By Jim Manfre
Three years after he left office, Dwight Eisenhower wrote: “People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable. Actually, all human problems, excepting morals, come into the gray areas. Things are not black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
I am sure what was once a statement of rationality by one of our beloved figures in American history may now appear controversial by many Americans. But it is where most people are when you avoid the emotions of political ideology. It is ironic that in every area of our lives we apply practicality when it comes to the choices we make and avoid those most basic pragmatic instincts when it comes to public policy. No one asks the emergency room doctor what his or her ideology is on health care. Our only need is to have our medical problem solved in the least painful and least costly way.
So it should be when it comes to public policy, though I have to say that having spent twenty five years in government, it often appeared that the chosen path by some leaders I’ve known was the most painful and costly.
So here I stand in the middle of the road with most Americans, watching and hoping for some common sense to be injected into our political discourse, and concerned about what Margaret Thatcher once said was the risk of getting “knocked down by traffic from both sides.”
But what do both sides really believe, and why would the other side–whichever side it happens to be–oppose those most fundamentally-held beliefs? Without using labels, this is my understanding of what is most important to those in the political fray:
1. Reduce healthcare and prescription drug costs.
2. Balance the federal budget in a bipartisan way.
3. Protect the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the waterways we use.
4. Operate government at every level in an efficient and customer friendly manner.
5. Assist those most in need in our community.
6. Protect our freedoms through a strong defense.
7. Reduce crime through community-oriented policing methods, and divert the mentally ill and the alcohol and drug-addicted out of the prison system, into rehabilitation programs.
8. Respect our military and first responders past and present for their service and willingness to place their lives on the line for the good of the community.
9. Regulate consumer practices to avoid fraud and abuse of the public.
10. Create a robust business climate to encourage small, medium and large businesses to expand job growth.
I hope that most would agree that these common-sense principles should form the bedrock of our public policy. It is an essential component of the democracy that the founding fathers created that there would be robust debate–perhaps heated debate regarding certain controversial issues, no doubt. But there must be some common ground that we the people can rely on, common ground that binds us together as Americans and distinguishes us from authoritarian or dictatorial governments.
I believe by reminding ourselves of President Eisenhower’s admonition and of our shared beliefs as Americans, we can and will find those compromises so vital to the health of a community and the nation.
Jim Manfre was Flagler County sheriff from 2001 to 2004, and from 2009 to 2012.
I believe that dialogue and moderation are the hallmarks of civilization. I enjoyed this brief article. Now I’m going to make popcorn and wait for the flamewar in the comments.
No flamewar. Dissenting comments like this one are moderated out to the curb.
My favorite President Dwight thanks to him we have our read of highways across America. Thank you Mr. Eisenhower!
And yes is time we start again working together meeting in that middle of the road.
Stay in hiding says
Jim Manfre. You recklessly demoted, fired, and humiliated law enforcement officers under your command while you violated the very ethics that your office demanded. Your voice is tarnished.
Thank you for being a voice of reason in these times of political strife.
So. Sry true. Our political parties are separated by hate and very different ideas. The only way to resolve this, in my opinion,is to have term limits and vote every politician out of office. America is broken and headed for a disaster.
“The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
Gutters, for sure! There is a complete lack of common sense on both sides. Each is dug so firmly in that they truly believe the other side is insane.
Obama pitched hope and change. He brought more division than we’d seen in decades. Today’s division is historic. And as a Democrat I stand here today willing to admit that my party is the major cause of today’s division. I want leaders who will meet in the middle, not those who screw the country further. I’m disgusted with both parties, but more so with my own. My fellow Democrats need to get their heads out of their asses before it’s too late and the republicans get fully entrenched for the next few decades. My days on earth are limited. My kids and grands will be left to deal with the fallout. That breaks my heart. We’ve failed miserably by going too far left. Exit the gutters! Now!
@In a land without sidewalks everyone is left in the gutter – just ask Flagler county residents
William Moya says
1. How? The health insurance oligopolies have and will fight any reforms, this is their track record.
2. Was this comment meant to be humorous?
3. Are we also going to do it in a bipartisan way? When the evangelicals believe that , no worries, god will take care of it?
4. Initially, i was going to refer to No. 2, but I’ll amplify governments are not necessarily efficient institutions, a lot of their work is to provide services.
5. Check. See No. 4.
6. Do you mean endless wars? It is our own government that we need protection from.
7. How about if Serve and Protect means everyone, and not just the ruling class and the state.
8. The military and police are organs of the government, and the population will respond accordingly to its behavior. Jim this is the second time you bring this up, it seems you have a serious authoritarian bent.
9. How about “regulate business practices”
10. We have too much of a “robust business climate”, we need to rain back our oligopolistic competition and create a climate where workers and we all can share the fruits of our labor denied to the people for so long.
Middle of the road politics has lead us to where we are now, going back to weak Democrats who only make concessions to the right will only empower the Right even further. Neo-liberalism leads to Neo-feudalism.
My Feelings Exactly:
I’m Not The Radical Left, I’m The Humane Middle
SEPTEMBER 26, 2019 / JOHN PAVLOVITZ
Apparently, I’ve been radicalized and I wasn’t aware.
Certain people call me the “radical Left” all the time.
I never considered myself radical before.
I just thought I was normal, ordinary, usual.
I thought equity was important to everyone.
I imagined America was filled with people who took that Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness stuff seriously—for all people.
I thought the Golden Rule was actually mainstream.
Recently I took an inventory of my positions, screening for the extremism:
I believe in full LGBTQ rights.
I believe we should protect the planet.
I believe everyone deserves healthcare.
I believe all religions are equally valid.
I believe the world is bigger than America.
I believe to be “pro-life,” means to treasure all of it.
I believe whiteness isn’t superior and it is not the baseline of humanity.
I believe we are all one interdependent community.
I believe people and places are made better by diversity.
I believe people shouldn’t be forced to abide by anyone else’s religion.
I believe non-American human beings have as much value as American ones.
I believe generosity is greater than greed, compassion better than contempt, and kindness superior to derision.
I believe there is enough in this world for everyone: enough food, enough money, enough room, enough care—if we unleash our creativity and unclench our fists.
I’m not sure how these ideas became radical, though it seems to have happened in the last few years.
I grew up being taught they were just part of being a decent human being.
I grew up believing that loving my neighbor as myself, meant that I actually worked for their welfare as much as my own.
I was taught that caring for the least in the world, was the measure of my devotion to God.
I thought that inalienable rights of other people were supposed to be a priority as a decent participant in the world.
I don’t think I’m alone.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that most people reside here in this place alongside me: the desire for compassion and diversity and equality and justice; that these things aren’t fringe ideologies or extremist positions—but simply the best way to be human.
I think most people want more humanity, not less.
I think the vast middle is exhausted by the cruelty of these days.
That these aspirations seem radical to some people, is probably an alarm that they’ve moved so far into the extremes of their fortified ideological bunkers and been so poisoned by the propaganda, that normal now seems excessive, that equality now seems oppressive, that goodness feels reckless.
Maybe the problem is, these people are so filled with fear for those who are different, so conditioned to be at war with the world, so indoctrinated into a white nationalistic religion of malice—that they’ve lost sight of what being a human being looks like anymore.
I am pretty sure that I don’t represent the “radical Left,” but the vast, disparate, compassionate, humane Middle; people who are not threatened by someone else’s presence, who do not see another person’s gain as their loss, who don’t worship a Caucasian, American god.
I suppose humanity feels radical to inhumane people.
In that case, I’ll gladly be here in my extremism.