I did not coin the phrase, alt-middle. I heard it first on a ZDogg MD video. Near as I can tell, no one has quite defined the alt-middle, but I certainly feel like there is a demand for this political view. Someone described it to me as, “common-sense liberalism.”
In our present age of political outrage and polarization, many people feel politically left behind. Many of my readers might hold conservative opinions (I have a few) but take a basically liberal view.
How does this jibe with those farther left, who see every problem as a problem with capitalism? How does this jibe with the right, who are trying to hold on to the values and mores of an America that no longer exists? I don’t think the alt-middle can solve those problems, but what I think people are really hunger for are some common-sense solutions to the issues in this country.
Do we have the time right now to overthrow capitalism and create gay-luxury-space-communism? No. But can we improve the conditions of everyone by engaging in creating public good? Yes.
Folks on the left have criticized Bill Maher for taking a “right-wing” turn, especially since the pandemic. I wrote to myself about it. His remarks have turned many off his show. On his podcast, he admits that his new view has hurt ratings. I quit watching mostly because I was tired of his rants about fat people, but I appreciated some of his political views, and occasionally, I’ll catch a clip on YouTube Shorts or Tik Tok. Bill Maher is certainly no conservative. I did mention that he has grown old enough to become the thing he once stood against. Bill Maher has been a part of my life since the 1990s when he was on Politically Incorrect. Back then, it was thumbed it at the establishment and complain about everything. Now, he seems to be doing the same thing but about a different kind of establishment. Now, it’s complaining about the liberal, scolding, “woke” establishment growing out of social media that has radically changed how we view things over the past 20 years. Sex jokes are out, flirting is cringy, and LGBTQIA+ is now untouchable. This is a far cry from even the early Aughts.
Part of the appeal of Donald Trump is that he was willing to stand up and say that the system was rigged and even rigged in his favor. He was willing to be a voice for those whom Hillary Clinton described as “deplorables.” However, Trump is not the typical conservative who is cutting taxes for the wealthy and gutting social programs. Trump put money back into the pockets of regular people through an expensive tax cut. He ran up the national debt faster than any previous president to accomplish that goal. This is indicative of where the country is, I think. When you poll Americans about popular programs, you can find bipartisan support for some things. This is one of the reasons why the GOP has been struggling more broadly. When I hear Trump supporters or others discuss the issues our society faces, I find that we have more in common than we might think. The main difference is between who is to blame and what the specific harms are more generally. When it comes to universal healthcare, there are many people who are willing to support the idea. Taxing the wealthy and corporations has broad appeal because most people have figured out that we have been collectively fleeced. However, there really isn’t any appealing to this politic. Any candidate who affirmed school choice, was open to Trans people but not excited about trans treatments being offered to children and wanted to expand social programs in a way that made sense then that person would like do very well in a national election.
In our two parties, static system, most people are leaving the major parties behind and are simply choosing to be independent. This has two effects: in closed primary systems, the most extreme members of both parties end up choosing the candidates. It also shows that most people do not feel like they are being well represented by the two major parties. Part of this is structural: we have a winner-take-all system, and that naturally devolves into a two-party system. This means that most Americans have two choices, and the major parties are stuck between trying to appeal to a centrist view while being pulled by their most die-hard members.
The two-party system has left most people without any true representation. This has gotten far worse since 2010. The last 13 years have been marked by ever-increasing division in the country. If you look at online dialogue, they will say that it is about “values” and “worldview” but is that really true? Liberal people want their kids to go to good schools just as much as conservative parents. Nobody wants their kids in bad, underfunded schools. People want roads to drive on that are in good repair, and they want the government to be responsible to their needs or at least don’t make their lives any harder.
This is where the alt-middle comes into play.
A New Politic
There are those who are already rolling their eyes about this idea. For many on the Left (and a few on the right) centrism is a dirty word. It represents an affront to their closely held beliefs and their extreme views. In a world where you have to choose a tribe, not choosing a tribe becomes a revolution act in itself. But that is also why it is important to break out of the binary. If we can have more than two genders, we can certainly manage more than two political parties. The likelihood of us getting more political parties is a distant dream that requires structural change. However, 2016 showed us that there is a real hunger for new and different ideas. There are people who don’t want to have to subscribe to the “latest social cause” that is being promoted by the Democrats, but don’t feel the need to lick the boot of corporations like Republicans. These people would like a functional society where there is a modicum of control by those who have decided to be self-governing.
One of the reasons I call our current system Corporate Statism is because the binary is very convenient for major Corporations because nothing really ever changes and nothing gets done in government. This is perfect for businesses who never have to price in change or (heaven forbid) lose money because the government changed the rules. Extreme politics where neither side can agree to anything keeps the system in a permanent state of wheel-spin. This is great for the Fortune 500, but is not advantageous for anyone who regularly goes through a school pick-up line. Binary statism is why something like the Alt-Middle is revolutionary.
Centrism or the alt-middle asks us to step outside of tribes and binary decisions and make real decision in our lives. We can question the Covid-19 vaccine and believe that lock-downs were unnecessary while also promoting the use of precautions that actually make sense, are backed up by evidence. We can promote mass transit without deciding that everything wrong with the country began with the internal combustion engine. Likewise, we can work on policies and solutions that work for real people. When I have these kinds of conversations with people, we find harmony and synergy that supposed to be the marker for a great democracy.
If we want to break out of the corporate-controlled binary, then it’s time we embrace centrism. It’s time we leave our tribes behind and have real conversations and begin to infiltrate the government to make real decisions about our lives. Agency is required. Organization and hard work are also required, but I think when you appeal to where the vast majority of people are at and begin having conversations that make sense and vibe well with people, great things can happen. Let’s all join the Alt-Middle. No more right; no more Left, let’s be in the middle together!