Conscious Aging: Longing for a Sensible Middle

In this era of Trump’s miserable degradation of our civic life, I hold tenaciously to the thought of a sensible middle of Democrats and Republicans and Independents who will, before the next election, snap out of Trump mania and return us to the founding American story.

Quite the illusion, apparently, with not much basis in what’s really going on — extreme tribalism and partisanship The article is about a group called The Third Way, who wants to believe what I do about a sensible center and did a listening tour around rural Wisconsin to find all those people waiting to discover how much more they had in common than they realized. Oops. As Atlantic journalist Molly Ball writes, the Third Way people didn’t exactly hear what they expected.

“This was a direct attack on the very premise of Third Way’s existence. These were not the ideas of the middle 70 percent. These were not the voices of an America that wanted to find mutual understanding with its neighbors. They were, essentially, separatists, proud of their extremism and disdainful of the unenlightened.

It was after this exchange that Hale, after she and Watson got back into the Yukon to debrief, as they did after every session in order to compose their eventual after-action report, had to stop and vent. Her problem wasn’t that people were wrong. She had managed to maintain her equanimity while hearing other groups express opinions she disagreed with. It was that they didn’t want to get along.

Ironically, Ball tells us, the Third Way people wrote up a report that seemed to confirm their preconceptions, as if they hadn’t really heard the people of rural Wisconsin, or had heard them but couldn’t quite believe they meant what they said.

It was gratifying to Nancy Hale to find, in the end, that America wasn’t lost. To be sure, there had been moments that made her wonder. But as she looked back on it, she had managed to edit those moments out of her memory. The American people, she concluded, were not as divided and irreconcilable as the election made them seem. Progressive neoliberalism was not a lost cause. The world she believed in before—the world she preferred to inhabit—was the one she and her fellow American explorers had managed to find: not a strange land at all but a reassuring one.”

Apparently, on all sides of the current divide, we all hear what we want to hear and believe what we want to believe. And the wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency rumbles on.


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