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Issue No. 60 (December 2004) -- Mark Satin, Editor
An identifiable "radical middle" is quietly at work -- in Congress!
We are not one hopelessly polarized nation. In the aftermath of the election, it’s clear that many voters were dissatisfied with Bush AND Kerry.
According to Mark Penn, a former Bill Clinton pollster, about a quarter of the electorate spent months swinging back and forth between the two candidates, unable to settle on which (if either!) was willing to traffic in “ideas, not insults.”
These were “savvy independent voters,” says Penn, not the addle-brained and easily swayed voters of some pundits’ imaginations. And they were right to be ambivalent.
Even many consistent Bush and Kerry supporters were uneasy about their candidates. Neither candidate appeared to be willing to listen -- really listen -- to what the other side had to say.
And neither appeared to have answers -- real answers -- to the fundamental problems facing our nation.
Under these circumstances, it’s no wonder that the challenger failed to carry the day. Compared to Gore in the year 2000, Kerry actually lost ground in 45 of the 50 states.
Fortunately, we don’t have to invent politicians who listen to each other and learn from each other and use their learnings to come up with innovative proposals that address our real problems.
Some such politicians are already in Washington -- already in Congress. They’re just hard to identify because the press (both mainstream and “alternative”) tends to see everything in terms of left and right.
That’s where Radical Middle Newsletter’s Congressional Scorecard comes in.
We couldn’t care less whether a politician is Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal.
What we do want to know is whether he or she supports legislation that’s (a) pragmatic enough to draw on good policy ideas wherever they’re found, and (b) bold enough to address fundamental issues in creative new ways.
We call such legislation “radical middle.” And we are not alone. A growing number of policy analysts are using similar language to describe the same policy stance.
Rudolph Penner and Isabel Sawhill use “radical middle” (in Updating America’s Social Contract, 2000). Ted Halstead and Michael Lind use “radical center” (in The Radical Center, 2001). Matt Miller uses “new center” (in The Two Percent Solution, 2003). And John Avlon resurrects former Senator Ed Brooke’s marvelous phrase “creative moderate” (in Independent Nation, 2004).
Our Scorecard represents the first systemic attempt to search for supporters of radical middle legislation.
We took the whole 108th Congress (covering all of 2003 and 2004) for our purview. Then we chose approx. 50 bills that exemplified aspects -- albeit sometimes necessarily tiny aspects -- of what we’d call a radical middle public policy.
Then we looked to see who co-sponsored those bills. (With a few exceptions, we did not look at votes. We did not want to record members’ party-line or ambivalent or log-rolling support for innovative measures.)
Here is what we found:
The "Radical Middle 18"
Few Congresspeople did well on our admittedly demanding scorecard.
However, a couple of dozen Congresspeople -- few of them household names -- appear to be genuinely supportive of radical middle legislation.
Eighteen members of Congress did so well that we want to list them separately for you here.
In the Senate, there is an Elite Eight:
Richard Durbin (D-IL), 65 points
Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), 65
Susan Collins (R-ME), 50
Charles Grassley (R-IA), 50
Richard Lugar (R-IN), 50
Maria Cantwell (D-WA), 45
Bob Graham (D-FL), 45
Olympia Snowe (R-ME), 45
And in the House, there is a Top Ten (all parentheses include a key city in their district):
Earl Blumenauer (D-Portl’d OR), 75
Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto CA), 60
Jim Leach (R-Cedar Rapids IA), 60
Jim Moran (D-Alexandria VA), 60
Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena CA), 60
Lynn Woolsey (D-Santa Rosa CA), 60
Jim McDermott (D-Seattle WA), 55
David Price (D-Raleigh NC), 55
Chris Shays (R-Stamford CT), 55
Adam Smith (D-Tacoma WA), 55
On first glance
If you look over this list for a moment, three things jump out at you.
It is disproportionately female. Five of the 18 members above are women -- that’s 28%. The percentage of women in Congress is half that.
It is disproportionately “new economy.” All 10 House members above represent places that could be designated as high-tech or “culturally creative” using Prof. Richard Florida’s criteria (in The Rise of the Creative Class, 2002).
It is relentlessly bipartisan. Six of the 18 members above are Republicans. And the 12 Democrats covered the entire Democrat spectrum, from passionate moderates like Sens. Lieberman and Graham to passionate liberals like Sen. Durbin and Rep. McDermott.
