Moderate Doesn’t Mean Weak

I have been getting leaned on a bit by some of the Democratic Party elders. Their subtle, nuanced message amounts to: lay the hell off Tony Evers, you asshole.

This has caused me to reflect on what it means to be a moderate.

First, a quick recap. I was so unhappy with Gov. Evers’ decision to sign a thoroughly conservative Republican budget that I ripped off a handful of columns in which I called for somebody to step up and challenge him in a primary. That strikes even me as being something other than moderate. After all, Evers comes from the mainstream wing of our party, he certainly has a reasonable temperament, he’s not given to flashy symbolic displays or divisive language. Generally speaking, I like the guy.

So, it’s kind of odd that a site that dedicates itself to center-left moderation and practical politics would be among the strongest voices in the state criticizing this governor, and the only one, so far as I can tell, that is calling for him to be primaried.

What gives? Why am I so peeved with Evers when all the party heavyweights and even firebrand lefties are toeing the company line?

The reason I’ve been so critical of Evers is that I don’t believe he is representing moderation very well.

Let’s start with substance. Evers did not sign a moderate budget; he signed a conservative one. The big tax cut in the Republican budget is skewed heavily toward the well off. If you make $30,000 a year, the tax cut Evers signed will save you $50. If you make $90,000, it’ll save you $555. Make three times more, get ten times the benefit. That’s the Republican way.

Further, the budget shortchanges public education and environmental protection. It continues to shun Federal money for Medicaid expansion. It fritters away the governor’s only real point of leverage to get a fair redistricting process.

We even have our own beer. A microbrewery in Brunswick, Maine.

Now let’s turn to process. A hallmark of moderation is willingness to compromise. But there was no compromise or negotiation in this budget. Evers proposed a budget. The Republicans tossed it out and passed their own. Evers signed Robin Vos’ budget. End of story.

So when you have a moderate governor who signs a conservative budget that is in no way the product of compromise, you’ve got a governor who is doing no favors for the cause of moderation.

Moderate means being reasonable, it means listening to other points of view, it means being willing to compromise. But it most definitely does not mean weakness, caving in without a fight or not believing in anything.

As a matter of fact, in a world that has become so polarized, moderates probably need to fight harder than anybody to stake their claim to a piece of the public square. Standing between the trenches is a pretty dangerous place to be. It takes some fortitude. When a moderate looks like he just won’t fight for anything at all, it reflects poorly on the whole cause of moderation. That’s my problem with Evers.

Look folks, there are plenty of party regulars who are just going to fall into line and there are plenty of Republicans who are going to make goofy charges that Evers is a socialist. (Wait. If Evers signed Vos’ budget and Evers is a socialist, doesn’t that make Vos a socialist?)

The one argument that the elders make that does give me some pause is that something I’ve written might make it harder for Evers to win the general election, assuming he’s the nominee and there is no primary, or that he prevails in one. But as I explained earlier this week, my arguments may or may not resonate among primary voters. They don’t work against him in a general election. In fact, the idea that Evers has some unrest on his left helps him in defusing the inevitable attack that he’s been captured by the far left in his own party.

I’m a center-left moderate Democrat. I’m neither a Republican nor a blindly loyal Democratic partisan. I understand that some of the party faithful don’t like it, but I’m going to keep writing stuff that I think makes sense.

This is the 156th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “Moderate Doesn’t Mean Weak

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