As if 2020 could’t get any worse, this “annus horribilis” will be capped off with the most contentious, divisive election of my lifetime. Add on top of that the fact that no matter what the outcome, forty to fifty percent of the electorate will question the legitimacy of the election results.
All of this leads me to believe that we are standing on the precipice, and our grand American experiment could quickly and ignominiously come crashing down around us if we aren’t extremely careful.
Both major political parties have played an important role in creating this problem. Our politics have become extremely polarized. Large swaths of the voting public are clustered around the two extreme ends of the political spectrum. The normal (bell curve) distribution along the spectrum has flattened into a barbell with the two ends much more populous than the center.
David French posits in his new book, Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation, that the polarization has actually split the Overton window in two and moved the acceptable range of policies the widow represents further to both the left and the right simultaneously. He shares in the belief, first explained by Cass Sunstein in his groundbreaking paper “The Law of Group Polarization,” that when a group is radicalized the group can actually become even more extreme that its most extreme member.
That is a very good and succinct way of trying to figure out how we got here. But now that we are here, more importantly, we need to figure out how are we going get back. That is where the Liberty Movement comes in to play.
As The Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg points out, this new distribution pattern has made centrists out of people who traditionally were viewed as ideologues, simply because they resist falling prey to the base hatred and vitriol aimed at the “other” like the extremists. Libertarians and traditional conservatives who haven’t bought into the extremist views of the nationalist crowd are now centrists. On the left, traditional liberal Democrats who have’t fallen prey to progressivism or under the spell of democratic socialism are also centrists now.
It is these new “centrists” who will be our saving grace.
The two extremes will barely even acknowledge that their political rivals are fellow Americans. They toss around accusations of treason and sedition as if their rivals were closer to in their beliefs to members of the Taliban than to themselves.
There are agitators on both sides that find the thought of splitting the country into two countries (Red America and Blue America) to be a more preferable option than trying to mend our broken country.
This mindset is lunacy to me. We need cooler heads to prevail. After this election, regardless of who wins, we need new political leaders to step forward to bring some sanity back to our political process; we need people who can heal our wounds. We need centrists.
Our current polarized landscape creates an opportunity for the Liberty Movement. Those of us who ideologically embrace our core American values of civil liberty enshrined in the Bill of Rights are uniquely positioned to step into the breech.
The Liberty Movement occupies the center of the Venn diagram of political ideology. Our core beliefs have some overlap with the right and some overlap with the left.
We share with the “Red” team:
- The belief that free market capitalism is the only economic policy that has ever succeeded in raising people out of poverty
- Strong support for the Second Amendment
- A belief in a small, constrained Federal government
- The idea that Federalism is the best option for allowing people with diverse beliefs to coexist under one government
We share with the “Blue” team:
- A bedrock acceptance and respect for the rights of the LGBTQ community
- Support for pro-choice reproductive rights for women
- The belief that less-restrictive immigration policies only strengthen our country by adding to our number of like-minded, freedom-loving individuals of every race and creed
- The idea that a less aggressive foreign policy and less foreign intervention into regional wars increases our safety and security
I truly believe that these core beliefs—which are drawn straight of from our founding principles or have evolved from the practices of our Founding Fathers—can be the area where we can get the most opportunities for compromise and cooperation. It can be a way to bridge the divide and get both sides to stop treating each other as their mortal enemies.
Of course, I am not naive enough to think we can get compromise on long-held, bedrock partisan touchstone positions like abortion or guns. That is not what I mean. What I envision is more like coalition-building on individual issues with one side or the other working both sides of the divide that will hopefully, over time, bring these two poles closer together by drawing them back toward the center.
This may come in the form of partnering with the right to advance expanding gun rights while also partnering with the left to solidify pro-choice legislation to protect women’s rights once and for all.
But if we were to get really ambitious, I don’t think that it is too far-fetched to imagine working with both sides on one of those contentious issues while also firming up one of our core beliefs; Federalism. What if the Liberty Movement partnered with allies on the right to expand gun rights nationally to ensure that there can’t be a Federal assault weapons ban? But in the true spirit of Federalism, also support efforts in the solidly Blue states to tighten gun laws at the state level so people there can choose a more restrictive local policy that’s more in line with their beliefs?
The same could be done for abortion rights, only in reverse. Work with the left to ensure that abortion remains legal federally, and settle the Roe V. Wade debate once and for all. But simultaneously, fully support solidly Red states that wish to enact state level restrictions on the practice where conservatives live.
That’s true Federalism. Allow people to choose how they want to live by making the states the final arbiter of these contentious issues. They if you hate guns, you can live in a blue state and feel better that guns aren’t as prevalent. If you are morally opposed to abortion, you can choose to live in a red state where abortions are severely restricted.
Its optimistic, I know, but we need to reach higher and aim for loftier goals. The cure to what ails our nation is a return to pluralism. It is re-engaging in healthy, intellectually honest debates about ideas that have real meaning to our lives. It’s not in shouting matches and trolling our opponents on ideas that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
The way forward is through increased liberty. The leaders of the Liberty Movement are uniquely positioned to take the lead in moving us in that direction and put America back on a solid footing.
Holding out lofty ideals and making people have to work to attain them is one of our grandest American traditions. After all, even though we asserted in the Declaration that our liberty was “self-evident,” in 1776 it was an extremely lofty goal. We attained it once, we can attain it again, we just have to work for it.