politics | May 05, 2013

The Centrist Manifesto: Charles Wheelan On A Political Middle-Ground

The nation's political system is fragmented and hyper-polarized like never before. Just ask Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind and leading voice on the stalemate between the left and right. Charles Wheelan, a prominent public policy speaker, also says that the two leading parties are drifting further and further apart—to the detriment of the citizens they are meant to serve. Author of the new book The Centrist Manifesto, Wheelan argues that now is the time to give a voice to the nation's center. In the book, he explains that the current two-party system has given rise to extreme candidates on either side—and diminished the power of rational moderates in the middle.

"One of the reasons I wrote the book was that I believe it's not enough to describe yourself as "not a Republican" or "not a Democrat." That's what independents do," he says in an interview on U.S. News. "But it's hard to organize people who describe themselves as 'not something.'" His suggestion is to form a third independent party: The Centrist Party. "The Centrist Party stands for a series of principles that I would argue take the best of each party," Wheelan explains. He does admit, however, that the current electoral college makes it difficult for a third-party candidate to win the presidency. Despite that, it is possible for a centrist candidate to win a seat in the Senate. "Imagine a Senate that's 47 Democrats, 6 Centrists and 47 Republicans. At that point, the Centrists are the swing votes and the ideological center of the Senate." And that, he says, is a very powerful place to be.

The message that Wheelan wants to convey in the book, he says, is that the system isn't broken beyond repair. Small changes in the Senate could help diminish the "stranglehold that the two parties have on the current system." After spending time entrenched in the political arena—from being a speechwriter for a Republican governor, a political writer for The Economist, and making a run for office as a Democrat in Chicago—Wheelan decided that systemic changes were vital. With two decades of public policy experience, he offers practical insight into Washington's shortcomings. He delivers keynotes that question why our leaders can't seem to get it right, and outlines the changes that must be made to realistically achieve a more effectively functioning nation.

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