“Any serious talk of pragmatism and compromise in American politics usually ends with some nettlesome questions: What about the social issues? What about abortion? What about gun control? These are issues on which reasonable people disagree passionately. Anyone who tells you that there is a “right” answer on abortion has not spent much time thinking about the issue or lacks the empathy to appreciate how other people think about it. Americans’ views on these issues tend to be theological — literally in many cases. No amount of arguing or data gathering is going to change anyone’s core values; we’ve dug our intellectual trenches and hunkered down.
So how can a party built around the idea of pragmatism and compromise deal with issues whose defining feature is a deep and conflicting vision of what is right and wrong?
With pragmatism and compromise. Here is the fundamental insight: Reasonable people disagree about whether or not abortion should be illegal; but no reasonable person thinks that abortion is a good thing.
Reasonable people disagree about how readily guns should be available and what the requirements for purchase ought to be; but no reasonable person wants guns to fall into the hands of criminals or those who are dangerously mentally ill.
There are plenty of other social issues: drug policy, stem cell research, flag burning, the death penalty, and so on. In time, the Centrist Party will have to wrestle with them all. For now, abortion and guns will do a fine job of illustrating how the Centrist Party can bring people together on issues that normally drive them apart. The key to diffusing these ideologically charged social issues is refocusing them on two more pragmatic questions: 1) What is the real harm to society associated with this activity? 2) How can we minimize that harm? The answers to those questions will dictate Centrist policy. Is that going to make everybody happy? Of course not. But the purpose of the Centrist Party is not to make everybody happy, particularly the political poles. The purpose of the Centrist Party is to craft an agenda that a large swathe of underrepresented moderate American voters can get behind. On the major social issues, that’s entirely possible.”