Blumenauer for President!
Look up the bios of the “Radical Middle 18” and another fascinating thing stands out:
Everyone on that list -- and I mean everyone -- is an admirable blend of practical and visionary, pragmatic and imaginative, sensible and creative.
Earl Blumenauer, who scored higher than anyone (by a considerable margin), is well known in Washington DC for riding his bike to work. But he’s no anti-establishment maverick.
In 1969, at the age of 19, he ran a campaign to lower Oregon’s voting age; four years later he was in the Oregon House of Representatives; and over the years he did as much as anyone to turn nondescript Portland OR into a model green city.
After Blumenauer came to Congress in 1996, prominent political reporter Michael Barone wrote this: “How popular Blumenauer’s sometimes eclectic ideas become nationally . . . remains to be seen.” With the rise of the radical middle, Blumenauer’s time has come.
Richard Durbin is eloquently pro-union. But he courageously broke with his union base to support free trade and the long-term health of the economy as a whole.
Charles Grassley, an eloquent budget hawk, still helps his son run the family farm back in Iowa. Richard Lugar, another independent conservative from the Midwest, attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.
Jim McDermott is the House’s only credentialed psychiatrist. Lynn Wool- sey is Congress’s only known former welfare mother.
Jim Leach has worked for Donald Rumsfeld and is one of Congress’s staunchest U.N. supporters. David Price is a lay Baptist preacher who’s also a noted political scientist (Ph.D. from Yale, taught at Duke, author of The Congressional Experience, rev. 2000, and other books).
After choosing the measures we wanted to track, we classified them under four topics and 20 issue areas (#a-t below and on Scorecard).
Scores were obtained by giving members five points if they co-sponsored at least one of the measures under each issue area (“x”), 10 points if a member was a principal sponsor and introduced the measure on the floor of the House or Senate (“p”).
Needless to say, few of these measures came to a vote. But every one of them deserves to be championed.
Politics and the economy
a. Let us reason together. The #1 task of politicians (and citizens) today is to listen to one another and learn from one another. Sen. Collins (ME) and Rep. Rehberg (MT) introduced bills that would have established a U.S. Consensus Council to help Congress and the President find common-ground solutions to important policy issues (S.908, H.R.2459).
The Council would be a non-profit organization funded by public as well as private sources. It would convene key stakeholders in face-to-face meetings to build agreements. All its recommendations would be advisory . . . subject to normal legislative processes.
You can see why groups like Search for Common Ground, the Association for Conflict Resolution, and even the American Bar Association’s Section on Dispute Resolution are passionately behind this measure. Our democracy needs it more than anything.
Our democracy also needs Sen. Akaka’s and Rep. Platts’s bills offering increased protections to federal whistleblowers (S.2628, H.R.3281). How can you have anything like a democracy, let alone a Consensus Council, if people can’t share some of the most important things they know?
b. Give everyone a fair shot. Capitalism can facilitate this. Sen. Santorum (PA), Rep. Ford Jr. (TN), and Sen. Grassley (IA) all introduced bills that would have established versions of “Individual Development Accounts” (S. 2751, H.R.4939, S.476), and 29 Representatives signed an open letter to House Speaker Hastert urging him to support IDA legislation.
The Santorum and Ford bills would grant a $500 account to every newborn ($1,000 to kids born into low-income families). Families could add up to $1,000 a year to their kids’ accounts, and matching funds of up to $500 a year would go to kids in low-income families. Kids couldn’t touch those accounts till age 18, and then only for worthy goals -- e.g., education, home ownership, or to start a small business.
What a different world that would be. No one could reasonably feel economically disenfranchised. And according to the New America Foundation, the total 20-year cost should be no more than $85 billion.
c. Foster diverse media ownership. When media ownership is concentrated, democracy suffers. Sen. Stevens (AK) and Rep. Burr (NC) introduced bills that would have limited broadcast-newspaper and radio-television cross-ownership (S.1046, H.R.2052).
d. Live within our means. We can’t keep passing our bills on to our children and grandchildren. The most sensible short-term budgetary measures in Congress this term were laid out in an amendment from Sen. Carper and in a letter to the chairman of the House Budget Committee from a bipartisan group of 22 Representatives (S.Amdt.330, Blue Dog letter to Rep. Nussle). These urged the establishment of pay-as-you go rules for all significant legislation.
