What Middle Ground?

Yes or No?There is a disturbing trend happening in politics & political discussion today. In the name of compromise or searching for the “middle ground,” people doing nothing more than diluting their positions to the point where they are actually not positions at all.

What I’m saying is this: for the larger issues we face, there is no middle ground. That’s right. Most issues in today’s political discourse are simple binary, yes or no, support or no support questions.

There are differenes between people and parties on how solutions to these yes/no questions should be implemented, but in order to have a productive discussion on implementation you must first be on the same side of the fundamental binary choice presented.

You tell me what the middle ground is

To better explain this, let’s use some examples. Please explain to me what the middle ground is on:

  • Torture

    First, we must define what torture is. Once that’s done, the fundamental question is: when exactly is torture justified or necessary? Either it is or it isn’t, and not policy can be crafted without agreement on this fundamental quesion.

  • Environmental policy

    The fundamental binary question here is: what human’s relationship with the environment should be: master or steward/partner? The side you stand on here determines how you think about Environmental and Energy policy.

  • Educational access

    The fundamental question is: should everyone have equal educational access? Yes or No? Your answer to that question will be indicate they types of policies you will support.

  • Health care coverage

    Fundamentally, what’s being asked is: should everyone have health care coverage?

So you’re saying that there is no way to compromise on this stuff?

Actually, I am. In this atmosphere of “transcendence” we must understand that to transcend is not to ignore or disregard. The reason that so much political compromise is such garbage is because it’s compromise on implementation without the discussion of the underlying questions, issues, or assumptions.

Take, for example, the “compromise” between Democrats and Republicans in the House on the FISA-Telecom Immunity Bill. This is a compromise in the sense that there was some agreement on both sides and there were conscessions made (almost exclusively from the Democrats including Sen. Obama). Some have pointed to this as “the only possible solution to move forward” on, and have supported in the name of “progress, moving forward, and compromise.” Last I checked, you can’t compromiseon spying on americans. You also can’t compromiseon pardonning lawbreakers (in this case, the complicit telephone companies).

Is this extremism?

No. However, it is reality. The real way that gaps are bridged is by admitting difference, understanding difference, and then coming to new agreement. That must happen in that order if what we seek is agreement on societal values and direction. If we want to make changes for the better, we will have to do so in a principled way. That means that there are certian things that just will not be accepted.

I want people in office whose politics will reflect my principles. You should want people in office who reflect your principles too. Who wants a person “in the middle?” Nobody. If I’m a conservative, and the choice is between the staunch conservative and the moderate conservative, I’ll pick the staunch one every time because they agree will with me in principle more often than not. The time for “moderate” positions has passed.

Compromise is cool when it actually happens, but most of the time it doesn’t.

One Love. One II.

P.S. More reading on this:


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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