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No Place for Moderates
Ohio's Issue 1 is a fine example of how far we've separated along political lines
Many years ago, before the days of 24-hour news channels and social media gave just about everyone a platform to bloviate, the Clintons came up with a slogan that a lot of people got behind: “Abortion should be safe, legal and rare.” It was strong enough that pro-choice advocates could support it, yet benign enough to appease the pro-life crowd. It was a Switzerland-type statement that kept the peace among the two sides of the abortion issue.
How times have changed. Today, “safe, legal and rare” has been kicked to the curb as the pro-choice camp opts for something more like “abortion anytime and all the time,” while pro-lifers chant “everyone must keep their pregnancies or be sent to the clinker.” Okay, maybe it’s not that intense, but it’s pretty close.
In Ohio, Tuesday’s vote on Issue 1, which would enshrine abortion, contraception and fertility-treatment rights into the state constitution, has people in a tizzy, with each side fairly certain the sky is going to fall if they lose.
Issue 1 uses extremely broad language to support reproductive care such as abortion, which would be legal until “fetal viability,” a vague term that could vary from case to case. Issue 1 was a knee-jerk response to Republican Governor Mike DeWine signing into law a bill that prohibited abortion once a heartbeat is detected. The law allows exceptions for the health of the mother, but not for cases of rape and incest.
The heartbeat bill was put on hold by the courts less than 90 days after it was signed into law. Thus, Ohio currently allows abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
The heartbeat bill was seen as extreme by a lot of people. Issue 1 is extreme on the opposite end of the spectrum. This puts voters who don’t see the issue as black-and-white in a difficult position. Do they vote for an amendment with broader abortion allowances than they’d like, or do they vote against it and worry that the heartbeat bill might make its way out of the courts and back into law?
Moderates ask each other, “Why can’t we scrap both of these ideas and come up with something that recognizes the gray areas of the issue? Why can’t we, you know, compromise?”
Something happened over the last 20 years or so that has given more weight to the left and right poles of politics while leaving middle-of-the-road voters in limbo. Many feel compelled to pick a side because there’s nothing for them in the center. And while they worry that they might be compromising their beliefs, at least they can get some of what they want. Others are so turned off by both options that they do nothing, except lament the days when more of the country seemed to be like them.
When only a black-and-white, my-way-or-the-wrong-way mentality exists, it leads to frustrating arguments for those who prefer to critique all sides and draw their own conclusions. Learning that they must agree to every single point on a given topic or face chastisement causes them to throw up their arms in disgust.
The situation exists on a multitude of issues, not just abortion. The Israeli-Palestine conflict, LGBTQ+ rights, minimum wage, education, equity -- you name it. Why would you question a part of the argument? Don’t you care about (fill in the blank)? How could you be so thoughtless/heartless/unAmerican?
More often than not, moderate thinkers are using their brains and their consciences to determine best solutions. Moderates look at all the possible outcomes of a situation; they ask “what if” quite often; and they anticipate logical arguments against their stances. They’re also pretty realistic in their expectations. They don’t demand to get everything they want, but rather look for trade-offs that will allow them to live their truths while giving some room for others to do the same.
Here’s the greatest trait of moderates: They can critique both sides with equal voracity. For example, a moderate might roll their eyes as Donald Trump throws out rolls of paper towels to Puerto Rico hurricane victims, but also do a face palm upon hearing Joe Biden tell hundreds of Maui residents who had just lost property and loved ones in out-of-control wildfires that he once had a small electrical fire in his home.
When it comes to abortion, a moderate might say, “Look, I believe that life begins at conception, but if we make the law too extreme, it’s going to possibly do harm to some people” (like those who are victims of rape or incest). Another moderate might say,
”I believe that every woman has a right to make her own decisions, but we need some clear limitations.” In some cases, a happy medium may not be able to be reached, but a moderate believes that at least their ideas were considered and respected.
What happened to that type of respect for people’s opinions? What happened to looking at all sides of the political spectrum and finding the good as well as the bad? Can we even get back to center?
These are questions to mull as we enter the madness of the official presidential election season and keep our hopes held high for the future.
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