The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

October 28, 2012

Can moderates be passionate?

RICHMOND — After my column of two weeks ago chided political candidates for not having, or at least not disclosing, specifics of their ideas for solving problems, I heard from two office holders who told me the candidate who offers the most specifics usually loses.

If that’s true, it’s a sad commentary on us, the voters.

However, I still believe some candidates won’t give us specifics because they don’t have any.

In partisan legislative and congressional races, voters can simply vote for the party, rather than an individual candidate, with the expectation that a candidate will generally follow their party leaders. That may be the most we can expect, but I’m naïve enough to expect more.

The same goes for negative campaigning. Too many candidates believe the campaign that most demonizes its opponent wins, even if many voters find that approach sickening. How many times this political season have you heard someone say they wish the election were over so they won’t be bombarded with any more negative political advertising?

I’ve watched several races at the local level over the years that were won by candidates who offered specifics in their platforms and conducted positive campaigns. To be fair, however, that may be easier to do at the local rather than the state or national level.

As I’ve gotten older, the two major parties have sharpened their differences, but I’m still too practical and independent-minded to think along party lines. And, I think we’d be better off if political leaders would be more pragmatic and less ideological, more willing to compromise for a partial victory instead of insisting on all or nothing.

The problem with political moderates is their moderation. To speak of passionate moderation is almost a contradiction in terms. Those who are passionate or vociferous in their beliefs tend to be more successful than those who are more tepid. They seem to fight harder and more relentlessly.

After the French Revolution, most Frenchmen would have been content with a constitutional monarchy based on the British model. After their revolution, most Russians would have preferred a parliamentary democracy based on the European model. In both cases, however, fanatics who were willing to kill or be killed took control with disastrous results for both countries. The French ended up with Napoleon, nearly two decades of war and then defeat. The Russians ended up with Lenin, Stalin and 70 years of repression and privation.

Moderates of the world unite. Let us fight passionately for common sense and decency.

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