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Most Americans Are Moderates -- and Thus Invisible

4 years ago
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Most Americans want a compromise on the budget standoff, the polls say. They want strict controls to halt illegal immigration, but they want lawmakers to keep their hands off the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to anyone born on American soil, including those whose parents are on that soil illegally. Americans hurting the most are the ones who see hope ahead, not surprising since they have the most to lose when hope is gone.

According to polls that measure such things, Americans want their politicians to work together and to listen to the voices and opinions of the people, including people with differing views on solutions to the nation's problems. If, after a short-term solution expires, the government shuts down because of disagreement on the federal budget, the American people would blame congressional Republicans and the Obama administration equally, sensing not principled opposition but rather, political gamesmanship.

When it comes to social issues as political cudgels, gay marriage doesn't appear to be as divisive as it was just a few years ago, as Americans, including young evangelicals, are easing their opposition to such unions.

So what's with all the yelling, the lines drawn in the sand?

In Wisconsin, protesters in support of maintaining bargaining rights for public-sector unions have moved into the Statehouse, as Democratic senators moved out. Gov. Scott Walker is warning of layoffs when he's not taking calls from a faux David Koch. And an activist website has gummed up the works with its own protest of Walker's actions.

Meanwhile, a new poll says that though they question the power of labor unions, most Americans oppose taking away some of the collective bargaining rights of public-employee unions, and almost as many oppose cutting the pay or benefits of those workers.

These fights are framed in meanness. It always seems to come down to working people -- worried about falling further behind -- fighting one another over scraps.

This push and pull of common-sense reflection vs. loud bickering has invaded quarters once left alone. Michelle Obama can't get consensus for a benign platform of encouraging healthy eating and exercise; she's attacked by Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh, who won't be satisfied until she subsists on tree bark and spring water. (His comparing her unfavorably to Sports Illustrated swimsuit models is just bizarre, as if he'd have a chance with either.)

Mike Huckabee
, probable GOP presidential hopeful, would get credit for defending the first lady's initiative if he had not erroneously claimed that her husband, President Obama, was raised in Kenya.

One wonders how the first lady's support of military families will be turned into a negative, though I have confidence that someone will find a way.

But even as the volume is turned up and self-interest becomes paramount, those often characterized as the most intransigent can see all sides.

At an event headlined by the above-mentioned congresswoman from Minnesota, it was clear that true believers talk softly with nuance when given the chance. In the extremely red, GOP-controlled state of South Carolina, at a recent meeting of the S.C. Federation of Republican Women in Columbia, Bachmann was greeted like a rock star. As she ticked off the programs she had just voted against funding -- NPR, cap and trade and Planned Parenthood -- applause filled the room.

In conversations afterward, though, tea party and GOP activists expressed reservations about, for example, her emphasis on social issues. "I'm not like most Southerners that way," one woman told me, sounding very much like another Southern woman I had just talked with who had wished Republicans would talk less about faith-based political policies.

Another woman, who had worked in government before retiring, admitted -- quietly -- she thought that government could sometimes be a force for good. She had seen it work, she told me. Though she thought her views would be heresy in that room, her views support polls that show Americans want to reduce spending, but don't want to cut programs. That's a contradiction, to be sure, but no one ever said the logic reigns when the choices are tough.

People who loved Bachmann's energy were not yet convinced she should run for president in 2012. "I want to hear more" was something I heard a lot. Their ambivalence didn't negate the earlier cheers in the big room for sure-fire, red-meat lines. But it made the story more complicated than the usual headline or cable-show rant.

As the nonstop, never-ending campaign heats up from now until forever, will men and women speaking of compromise in reasonable tones drown out the hard-line partisans on every side? It will be up to the voters and the candidates they choose to reward and punish. In the 2010 midterms, the middle was the worst place to stake a claim, though every poll indicates that's where most Americans live.

Talk about a contradiction.

Click here to follow Mary C. Curtis on Twitter.

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Most Americans are NOT moderates.

March 06 2011 at 4:27 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

Boy! the Democrat National Committee must have run this poll...This writer, tries to keep a straight face while telling us American Citizens don't want to stop automatic Citizenship to illegal mother's babies born here?? She also wants us to believe that the Average American thinks Homosexual pushed Marriage is OK, and Teacher's Unions should not lose their right to continue to hold up the taxpayer for more, and more, benefits, when they are now way above the average worker in pay and perks...There is more Liberal Propaganda now, than ever before on AOL, could it be they see the Conservative Republicans as a threat to Obama's Socialist Agenda?

March 06 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rminuteman07's comment

I guess Reagan' amnesty plan for illegals in the 80's would make too liberal today!

