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'Neo-Moderates'

That's the term E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post has coined for people like me- people who are disgusted by how the noble title of "conservative" has degenerated into a synonym for mean-spirited, conspiracy-minded lunacy.

As Dionne observes, there aren't many politicians among us. Ben Sasse comes to mind. I guess you would have to consider Evan McMullin a politician now, too, since he ran for president last year as an independent and seems likely to do the same in a bid for Orrin Hatch's Senate seat next year. But for the most part, we're academics, writers, and just plain ordinary people who find ourselves unable to stomach what the Republican party has become. Some, like Sasse, choose to remain within that party and fight for what's left of its soul. Others, like McMullin (and myself), are so disillusioned with the gutlessness of a Republican party which has sold out so completely to Trumpist protectionism, isolationism, scapegoating nativism. and authoritarianism that we have severed our ties to a party Lincoln and Eisenhower and Reagan would no longer recognize.

Dionne points out that the phenomenon has a rough precedent in the behavior of people like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Irving Kristol, whose unease with some of the more excessive features of FDR's program caused them to  evolve from New Deal liberals into what eventually became known as "neoconservatives." It has become fashionable in some circles to misuse that term to mean adherents of an aggressively Bush-like militaristic internationalism. In fact, its true meaning has always been as a description of pragmatists best described, as Kristol himself described them, as "liberals who have been mugged by reality."

Some, like Moynihan, stayed within the Democratic party; others, like Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, became Republicans.  Something similar, Dionne suggests, is happening to the movement represented by McMullin and Sasse. And by people like me.

But the trajectory of the "neo-moderate" movement will move in a different direction. The Democratic party is, after all, just as crazy Left as the Republican party is crazy Right (or wherever Donald Trump's inconsistent hodge-podge might fit on the political spectrum). "Neo-Mods," by and large, would find the Democratic party as inhospitable as the Republican- though it should be noted, as McMullin hinted in the tweet to which Dionne refers in the article, some members of the movement are already part of the small but very real moderate wing of the Democratic party and may remain there. I personally see the two-party system as having failed so cataclysmically that a new, centrist third party is needed, and needed desperately. Perhaps that's the route the "neo-mod" movement will take.

Or perhaps it will remain independent of party politics, embrace members of both parties, and neither. At least for the short run, that seems to be the route the Centrist Project has taken as it seeks to elect independents to public office who can wield the balance of power in the Senate and perhaps the House and thus exercise an influence out of all proportion to their numbers in Congress. Or perhaps it might end up looking more like McMullin's Stand Up Republic, a movement which grew out of McMullin's independent conservative presidential candidacy last year but has come to embrace moderate liberals as well as conservatives.

But whatever direction it takes, I agree with Dionne that it would be a mistake to dismiss it. Like our predecessor movement, we are a reaction to a hole on the American political spectrum that needs to be filled. If anything, the extremism and superficial, mindless partisanship of both of the two major parties makes it even more necessary that the sensible middle find a way to introduce some common sense into a dysfunctional system which seems unable to do anything about the problems facing the nation other than to provide two respective echo chambers from which extremists of the Right and the Left can blame each other for all of them while themselves disavowing all responsibility, and displaying none.

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