The most sensible long-term budget measure was introduced by Sen. Lie- berman (S.1915). It would have compelled the President to submit credible plans to reduce the nation’s debts if they exceeded a certain threshold.
e. Be principled! Which Congresspeople care to identify themselves as pragmatic-and-creative? We gave points to all members of the Congressional New Democrat Coalition or the Republican Main Street Partnership.
Then we added all the members of the Advisory Board of the just-launched “Third Way: A Senate-Focused Progressive Advocacy Group.” And then, just to be sure, we added all the Congresspeople who spoke at the many forums held in 2003 and 2004 by the New America Foundation, Washington DC’s premier radical centrist think tank.
Health and the environment
f. Make it accessible and affordable. Sen Grassley (IA) and Rep. Bilirakis (FL) introduced bills that would have subsidized purchase of health insurance by unemployed and / or low-income workers (S.1693, H.R.2698).
These bills could have been right out of Jeff Lemieux’s playbook. Le- mieux is director of Centrists.org, “The Policy Think Tank for Centrists,” and he envisions “a step-by-step approach that builds from ‘transitional’ health insurance for unemployed workers toward a more general system of tax credits” for health insurance for all low-income Americans.
Meanwhile, Sen. Enzi (WY) introduced a bill that would have created grants for states wishing to try alternative dispute resolution methods for medical malpractice (S.1518). And Sen. Graham (FL) and Rep. Brown (OH) introduced bills that would have brought more preventive services into Medicare (S.2535, H.R.4898).
g. Be proactive! Preventive medicine is the key. We gave points to all the members of the Congressional Prevention Coalition.
h. Address global warming. Ecological thinking is another version of preventive thinking. Sen. Lieberman (CT) and Rep. Gilchrest (MD) introduced bills that would have required reductions in greenhouse gas pollution -- the #1 contributor to global warming -- and created market incentives to encourage companies to reduce emissions cost-efficiently (S.139, H.R.4067).
i. Address oil dependency. So much can -- and must -- be done in the here-and-now. Sen. Feinstein (CA) and Rep. Gilchrest (MD) introduced bills that would have closed the “SUV loophole” and required that SUVs meet the same fuel efficiency standards as passenger cars by 2011 (S.255, H.R.1605).
Meanwhile, Sen. Wyden (OR) and Rep. Cox (CA) introduced bills that would have promoted the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by offering a menu of tax credits, tax deductions, depreciation benefits, etc., to manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers (S.587, H.R. 1180).
j. Be visionary! It’s also important to think beyond the here-and-now. We gave points to all members of the Senate Renewables and Efficiency Caucus and the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus.
Culture and values
k. Nurture students and teachers. It’s important for Congressional scorecards to take culture and values into account, and you can’t talk about either without talking about education. Sen. Grassley (IA) and Rep. Gallegly (CA) introduced bills that would have given states funding to support a dazzling array of programs for gifted and talented K-12 students (S.501, H.R.1191).
Another way to get great students into the public schools is to provide all students with great teachers from the start. Sen. Gregg (NH) and Rep. Castle (DE) introduced bills that would have required that half of all Head Start’s lead teachers have B.A.s and proper training by 2008 (S.1940, H.R.2210).
l. Don’t let the powerful fool you. Even a well-educated population needs some protection against all the unethical operators out there. Against the culture of greed, the radical middle posits the value of informed consent.
Sen. Harkin (IA) and Rep. DeLauro (CT) introduced bills that would have required chain restaurants to list calorie counts on menu boards and printed menus (S.2108, H.R.3444).
Similarly, Sen. DeWine (OH) and Rep. Davis (VA) introduced bills that would have provided the Food and Drug Administration with much greater authority to regulate tobacco products -- e.g., to prohibit unsubstantiated claims about “reduced risk” cigarettes (S.2461, H.R.4433).
m. Speak out against evil. It is not enough to think about our own well-being. A culture of life values others as well. Sen. Brownback (KS) and Rep. Payne (NJ) introduced resolutions that described the violence in Darfur for what it is -- genocide (S.Con.Res.133, H.Con.Res.467).
n. Serve the people. It is not enough just to talk about serving life, serving the people, whatever. It is imperative that we actually do so. Sen. Hollings (SC) and Rep. Rangel (NY) introduced bills that would have instituted a two-year period of national service for everyone between the ages of 18 and 26 (S.89, H.R.163).
