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June 2, 2009

A Common Sense Approach to Moderates

Farrell Keough

On a recent radio talk show, I was referred to as a moderate. While the comment was meant as a compliment, being a staunch conservative, I took umbrage toward the implication. This led to a conversation about the meaning of moderate and something that seemed timely for an article.


The person who made this comment further defined the premise: “Conservative yes, but I seem to think that you address the issues from a COMMON SENSE approach. That makes you a MODERATE in my book – with conservative values.”


A nicer compliment I could not have gotten.


But, this is not the general definition of moderate. As far as I can tell, there is no true general definition of the term moderate. This is important since this seems to be the current political term bandied about. In short, the Republican Party is losing members in the moderate camp and they must reinvigorate support for our values.


How does one speak to a group when the definition of who composes that group is so ethereal?


Before we delve into how to bring people back into the Republican camp, let me elaborate on my views of moderates – wrong though it may be. My narrow-minded view of a moderate is someone who generally does not think through all sides of issue and is too easily influenced by the winds of political speak. That is unfair and I admit it.


My basis for this lies in the interviews and comments made by those we are told are moderates. Very often I do not see a strong set of core values by which ideas are measured and determined. In short, I am just as guilty as the next guy of buying into the poor set of goods sold to me by the media and political punditry.


So, let’s bury the hatchet and decide we need to focus on the people who are not staunch this or that, but fall somewhere in between – the moderates for lack of a better term.


Do moderates want leadership that constantly changes their mind? No! Do moderates want leadership that will not change their mind? No!


Moderates want leadership that has a well defined set of core values that can be articulated – someone who will listen to other perspectives and make decisions that are in the best interest of the whole and will forward values and legislation that keep us as free as possible.


I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, ‘Government is a necessary evil because people can necessarily be evil. But, it should never be forgotten that government is made up of people.’ In short, less government is better because the chance of having bad laws or regulations increases with increased government.


That is a standard of the Republican Party and should always remain in the forefront. But, what of those cases when government is necessary? How should Republicans explain to both their staunch conservative constituency, as well as those in the moderate camp, why they made the decisions they did? The easiest way: tell the truth. Of course, that is a simplistic answer especially if their words are taken out of context by the media or those who oppose their ideology.


And therein lies one of the serious problems. Putting aside those Republican politicians who do not carry the general Republican standards as their main vehicles for decision making, how do those who do have a genuine core set of values explain their decisions?


For instance, say an elected official is against tax increases. A bill comes forward that shifts the burden from the state to the county for payment of a particular required employee. The Republican I would support would not sign the bill passing this “new” expense onto the county – they would either suck it up and accept a tax increase, or determine that the position is not so necessary that additional monies are needed to fund it.


This is not an uncommon situation and it is what defines someone who simply touts that they are against tax increases and someone who truly deals with the issues. In short, they took the easy way out and accepted credit for a disingenuous action – saying they will not raise taxes, but in fact doing exactly that.


Write to your constituents on a regular basis. This can be done through emails, letters to the editor, a blog, or a site like Another way is something called Twitter. I have recently joined this online presentation site – at the behest of my wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed. Although the amount of writing is limited, something like 140 characters, it forces one to focus and state “just the facts, ma’am.” Obviously, if more words are needed, the representative could direct the reader to an Internet site with more explanation.


Long and short, we must embrace these new online technologies. Sites like Twitter are far underused. With a large enough following, our representatives can remind us of important votes or events to attend. They can push us into taking on important activities as a group – the Tea Parties happened organically, but someone had to initially have the idea and forward it on.


But, how does this relate to embracing those who fall under the rubric of moderate? Simple, we need to quit looking to the heavens for some magical person to pick up the banner and develop those people we already have. We need to quit playing the victim and speak what we know to be true – let the chips fall where they will. We need to quit being conservative-light and stand on our principals. We need to explain why we do what we do rather than simply relying on the belief that the public knows what we mean.


Moderates do not want feckless leadership that shifts with the political winds. They want people of integrity who views they know. Changing one’s mind is not wrong as long as you can articulate why. Even if people disagree with some of your positions, they will respect and credit you if you stay firm in your beliefs – moderates take notice of these activities.


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