March 07 2011 at 1:37 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Most Americans do not want to see union protestors on their tv's holding up Communist slogans on their signs. They don't want to see SEIU T shirts on the news covering protests in Egypt. They do not want to see teachers keep their jobs based on senoirity alone , and most of all they do not want to see corrupt unions giving far left Liberals billions in campaign donations to wreak havoc on our economy.

March 04 2011 at 6:02 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to stheel4's comment

The Democrats are in the pocket of the Union Bosses..It's a musical chair...Taxpayers pay the retirement and insurance to the Teacher Unions, The teachers pay their monthy Union dues, part of which the Big Union Boss pours back into the Democrat Party's Campaign Coffers...It was said that Obama got more than 100 Million dollars funnelled into his election Campaign in 2008...The losers are the Taxpayers who keep having to pay higher and higher taxes to fund the ever increasintg benefits...Gov. Walker want to put an end to it ..That is why there is so much resistance, with the Democrats running and hiding...

March 06 2011 at 3:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rminuteman07's comment

Better than being in the pocket of Wall Street and corporate executives like the Republicans!

March 07 2011 at 1:30 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

I appears that Mary Curtis determine Most Americans by polling people in union halls. I can tell you that most Americans do not want the public employees to retain the means of holding us all hostage. They cry about having their retirement guarantees reduced. Hey I ask you. Lets check how many times Social
Security has been diluted and if there are plans to push it out and lower it even further. Yup when your a union worker, whats good for the goose is not good for the gander. WE NEED real change to get budgets balanced and now!

March 04 2011 at 5:58 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bjohnhol2's comment
my name peggy

you can't be serious about balancing budgets until you give up corporate and billionaire welfare at taxpayer's expense.

Wall street journal and rasmussen certainly don't poll at union halls and both report no support for destroying collective bargaining. Not in Wisconsin or anywhere else in America.

Some hard cheese for right wingers - wsj also reports 81% support for instituting a surtax on millionaires, a 77% approval of rolling back the bush tax breaks for billionaires, about the same for ending corporate subsidy from taxpayer money, and a 51% to 38 in favor of MORE government, not less.

Remember, without unions, your only advocate will be Wall Street.

March 04 2011 at 6:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to my name peggy's comment

Exactly! The politicians need to raise taxes on the rich and then lead by example - give up some of their lucrative benefits. Gov. Walker, get health insurance? What do you pay for it? I am a retired teacher - it costs me $1500 a month for my medical insurance.

March 05 2011 at 9:57 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down
Doyle Perry

Of course you realize that Governor Walker is not trying to take away all collective bargaining rights. He only wants to take away bargaining for benefits, which has been seriously abused. Remember, the real issue is that the unions can give vast amounts of money to elect politicians, who are then chartered to negotiate with the union to determine how much they get of taxpayer money. Remember, with a regular union, the negotiations are directly with the people who are spending the money. That's the difference.

March 03 2011 at 10:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Doyle Perry's comment

So the unions give vast amounts of money to politicians who then pay the unions back with big benefits. But isn't Gov. Walker a politician who wants to take away union power. But the politicians do not do the negotiating. The state employees work for a school administrator or a police chief who are not politicians.

March 03 2011 at 11:09 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lawmutt55's comment

You forget that the school administrator, mayor or city official is negotiating WITH SOMEONE ELSE'S MONEY!

March 04 2011 at 6:01 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down
my name peggy

no, you're wrong. He wants to take away ALL collective bargaining rights and eliminate unions entirely. You may be misreading him, but America is not. they're onto him and other union busters and he will fail.

March 04 2011 at 6:41 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

If one is unwilling to defend the rigths of other there is a good chance their will be no one to defend your rigths when they come for yours.

March 03 2011 at 10:26 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

A moderate: one who has no opinion.

March 03 2011 at 10:24 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bennett975's comment

Nixon called moderates the "Silent Majority". Solomon stated; "A wise man avoids all extremes".
Being in the middle is an opinion, an opinion tempered by time and experience., a viewpoint much more skillful to defend than either extreme.
Think about it.

March 03 2011 at 10:38 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

a moderate is someone who realizes that that the far right and the far left are both out of there minds

March 08 2011 at 6:32 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
rotten rollin

We all have polls; are mine the same as yours?

Don't know if I buy a lot of the things cited here.

March 03 2011 at 10:19 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Excellent article.

March 03 2011 at 10:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Its pretty sad when in poverty now, That everything can be cut and we cant make enough to live now. How many can be layed off and for what? There are no jobs to be had. Thanks to walker he wants to make us parents feel worse. It sure dont feel good when we tell are daughter we cant help with collage and sorry you proved to us all through school that you remained on the honor roll to get ahead. We can't have any party's because your 18 now or we will do are best to have a graduation party for you. God Im glad to be a american!!!!! Thank you goverment

March 03 2011 at 10:08 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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