, both in our public and private lives. Those who shun political moderation view its practitioners as traitors to some higher cause, spineless and weak.
But the shunners are something worse than spineless or weak. They are incurious and, by the rigidity of their convictions, lacking in imagination.
Moderation isn’t an endpoint or even a center point, necessarily. Rather than a template, it is an approach, a tone, a cock of the head, an open mind, a willing ear, an unjaundiced eye. A moderate wonders what other facts might be brought to bear. A moderate figures we’re in this together and believes that a meeting of minds is not tantamount to surrender.
One young woman in our audience wondered why her generation should bother to vote. Because! I wanted to shout, you don’t get to complain about the state of affairs if you don’t participate in the process. Because it is your civic duty.
But I would have been shouting at the wrong person. She was, after all, in attendance and cared enough to pose a sincere question. She was by her presence exactly what civic duty demands. I would further submit that civic duty also demands moderation. To answer the panel’s question, moderation isn’t only possible, it is crucial.