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Notes from an Extreme Centrist

| Opinion | February 7, 2019

by Ronnie Nathan

I used to think of myself as a proud, unapologetic FDR/JFK liberal. I’ve been voting since 1968, and in every presidential election, I voted for the Democrat. I have absolute contempt for Donald Trump. I think he is a despicable human being and a pathological serial liar. This view predates Trump’s emergence into national politics by several decades.

As a New Yorker of a certain age, currently 72, I have been treated to the public persona of The Donald for over four decades. In all that time, in terms of mendacity and character, he has been completely consistent. The Donald has earned my contempt, and then some. I will vote for anyone over Donald Trump in 2020, including Daffy Duck. That said, I regret my votes in 1996 and 2012 and I would love to vote for a Republican next time around; anyone but Trump.

I’ve spent the last several months reading conservative editorials in the National Review and liberal editorials in the NYT. They generally all have one thing in common. They all-too-often make me extremely nauseous. Without lingering on details, they almost all decry tribalism while, almost without exception, are unmitigatedly tribal. They all mourn the repulsive tactics used by the opposition, while ignoring those used by their own tribe or even praising them. They almost all demonize senators from their own side who act moderately. I’ve seen much the same thing from my friends of all political stripes on Facebook. I’m done!

I’m done being in a tribe! I believe in Social Security, universal access to standard healthcare, a strong social safety-net and lots of other traditional liberal causes. But, I also believe in fiscal responsibility, serious entitlement reform (including Social Security), tax reform and a balanced budget amendment. I oppose all abortions after week 20, except to save the life of the mother, and capital punishment when guilt is certain. I support a strong military, but also massive reform in the military procurement process. The fact is the right-left paradigm hasn’t worked for me for years. I haven’t changed any of my positions on specific issues. What I have come to realize is that not a single one of them (except possibly my support for Israel) – not gun control, not universal healthcare, not immigration, not anything – is more important to me at this moment in our history than re-establishing a sense of national unity, moderation and civility to our political culture.

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But I do understand how important labels are for easily identifying myself politically, for building alliances, for picking candidates and encouraging support for them. Therefore, my new self-conferred label is Extreme Centrist. I’m sincerely hoping many of you give up your tribal identities and join my non-tribe tribe. Liberal and conservative have simply become too polarizing. We don’t really even know what they mean anymore when Trump supporters can claim with a straight face they are conservatives. NEWS FLASH!!! They (you?) are not! Or when people who feel the Bern can claim to be liberals. NEWS FLASH!!! They (you?) are not! Give up the Bern! Give up Trump! Give up Liberal and Conservative! Join me in being an Extreme Centrist! All you have to do is listen to alternative opinions with an open mind, compromise a little, act with civility in all your political conversations and care more about America than any specific issue or candidate.

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