Recently, a reader referred me to an article by The New York Times columnist, David Leonhardt. In it, the writer cites Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post. She accuses reporters of being too centrist: “walking down the center line with a blindfold on.” According to her, they confuse centrism with fairness and objectivity.
Howard Schultz has breathed life into the term, apparently. In an interview with 60 Minutes, a television news magazine, he described himself as a centrist. Then he went on to explain what he meant. He was a liberal on social issues but a conservative on the economy.
When he took flak for painting himself the way he did, I was surprised. In a divided American, it can be lonely in the middle, I suppose. But, in listening to the criticism, his politics didn’t seem to be the issue. He was reviled for his potential to splinter the 2020 Democratic Presidential ticket and give the election to Donald Trump.
That’s a reasonable fear which each voter must weigh at the ballot box. But I take umbrage at the attack on centrism. Since when did inclusiveness and compromise become dirty words? Didn’t the Tea Party movement remind us of the flaw at the heart of purism?
Change is coming, but it may arrive slower than the left, who fear Schultz, would wish. A profile of the 2016 election shows the divide among the electorate may be less than the political parties assume. Americans, for example, love of their social programs. They also share an aversion to higher taxes. In general, all sides hold the government with suspicious regard. On the other hand, they don’t care much for corporations and the rich, either. Where they split, right and left, is on a few social issues: immigration, abortion and guns. Donald Trump knows this statistic well and works the division to his advantage. How the left hopes to turn that situation around, I don’t know. I’m fairly certain sermonizing won’t accomplish it.
To paint Schultz as a spoiler is to forget the rifts within the Democratic party. The left grows restless and thinks its time has come. Well, maybe not, if the poll cited above is accurate. Americans tend to be centrists. By catering to an extreme view of what the country should become, Democrats could leave independents and disenchanted Republicans with no alternative but to sit out the 2020 election. That wouldn’t be Schultz’s fault.