The legislation was imperfect -- e.g., you’d only be permitted to do community service if you weren’t drafted into the military. But it’s the clearest start yet toward a draft that would allow all 18-year-olds to choose among military defense, homeland defense, and community service. We desperately need people in all three areas.
o. Be responsible! The name of the radical middle game -- if you have to choose one word -- is “responsibility.” We gave points to all members of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. Wherever you stand on the abortion issue, we have got to take responsibility as a culture for everyone born to us.
p. Keep the peace. Being responsible abroad means improving peace operations abroad, and seven bills constructively addressed that issue.
Sen. Lugar (IN) introduced the Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative Act (S.2514). Rep. Dreier (CA) introduced the International Security Enhancement Act (H.R.4185). Rep. McGovern (MA) introduced the International Rule of Law and Antiterrorism Act (H.R.1414).
Sen. Lugar and Rep. Schiff (CA) introduced the Stabilization and Reconstruction Civilian Management Act (S.2127, H.R.3996). And Sen. Edwards (NC) and Rep. Farr (CA) introduced the Winning the Peace Act (S.1235, H.R.2616).
q. Trade with the world. In the short run, free trade will be unpopular in some quarters. But in the long run, and the radical middle is uniquely concerned with the long run, free trade will benefit us all. If you doubt this, let me recommend two recent books that powerfully make the case for free trade, the first by a former and the second by a current social democrat -- Martin Wolf, Why Globalization Works (Yale, 2004), and Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization (Oxford, 2004).
We gave points only to members who voted affirmatively on all four Free Trade Agreements that went to the floor in 2003-04 -- those covering Morocco, Australia, Chile, and Singapore.
r. Consort with Arabs and Asians. The best way to turn potential enemies into friends is to build relationships with them. Sen. Baucus (MT) and Rep. Smith (WA) introduced bills that would have inspired economic growth in the Arab world and Muslim South Asia by lowering trade barriers to their products (S.1121, H.R.2467).
Meanwhile, Sen. Hagel (NE) and Rep. Hoeffel (PA) introduced bills that would have generated multi-level dialogues as well as economic investment in those regions (S.2305, H.R.2819).
We couldn’t resist giving points to members of the Congressional Silk Road Caucus. Its stated goal: “to help connect Central and South Asia and the Caucasus with the U.S., in an effort to encourage economic, cultural, and political exchange between our countries.” (Don’t look now, but China is working with all countries in the region to restore the original Silk Road -- from Sian, China, to Rotterdam, Holland.)
s. Provide aid to the world. Even President Bush signed on to the Millennium Challenge Account, an idea that was hatched in and around the U.N. Development Programme.
Sen. Lugar (IN) and Rep. Hyde (IL) introduced the pertinent bills (S.1240, H.R.2441). They called for pumping billions of dollars into countries that demonstrate a strong commitment to good governance, open markets, support for individual entrepreneurship, and the health and education of their people.
An equally exemplary -- albeit infinitely smaller-scale -- foreign aid bill was introduced by Sen. Clinton (NY) and Rep. Engel (NY). It would have promoted the development of small- and medium-size businesses in Kosova through microcredit lending, grants, equity investments, insurance, and loan guarantees (S.1284, H.R.2506).
t. Be generous! You can’t get around it -- generosity is the key to global affairs in a world filled with misery and woe beyond imagining. We gave points to all members who signed a December 11, 2003 letter to the President urging a substantial increase in the FY05 International Affairs Budget.
This Scorecard owes much to people employed by and/or websites maintained by the following: American Public Health Association, Campaign for U.N. Reform, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Center for Visionary Leadership, Centrists.Org, Citizens for Global Solutions, Concord Coalition, Environmental Defense, InterAction, International Healthy Cities Foundation, National Association for Gifted Children, National Foreign Trade Council, National Hydrogen Association, New America Foundation, Partnership for Effective Peace Operations, Partnership for Prevention, Progressive Policy Institute, Radical Centrism, RESULTS, Search for Common Ground, Trust for Early Education, U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, and USA*ENGAGE.
ACCESS TO THE SCORECARD
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