George Graham

“Center” Rules in US Politics

What does it take to get the attention of the average American voter? Obviously, it takes more than the inconvenience of a federal government “shutdown” – and more than a brush with economic disaster. I suppose I find this surprising because Sandra and I spend a lot of time watching cable TV, and the talking heads were in sky-is-falling mode throughout the recent stand-off between President Obama and the Tea Party.

“The Silent Majority” were apparently watching something else – or playing video games on their smart phones.

A recent Esquire/NBC News study shows that Sandra and I belong to a sliver of the US population, a group the survey labels “bleeding hearts.” You see, we’re the people who give a damn about hungry kids and sick geezers. Yes, we grieve for abandoned kittens and lost dogs, too. (And don’t get us started on the horrid conditions to which “food animals” are subjected!)

According to the survey, we’re a modest sliver, something like 20 percent.

But equally small is the sliver on the far right – the kind of American who would probably pour water on a drowning man (like Hard Hearted Hannah in the old song).

As for the rest, frankly my dear they don’t seem to give a damn. The  study found that 51 percent of voters fall into “the new American center,” a majority bound by a basic lack of political ideology. They don’t like the way things are going but they don’t want to do much about it.

To quote columnist Kathleen Parker:

 judging by current events in Washington, you’d imagine reality to be a clash of titanic proportions. More accurately, it is a clash of titanic distortions.

This is not to say centrists always agree with each other but overall, disagreement is by degrees of difference rather than ideological chasms. They are diverse in spirit and political leanings, if not so much in pigmentation. Most, according to the study, are “pretty white.” They are Democrat, Republican and independent. But what they share is greater than the sum of the extreme parts. Mostly they share a disdain of ideological purity.

 Ideological purity? Is that another way of describing common decency? Compassion? Concern?

I suspect it is. But you hear the phrase a lot these days. It seems to indicate there’s no right or wrong, that people who care about each other are just as “extreme” as people who applaud when a Republican presidential candidate suggests uninsured sick people should be left to die, people who boo  a gay soldier (remember?).

I’m sorry Esquire. I’m sorry NBC. I’m sorry Kathleen Parker.

Call me a bleeding heart if it amuses you. Scoff at my “ideological purity.”

But this I know as a fact. I am on the side of the angels, and the “far right” is just plain wrong.

Click for the report.

Click here for the various voter classifications.

Where do you belong? Take the quiz.


About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for


  • I’ve done one capoeira class. ONE. Although I have so much respect for the artform, I am woefully lacking. Nice job and just keep going! Axe!

    • Thanks! I’m going to give it a try at least a few more times. After the first 15 minutes I told myself NEVER again, but it got better. Plus I need some type of exercise I’m just eating and being a bum these days.