I’m standing in the middle of the road.
If you’ve ever been in the middle of a road, or seen someone who is, you know it’s probably not the safest place to be.
There’s a chance you might get hit. More likely, though, you’ll get yelled at or cursed at, honked at or shown some unfriendly hand gestures.
When I was a kid, we lived on a quiet street, so it was pretty common to see us in the middle of the road. We would play ball or skateboard or even go sledding with little concern. Now I live in the country and walking down the middle of a gravel road can be quite peaceful.
But the road I’m standing in the middle of is not a country road. It’s not a city street. Or even a busy highway. Although it’s plenty loud. And it can feel fairly threatening.
The road I’m standing on is a political one. And I don’t think I’m alone here either.
It’s sometimes hard to see each other there in the middle, or near the middle, because the far left and the far right are zooming by us so incredibly loudly.
We’re trying to navigate each day while surrounded by the divisiveness and partisan polarization that has grown in our country in recent years. And we’re doing it, right there amidst all that yelling and cursing and honking, still trying to stand on our principles without being tossed to and fro.
Before I go any further, let me be clear…I’m not promoting silence or complicity. When there are issues we feel strongly about, we should take a stand, write our elected leaders, hold meetings, walk in parades, knock on doors, advocate, share on social media. We can do it fervently and still respectfully.
In “Eisenhower Republicanism – Pursuing the Middle Way,” author Steven Wagner writes: “In American political culture, those who describe themselves as ‘middle of the road’ are often portrayed as unwilling to take a stand or lacking in political sophistication. This was not the case with Eisenhower, whose ‘middle way’ was a carefully considered political philosophy similar to Theodore Roosevelt’s cautious progressivism.”
Eisenhower said his ‘middle way’ was a “practical working basis between extremists.”
Sounds to me like we could use some of that practicality in our current political climate.
So what can we learn from Eisenhower today?
A couple of Bills may have the answer.
Bill Kristol, a conservative Republican of the George HW Bush White House and founder of The Weekly Standard, and Bill Galston, a Democrat veteran of the Bill Clinton White House and senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, created the New Center project and wrote Ideas to Re-Center America.
“We present some bold new ideas for re-centering America. We know that our politics have gotten off kilter. As the parties have become more polarized and our politics more partisan, the great American majority – which wants to see cooperation and compromise – has been left with no good choices.”
Their ideas center on four core values they believe can help move politics beyond polarization – opportunity, security, ingenuity and accountability.
“The ideas we advance represent a New Center for American politics, a politics that reflects both our enduring principles and the new circumstances we confront. In place of a politics stuck in the past, we offer an agenda re-centered in the future, not a tepid compromise between Left and Right, but a new way toward the stronger economy, more inclusive society and more effective politics that we all want for the country we love.”
You can read more at newcenter.org.
Albert Einstein said: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” While we might be going through some difficult times, there might also be some great opportunities out there to discover.
So if you’re like me and standing in the middle of the road, or on the shoulder of one side or the other, let’s look for ways to come together and not be drowned out by all the yelling and cursing and honking.
I’d much rather help build bridges (than walls) to help unite and strengthen our nation.