What this country needs is fewer people who know what this country needs. We’d be better off, in my opinion, without so many opinions. Especially without so many political opinions. Including my own.
Our nation faces a multitude of puzzling, complex and abstruse problems. Most Americans aren’t sure what to do about them. But we lack politicians with the courage to say, “I’m not sure what to do about them either.” We even lack politicians with the courage to say, “I’m not sure what ‘abstruse’ means.”
Our economy has been upended by technological changes that make the Industrial Revolution look like James Watt putting a bigger teakettle on a hotter stove.
Our second Gilded Age, with its golden pathways across the ether, is a gold brick when it comes to crumbling roads, decaying bridges, rackety public transit, corroding water pipes and collapsing sewers.
A soaring economy has left absurd deprivation in the midst of ridiculous luxury. A click on a website can now deliver everything to everybody — except a living wage.
Meanwhile, we’re undergoing social changes so swift and profound that they’d send even the best cultural anthropologist fleeing. A latter-day Margaret Mead would flee to Samoa hoping to study something as relatively uncomplicated as teenagers.
Yet our political leaders all think they know the answer to “What is to be done?,” to quote Vladimir Lenin, a political leader who — among his other faults — flunked his own quiz.
The problem with opinions is that they’re not synonymous with accomplishing anything. I have three school-age children who have strong opinions about climate change but can’t remember to close the front door even in midwinter. The traditional dad line, “We’re not trying to heat the outdoors,” never worked, so now I appeal to their wokeness: “Hey, what are you, climate deniers?”
Then I drag the snowblower in from the garage to clear the front hall.
We need a political system that isn’t so darn sure of itself. It’s time for the rise of the Extreme Moderate. Power to the far middle! Let’s bring the wishy and the washy back together, along with the namby and the pamby, and the milque and the toast.
The Extreme Moderates’ nonnegotiable demand? Negotiation. We won’t compromise until we see some compromising. We want political action ... or inaction ... it depends.
We may be on different sides of the fence, but let’s make that fence top wider and better padded and go sit on it. Then, no matter if I’m of conservative ilk and you’re of liberal stripe, we can have a neighborly chat.
Should the government be Laissez? Should the government be Faire?
We’re all in favor of peace, but when the wolf dwells with the lamb and the leopard lies down with the kid, how often do we replace those sheep and goats?
Does Medicare for All mean young people have to wear trifocals and Depends and trade their bicycles for walkers?
If taxpayer money is used to pay for political campaigns, do taxpayers have 90 days to return politicians for a full refund?
Animal rights are important, but what about animal responsibilities?
These are all important questions. Let’s discuss them while making social justice more sociable. Here, have a nip from my hip flask. We might be able to come to some accommodation with each other’s views.
If today’s political leaders would rather burn the milquetoast and ignore the wishes of the wishy-washy, Extreme Moderates should hang them out with the wash and they’ll be toast. Mixed-metaphorically speaking, of course, because harsh words and rash actions are not our style.
Indeed, how to go about being an Extreme Moderate presents some problems. The kind of things that other extremists do seem so ... extreme. But I do have one idea: Free speech should not only be protected, it should be compulsory. Everyone with a strong political opinion should be required to wear a sign proclaiming it.
Hang an “Immigration Is Ruining America” placard around your neck and see how you get treated by restaurant staff, Uber drivers, the people who change your hotel linen and your immigrant grandparents.
Go see your personal physician with “I Want the Government to Run Your Doctor’s Office” lettered in Magic Marker across your abdomen. “Sorry, Sen. Warren, but it looks like we’re going to have to remove your other appendix.”
P.J. O’Rourke is editor in chief of the online magazine American Consequences. He wrote this for the Washington Post.