The Silenced Majority
To avoid Civil War II, we must encourage moderates to speak up.
Posted Jan 21, 2017
As I watched CNN covering the inauguration and the day-after protest marches, I was saddened. It was clear to me that America is getting more polarized than ever. In the media and even in social conversation, we too rarely hear from moderates. I call them The Silenced Majority.
Alas, many moderates, including me, feel we cannot state our views, which on a given issue can be liberal, conservative, or moderate, without getting our heads chopped off. This is not a theoretical fear. For example, increasingly, when I do speak up, the response is non-responsive or an ad hominem attack, even name-calling.
For example, today, I ran into a neighbor while walking my dog. I asked how he felt about the inauguration. He said, “Angry. In grief.” Because he’s normally an easygoing guy with whom I’ve had a number of pleasant conversations at block parties and such, I told him that I was agnostic on Trump. I said,
Yes, Trump strikes me as pre-senile, hubristic, and too impulsive. Also, I’m concerned that despite Trump's protestations, he cares too much about the wealthy. His jingoistic, protectionist America-First rhetoric is shallow and misguided. Also, I'm very pro-choice and I’m afraid his Supreme Court picks won’t be.
He nodded. But because Trump's downsides are so well publicized, I then talked more about a Trump administration's possible upsides.
On the other hand, we’ve had 50 years of domestic policy based on identity politics and redistribution to women and minorities. Yet despite a $22 trillion taxpayer spend, the achievement gap is as wide as ever and race and gender relations are more polarized than ever. The middle class is hollowing out, with many full-time benefited jobs replaced by part-time temp gigs. Internationally, we’ve had a foreign policy that literally and figuratively has drawn empty lines in the sand, which makes the U.S. look like a paper tiger.
So yes, I hold many liberal views: pro choice, pro gay marriage, anti-materialism, pro right-to-die, decry capitalism's excesses, see myself as a world citizen more than an American, and favor not discrimination nor reverse discrimination but equal opportunity.
But I also hold some conservative views: For example, I think government is a poor steward of our tax dollars. Just one instance: As a Ph.D. in the evaluation of innovation, I’ve grown pessimistic about the power of education and social programs to be worthy of yet more tax dollars. A notable example is the failure of Head Start. Despite the metaevaluation ordered by the Obama Administration that, to its dismay, concluded Head Start is ineffective, both parties continue to urge its full funding---It sounds so good. Also Obama's multi-billion-dollar expenditure of taxpayer dollars to try to turn around low-performing schools produced zero results. And the statistic that women earn 79 cents on the dollar for the same work is a canard. Also see this. Yet fortunes of our tax dollars are spent on additional redistribution.
So I cannot hate Trump nor, as a recent The Nation article urged, mobilize to "throw sand into" every Trump initiative. Nor can I celebrate the "legal" coup de etat that is occurring. When the Left couldn't overturn the election with recounts and by pressuring the Electoral College not to make their committed vote, the now plan is "to take down Trump using opposition research, media pressure, and the court system." A legal coup de etat is a dangerous precedent for the nation.
Rather, while I'm agnostic about it, it's possible that Trump’s core principles around meritocracy and a strong military may not be so bad.
He called me a racist and sexist and walked away.
In recent weeks, I have tried to avoid political conversations, let alone those about race and gender, because we are so polarized. Just as it’s foolish to try to reason with someone when they're furious, it seems foolish to try to advocate moderation and open-mindedness in our very overheated environment.
I’m outspoken by nature and even I feel the need to have duct tape over my mouth, and the more reticent moderates I've spoken with feel the same. So it seems that society’s mind-molders--the schools, colleges, and media--have indeed created a Silenced Majority.
Regular readers of my work know that when I describe a problem, I almost always propose one or more possible solutions. I’m more cautious here. Merely encouraging extremists to listen open-mindedly to the other side feels like fighting a tidal wave with a thimble. Until those mind-molders—the schools, colleges, and media—replace their new self-appointed role as agitators-in-chief with their time-honored, appropriate role as fair-minded presenters of the full-range of responsibly held ideas, I believe we’re headed to ever more strained relations between the Left and Right, the sexes, and races and even to Civil War II, with the Silenced Majority too cowed or too censored to be the peaceable voice of moderation.
HERE is another attempt to encourage moderation; 19 issues that deserve a more moderate response.
HERE I make the best case I can for why you should be a liberal and then the best case I can for why you should be a conservative.
I do offer a one-on-one bridge-building activity to help us move toward moderation. HERE.
HERE is a YouTube video of me reading this essay.