I've seen some outlandish claims about centrists, and the new political organization No Labels. Keith Olbermann, for instance, apparently thinks we're really conservative wolves in centrist/moderate sheep's clothing. As comical as conspiracy theories like this are, I was genuinely surprised to find similarly absurd claims in in a recent post on this site by Living Liberally founder Justin Krebs.
To be fair, Krebs is spot on in his assessment that No Labels can by no means accurately call itself a movement. They are an organization trying to spark a movement among a large and unrepresented segment of the electorate. Time will tell if they will succeed. Unfortunately, Krebs' post heads downhill from there.
For example, Krebs denigrates No Labels for not having a nationwide network, like MoveOn did in 2003. Now, MoveOn was in its fifth year in 2003, while No Labels has just launched. Comparing MoveOn's actions in 2003 to No Labels' lack of a nationwide network today isn't even apples to oranges, its comparing ripe apples to seeds that have only just been planted.
Krebs also falls into a trap when he plays the childish game of pretending the name No Labels literally means they want people to drop their affiliations. This is a mistake that a casual reader of partisan blogs might make, but not someone who has actually looked into what the No Labels founders have said.
But Krebs' lazy "analysis", and other similarly hyperbolic attacks, are just symptoms of something bigger. The fact that big names on the left and the right are attacking the center is an indication of how far the center has finally come. Until now the few elements of somewhat organized independents and centrists have been largely ignored by the left and the right, because we posed no real threat to them.
The center of the American electorate is best described as a groundswell moving away from the two major parties, their special interests, corruption and out of touch ideologies. Depending on how you define it, this thirty-something to fifty-something percent of the electorate finds itself increasingly unrepresented in our government.
This last cycle showed more independents running for office, and winning, than any time in generations. There are growing third parties in states like New York and Oregon, and they are having more of an impact each cycle. New state and local grassroots groups are forming all the time. Both parties continue to shrink as a percentage of the electorate, the public rates them at historic lows -- and neither is willing to take principled action to avoid debt issues that may force us into Greece-like austerity measures in coming years.
While the Democrats and Republicans bicker, more and more begin looking for something better. We aren't a movement yet, but this sleeping giant is beginning to awaken to the fact that we are going to have to do something about our problems, since neither party seems capable, or willing, to solve them for us.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.