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U.S. Opinions: Washington

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The moderate middle

From an editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post:

A troubling new study from the Pew Research Center confirms what has long been evident: Ideological polarization and partisan conflict are deeper now than they have been for at least two decades. Liberals and conservatives are both more committed to their respective worldviews than they were 20 years ago, and the Republican and Democratic parties increasingly consist of ideological activists. Perhaps the most striking finding is that roughly half of each party’s donors revile the opposition as “a threat to the nation’s well-being.” The country’s deepening political divide is reflected in Congress.

Still, there was a genuine silver lining in the otherwise dark Pew report. The American political middle is bigger than the extremes. Some 39 percent of the electorate expresses a mixture of views on major issues, larger than either the 34 percent whose views are mostly or consistently liberal or the 27 percent who are mostly or consistently conservative. And except for the purest liberals and conservatives, a majority of the country favors “50-50” compromise between President Obama and Republicans.

In short, while the extremes produce the sound and fury in U.S. politics, a large but latent market for moderation remains to be tapped. At some point, less ideological, more pragmatic voters will make their voices heard, and politicians will arise in response – or so one hopes.

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