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As we near the anniversary of “A View from the Center,” I thought it was time to revisit what this site and these columns are about.
Most important is my firm belief, supported by ample polling, that Americans have a shared identity and agree on much more than they disagree. They have far more common ground that unites them than disagreements that divide them. We see ourselves as Americans first, and hope to fashion a better country and better world.
To quote the speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that launched Barack Obama into the national consciousness, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America. The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.”
Of course, the conventional wisdom is the opposite, with the usual apocalyptic predictions from politicians, academia, and the national media. The self-serving behavior of the major political parties, many news sources, and talk radio feed the belief that Americans are severely polarized.
“News” organizations, especially on cable, profit from conflict, getting higher ratings by giving megaphones to loudmouths on the extremes and providing confirmation bias to partisans. Fairness and objectivity disappear as cable networks become little more than echo chambers for the left or the right. No wonder Americans’ trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly dropped to 36% last year, the second lowest on record, according to Gallup.
The major political parties sow division because they are beholden to the extremists in their respective bases. Pandering to them, the parties repeatedly take positions that are antithetical to the majority of Americans. Only 43% of adults in the U.S. had a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party in Gallup’s September 2021 “Party Images” survey, just one percentage point higher than the all-time low. The GOP did even worse, with only 40% of Americans viewing it favorably.
It’s no surprise then that only 21% of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, according to Gallup’s most recent monthly poll.
The irony, as I argue in a separate column, is that most Americans live ideologically in a somewhat amorphous center, sometimes leaning left, sometimes leaning right, but generally forming a moderate majority even on the most contentious issues.
Americans are concerned about freedom of speech, with 84% in the NYT/Siena survey saying it is a very or somewhat serious problem that some people don’t speak freely in everyday situations because of fear of retaliation or harsh criticism. A Hill-HarrisX poll found 71% of registered voters say “cancel culture” has gone too far, and 69% say it unfairly punishes people for past actions or statements. That includes majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.
Polls show almost three-quarters of Americans believe the rioters who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2020, were mostly threatening democracy. Only one quarter believed they were protecting it.
Almost three-quarters of Americans believe the U.S. government is not doing enough to reduce inflation or relieve disruptions in the supply chain, according to a CNN survey.
According to another Pew survey, strong majorities exist for banning assault-style weapons and making all gun sales subject to background checks.
Huge majorities, including Republicans, believe it should be illegal for employers or health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
Maybe most important, 88% of Americans are very or somewhat proud to be American, according to a New York Times/Siena College survey.
Are there issues where the U.S. is more divided? Sure, with immigration/border security possibly most prominent among them. However, they are the exception to the rule.
What Exactly Is “A View from the Center’s Approach?
AVC will look at issues in a non-partisan manner, highlighting the shared identity and common ground most Americans share, while criticizing and praising both sides when they deserve it.
To be clear, this is an opinion site. While I will be fair and objective in reporting facts and the opinions of others, I will take positions. They could lean left or right, just as the opinions of the moderate middle do.
I will use polls to help me determine where Americans stand on the issues. If you are one of those who rejects polls out of hand, this site is not for you.
“A View from the Center” is an illustrative title and should not be taken literally. The objective is not to find an absolute middle between the extremes on every issue. As I wrote above and in earlier columns, the moderate majority leans right on some issues and leans left on others. But, to put it bluntly, no middle exists when it comes to confronting bigotry, fascism, communism, and threats to American democracy.
AVC's guiding philosophy is that there is no guiding philosophy other than common sense, the majority opinion of the American people, and respect for the U.S. Constitution and its principles.
I trust the American people to know what the right thing is to do, not Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, the Democrats, or the Republicans. If my personal opinion diverges from the moderate majority, I will make that clear.
Who is “A View from the Center for?
Those who believe in American exceptionalism, but don’t ignore America’s faults.
Those who don’t call progressives “communists” or conservatives “fascists.”
Those who are mystified by Americans who clamor for socialism.
Those who reject separating migrant children from their parents and believe immigrants have made America great, but understand the need for a country to protect its borders.
Those who believe politics have no business interfering with science.
Those who want urgent action to protect the environment, but know the “Green New Deal,” as initially proposed, would bankrupt the country.
Those who are painfully aware of the desperate need to address racism and discrimination against minorities but don’t believe in identity politics.
Those who don't call people offended by language as “snowflakes,” but believe political correctness and wokeness are often taken to unacceptable extremes.
Those who reject censorship, even of those we strongly disagree with, unless utterances create a clear and present danger.
Those who don’t believe in American adventurism, but dismiss extreme isolationism.
Those who don’t want the U.S. to be the policeman of the world, but know it must step in to stop evil and prevent genocide.
Those who can’t comprehend the fiscal irresponsibility of Democrats and Republicans who keep running record deficits, indebting our children and grandchildren.
Those who know we must transcend political polarization to strengthen an inclusive notion of American identity.
Who isn’t it for?
QAnon believers and other extremists who haven’t met a conspiracy theory they don’t love.
Antifa anarchists, who prefer to destroy than improve.
White supremacists, racists, or anyone inclined to discriminate against people because of their different race, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, age, or just about anything else.
Misogynists who inspired the #MeToo movement.
People who believe the COVID-19 pandemic was created by Bill Gates and Tony Fauci and that vaccines are putting microchips in our bodies.
Anyone who even remotely thinks the January 6 attack on the Capitol was justified.
Who Are You?
Shorthand bio: I’m Cuban American, born in Havana, but I grew up in the Venezuela, where I graduated from law school. I then went to Harvard Law School and practiced law in Manhattan. After a few years, I became a journalist, first in Spanish-language television, then in English, working as an anchor and reporter in local, national broadcast, and national cable news, most prominently as the news anchor and chief correspondent for “Good Morning America.” I have lived in eight states, traveled to almost all of them, and reported from four continents. I am currently the Wolfson Chair at the University of Miami’s School of Communication.
Where can I read “A View from the Center”?
You can sign up for a newsletter and receive whatever I write whenever I publish, which will probably be about twice a week. You can always come to this site (https://aviewfromthecenter.bulletin.com/) whenever you’d like. For now, it’s all free.
I hope you enjoy it and that you engage with comments. I will do my best to respond.
Am I concerned about the toxicity you often see in political discussion on social media, opinion pages, and cable television?
Am I concerned that the venomous behavior is undermining essential American institutions, as set forth by Jonathan Haidt in his powerful piece for The Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid?”
Am I concerned about a growing rift between an urban American and a suburban/rural one?
I just disagree with the cataclysmic conclusions about American polarization, believing that data and experience prove that most of us are willing and able to differ philosophically while maintaining respectful behavior towards one another.
Obama was right 18 years ago: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”
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