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I WITNESS: It is lonely in the middle

I know that there are far more of us in the center than at the margins, but the margins seem to be running the show these days.

We talk a lot these days about fringes and extremes—MAGA Republicans this, Squad-aligned Democrats that—and because they bray, howl and bark from the margins, they dominate every news cycle, every event, and every conversation, while doing nothing to find real solutions to real problems.

I have heard it said that if you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart, and if you don’t become more conservative as you age, you have no brain. While I find that sentiment glib and overly simplistic, I do think there is some truth there, at least as it might apply to my own political evolution.

I was exceedingly liberal in my youth (has a heart—check) and have drifted gradually center-ward since about the age of 40 (has a brain—check). I know that there are far more of us in the center than at the margins, but the margins seem to be running the show these days. Far left and far right representatives in Congress, the Senate, in state legislatures and governor’s offices, in the judiciary, and, yes, occasionally in the Oval Office, spend what appears to be most of their time thwarting each other, playing “gotcha,” and engaging in revenge politics. In my mind, this is detrimental to good governance in general, and to American democracy in particular.

Anyone who is familiar with the bell curve understands that the bulk of any population falls somewhere in the middle, at about 55 percent. The fringe on the right stands at about 23 percent, as does the fringe on the left. So it appears that the comparatively few are making miserable the lives of the comparatively many.

Thanks to the fringes, women across the country have not only lost access to abortion care, but are required to lie dying in hospital parking lots until they are sufficiently septic to receive medical attention. Twelve-year-old victims of rape or incest are being forced to give birth to their rapist’s babies, and parents who try to intervene are criminalized, as are their doctors.

Thanks to the fringes, trans students are having their medical records seized and examined by state governments, in direct violation of patient privacy and confidentiality laws.

Thanks to the fringes, the most stringent and comprehensive bipartisan immigration overhaul since Reagan is DOA in the House because a single maniacal, malignant narcissist in Florida wants it that way.

Thanks to the fringes, Alejandro Mayorkas, head of Homeland Security, is now the subject of a sham impeachment exercise, because it is way more fun to blame an individual for a broken border than it is to provide him with proper enforcement tools by way of a legislative overhaul.

Thanks to the fringes, the United States Capitol was sacked by a bunch of brainwashed barbarians.

Thanks to the fringes, Vladimir Putin is being handed the sovereign, democratic nation of Ukraine on a silver platter, and I predict that if Trump regains the presidency, it won’t be long before he hands the United States to Putin on a silver platter as well.

Thanks to the fringes, we may find ourselves alone, without a single democratic ally on the world stage.

Thanks to the fringes, school and community libraries are being forced to either close their doors or purge their shelves of books discussing this country’s long record of racism and homophobia. Thanks to the fringes, a local public school in Great Barrington was recently raided by the police, looking for a single “objectionable” title, and Berkshire Hills almost lost a truly great teacher because of it.

Thanks to the fringes, the Voting Rights Act has been gutted, and congressional districts have been deliberately gerrymandered to disenfranchise voters of color.

I would like to remind those of you in the center that you constitute a majority. If you prefer a reasonable approach to solving the nation’s problems, built on collaboration and negotiation between honorable and principled legislators (whom I believe are just as frustrated as the rest of us), then you will need to vote this November.

If you believe that all voters should have adequate representation in government, then you will need to vote this November.

If you are a woman who would like to liberate her reproductive organs from government intrusion, then you will need to vote this November.

If you would prefer to have a president who is neither a sexual predator, an aspiring dictator, nor a kleptocrat, then you will need to vote this November.

If you were horrified by the “Handmaid’s Tale” rebuttal to Biden’s recent State of the Union address, then you will need to vote this November.

Not voting because you believe that all of the candidates are equally flawed only serves to hand another term to people who are determined to burn it all down.

So go vote. Overcome your ambivalence, frustration, and sheer political exhaustion. Hold your nose and vote for the candidates that you believe are the most likely to work on behalf of those of us in the center, lest you hand your democracy to the lunatic fringe. Vote for the candidates who will do the least harm to America. There is no perfect candidate, but it isn’t difficult to see which candidates are dangerous to our democracy.

They are pretty easy to identify.

Just turn on the television.

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