“Radical centrism” and the Jewish community

Does hyper-polarized America need a new “radical centrism” to get us past the stale ideologies of both right and left and the resulting national paralysis? In a Washington Post op-ed today, Matt Miller says we do, and I think he’s onto something that also applies to out increasingly dysfunctional Jewish politics.

Miller, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes that both right and left are “correct about the obsolescence of the other side’s key premises, yet blind to the staleness of their own. What partisans on neither side seem to sense is that events are poised to consign many traditional priorities of both conservatives and liberals to the ash heap.”

With party affiliation declining, independents are the nation’s biggest voting bloc – but “the left and right retain a stranglehold on the debate. Only the shrill prevail. On TV, talk radio or the campaign trail, it’s almost impossible to hear the kind of common sense that takes us beyond the usual partisan tropes.”

The result: debates on critical issues like regulation, taxes, Social Security – the list is endless – that ignore changing, increasingly complex realities in favor of rigid positions and outdated slogans that add up to policy gridlock.

Miller focuses on economic issues, but it seems to me the same trend defines Jewish politics today, both in terms of domestic issues and the endless squabbling over Middle East peace.

Jewish voters, increasingly, are independents, but Jewish commentators preach mostly from the extremes; what we hear from our organizations and opinion leaders are old slogans, not new and creative ideas to meet the demands of a radically changing environment.

Miller concludes: “The challenge is to build a new creed and a new coalition that can move us past the inability of left and right to tackle our real problems….Whether it takes two years or 10, this new creed is coming, because the inexorable march of the global economy and our aging population have made old ideas and coalitions unsustainable. Whoever is savvy enough to build the new policy, messaging and constituency architecture for a genuine problem-solving path to 51 percent will win the future — and deserves to.”

Seems to me that makes a lot of sense for a nation caught in the grips of paralyzing polarization – and for a Jewish community that seems headed in the same direction.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.