There’s a subtle, unspoken message in the Democratic Party’s overwhelming victory in recent midterm congressional elections: The political pendulum that alternates between liberal and conservative camps has exposed an American desire for a centrist party. The pendulum effect has been felt most acutely in the executive office but can be observed throughout the political landscape. From Presidents Carter to Reagan and then Clinton to Bush, the American political system has shown an ability to reverse course, all the while maintaining its eye on the center line. It essentially is a corrective force that enables democracy, like an unwieldy ship, to maintain a central course.
The founding fathers developed a system of government with checks and balances designed to be responsive to the general population, but also to rein in short-term, extremist thinking. What they perhaps did not envision was a bulky, two-party political system, in which the will of the majority would be dictated largely by the more active, extremist elements in these parties.
Examples abound, through tactics like gerrymandering of congressional districts or implementing arcane nominating procedures throughout the parties.
This type of extreme swing has been especially pronounced in Israel, which recently experienced the emergence of a new political reality. While far from a proven or sustained phenomenon, the establishment last year of Kadima, Israel’s centrist ruling party, was a long-sought remedy to Israel’s own pendulum.
The Kadima Party purportedly represents what the majority of Israelis seek — a moderate force that gives voice to the desires of Israel’s center. The creation of Kadima rallied the center, not only with its optimistic exhortation for “forward” progress but with its ability to siphon moderate elements from each of the two more established parties.
Moderates from both Likud and Labor were able to join forces — and it turns out that many of them had far more in common with their former political competitors than they did with former compatriots.
In creating this new party, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recognized that the left of the right and the right of the left were better off strengthening each other than constantly being pulled apart by their parties’ more extremist elements.
Perhaps this model can pave the way for a reorganization of politics in America. As world issues become more complex and not as easily broken down into “blue” (Democratic) and “red” (Republican), it may be time for a new, centrist political party in America.
Such a party would not just speak of bipartisanship but would be a consensus unto itself. It would be a party that honors the sacred principles on which this country was founded but can still articulate a vision for the 21st century.
It could be a party of centrist leaders like Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and others.
Whether called “Democans” or “Republicrats” or something like “Libertans”(from the Liberty party), such a party would need significant funding and big names to carry its banner.
Such a movement could usher in a new age of effectiveness and restore civility to government. More importantly, it would reflect the American people’s dormant desire for balance. And it would be a vehicle to re-engage the many disenfranchised voters who are tired of limited and lesser-of-two-evil choices.
The results in Connecticut speak volumes about the possibilities and demand for a centrist party in America. Ousted in the primary by the vocal and active liberal wing of Connecticut’s Democratic party, incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman opted to stay in the general election, running as an independent. His belief was that the Democratic party’s primary outcome did not reflect the views of most voters in his state.
Lieberman is a well-respected moderate voice in the Senate who has served with distinction for three terms — but the Democratic establishment opted to support his challenger. Yet Ned Lamont still lost, despite overwhelming national and celebrity endorsements and strong support from the Democratic machine.
The Connecticut election was not a referendum on the war in Iraq. It was the voice of moderates and centrists who wanted to vote for a candidate who reflects the middle.
The challenge is that the middle does not often run for office. It’s a paradox accentuated by the fact that, on average, moderates don’t mobilize.
In the rallies for public opinion, it’s usually one extreme voice challenging the opposing extreme voice for the hearts and minds of the vast and largely unengaged, moderate middle. A new party would give expression to that moderate voice and provide a legitimate vehicle and base for moderate candidates to run for office.
Regardless of its success in Israel, perhaps the time is right for a “Kadima-like” party to emerge in America.
David Borowich is a finance professional with the RAI Group, the founder of Dor Chadash and has worked for Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and on the Bush 2004 campaign.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.