Sunday Roast, October 23rd, 2011: Do Moderates Really Exist?

Eisenhower and Kennedy

Published in the Pawling Press, Pawling, NY, Friday, October 14th, 2011, under the title “If Moderates Ruled…” by Jane Schneider

Note: I wrote the following in response to an opinion piece by the Pawling Press‘s conservative columnist, Mr. Paul Keyishian. Mr. Keyishian’s piece was entitled “When Moderates Ruled the Country”; it should be available in full at http://www.pawlingpress.com next week.

“I agree wholeheartedly with Paul Keyishian’s piece in the October 7th edition of the Pawling Press, wherein Mr. Keyishian discusses the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, and the positive effects that these administrations’ moderate and forward-thinking policies had on our country. It was an era when science and technology leapt forward, an era when national goals and ambitious aims were lauded, encouraged, and became part of our national identity.

As Mr. Keyishian said, President Eisenhower “had the foresight to anticipate the need for the interstate highway system…”, “And to help stimulate the national economy, while simultaneously assisting those in need, Eisenhower wisely continued the most necessary and efficient New Deal policies of FDR.” About President John F. Kennedy, Mr. Keyishian said, “President Kennedy generally supported policies that were sensible, pragmatic, and humane. His dedication to social justice was exemplified by his support of the civil rights movement, creation of the Peace Corps, and promotion of various programs to assist the underprivileged and oppressed.”

Again, the point of Mr. Keyishian’s piece was that America, under these two moderate, more-or-less centrist, presidencies prospered and became an example to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, in today’s political terms, these types of programs and policies are now considered to be left-wing, liberal ideals, and are now vilified by politicians and pundits as ‘socialist.’ It appears that the extreme right-wing minority of the conservatives in power has exerted such a gravitational pull that all political ideologies have shifted rightward, out of their natural orbit around the center. For instance, as a liberal, I know that President Obama is centrist, or perhaps marginally left-of-center, yet he is labeled as a liberal (or much, much worse) by pundits. What is terribly sad and foreboding is that such a centrist cannot even propose a national aim or goal, such as investing in the country’s future by becoming a world leader in green technology, without being shouted down – inaccurately – as a socialist. Do the shouters and pundits not remember what, in retrospect, felt like the glory days of America as a world leader and pioneer in technology, particularly space technology? Do they not realize that, if this country is to continue to be a world leader and aspire to such glory again, we must have national goals and dreams that transcend party politics and petty, mundane squabbles?

And do they also not realize that, in those exciting, inspiring years under two moderate Presidents, tax rates for the wealthy soared as high as 90%? Eisenhower and Kennedy did not borrow money to achieve their lofty goals, they used tax revenues to do so. So why is anyone balking today about increasing taxes on the wealthy by a mere 4% or 5% (letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, bringing their rates back to the 39.6%, I believe, under Clinton), when so much needs achieving in today’s United States, and should not be achieved by borrowing more money? A nation so beset by petty and divisive politics desperately needs a national goal, one that will not only inspire Americans, but that will provide jobs, a cleaner environment, less dependency on fossil fuels (thereby reducing certain national security issues), and will instill the American feeling of pride in being part of something that will benefit ourselves and future generations. As the poet Robert Browning put it, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp — or what’s a heaven for?”

Where are the moderate, far-seeing, pragmatic public servants in today’s political arena? I fear that they are all but extinct.”

Jane E. Schneider

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.