Claire Autruong: Playing the middle against both ends

Sitting on a fence is rarely comfortable. In a country as polarized by politics as the U.S., sitting on the fence can get downright unpleasant. Frankly, political moderates in this country are misunderstood, marginalized and manipulated.

“Moderate” has become almost a dirty word in the political realm, a supposed refuge for the politically ignorant and those frightened by the intense partisan fervor engendered by this election season. True moderates with defined views on political issues do exist, however, and they are usually in favor of certain policies and completely opposed to others within both the major parties. It’s not political pacifism; it’s holding deep beliefs that make it morally impossible to wave the flag for either conservatism or liberalism.

A distinct “if you’re not with me, then you’re against me” attitude has developed. In what has become an all-out political war between conservatism and liberalism, anyone who will not fight for one side or the other is seen as a threat that must be co-opted. In the fight to get an edge, moderates are used by both political parties to bolster vote counts and not as recognized political players.

This election season, there is an obsession with poll numbers – who is gaining percentage points with moderate voters this week, whose disastrous speech caused them to tank with moderates last week. What there is not an obsession with, however, is addressing moderate voters’ legitimate concerns.

In the age of the “50 percent +1 mandate,” the parties placed emphasis on getting out their radicalized bases to achieve 51 percent majorities, rather than spending time appealing to harder-to-please moderates. It is true that this year’s election has thankfully moved away from that sort of campaigning. The truth is, however, that pandering to get votes is not the same as listening, and the field of candidates is not as attractive to moderate voters as it may appear.

Since when has a lack of fundamentalism become celebrated moderation? The three major-party candidates this year have all trotted out the words “moderate” and “bipartisan,” and attempted to recast themselves in order to resonate with the moderate voter. But since when has a lack of fundamentalism become celebrated moderation?

After seven-and-a-half years of President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is being hailed as the answer to the conservative-leaning moderates’ dreams, but he is a staunch conservative on many issues, and most of his social views, while more moderate than the extreme left, place him squarely in the conservative column. McCain might be more moderate than the other Republican offerings earlier in the race, but he has consistently received extremely favorable ratings on his voting record from conservative interest groups and should not be mistaken as being at all close to center.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is also being hailed as the answer to liberal-leaning moderates’ dreams, but a discerning moderate sees much more liberalism than moderation in Obama’s platform. His social agenda is firmly liberal, and his voting record (when he has voted) supports his liberal views.

Perhaps receiving the least media attention as a moderate, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y) nonetheless has placed the label on herself. It is difficult to see where the moderation in her platform comes in, and frankly, her record is one of staunch liberalism. Neither Clinton nor Obama are extreme leftists, but they are not moderates either.

There is more to being a moderate than simply not being something else. Moderates are a defined political entity, and in this election candidates should not attempt to paint themselves as something other than they are simply to win moderate votes. Moderates are discerning voters, and their concerns should be addressed rather than played to. In this election, as in any other, most moderates will come down from the fence and support a major-party candidate, but it should not be a choice of lesser evils.

The writer, a junior majoring in history, is The Hatchet copy editor.

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