Trying To Find My Place in the Middle

A few weeks ago, I cancelled The Middle’s monthly subscriptions.

The reasons were plentiful.

The news roundups had become an expected part of the service but one that I had come to dread. Not only because immersing yourself in the news 24/7 can be incredibly depressing but also because it was monopolizing the time that I had intended to spend on reporting out human interest pieces and other feature stories. I knew that if I wanted to write truly impactful pieces that I would be unable to dedicate eight-hour sessions to summaries of the day’s top stories. Heck, I may go entire weeks without finding the time to post. And that obviously wouldn’t be fair to my subscribers.

So I cancelled the subscriptions partly because I wanted to grant myself the freedom to write what I wanted to write, instead of writing what I felt others deserved to receive in exchange for their generous and appreciated donations.

But if I’m being honest with myself, I think that I have to contend with the fact that my reasons extended a bit deeper.

If I’m being honest with myself, I think that I have to admit that I had begun to feel like a fraud.

Because I think it no coincidence that the article that sat unwritten on my desktop as I spiraled into this black hole of self-doubt was one that left me questioning whether I could truly call myself “The Middle” at all.

It was an article about the Republican Party.

And not a complimentary one, either.

The truth is, personal thoughts notwithstanding, I have always believed myself to be impartial. I do not harbor the warmest of feelings for Sens. Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley, for example, and yet I nonetheless concluded that they should not be ousted from the Senate in one of my earliest pieces for The Middle.

Because, ultimately, I can set my personal feelings aside in the interest of neutrality and fairness.

But I also believe that it is my duty to be frank and candid about the state of our politics and the challenges that we face as a republic. And right now, there is no bigger story than the Republican Party’s descent into conspiracy-driven madness.

Could I still be considered unbiased if I covered this without restraint? Could I still call myself “The Middle” if I were so plainly denigrating one of the sides?

These are the questions that I have sat with over the course of the past few weeks. The questions that took up residence in my conscience and forestalled the release of further content.

Until I came to a realization: that it would be unfair to let one party take ownership over our national discourse and singularly determine where “the middle” on the spectrum falls.

If the sum total of the Democratic Party suddenly became socialists, for instance, one would not consider the middle to now be situated somewhere on the left, simply because their shift in theory and party dynamics spawned a new scale.

Nor does the Republican Party wield that sort of power.

And, at the end of the day, facts are facts — much to the GOP’s chagrin. And I would be doing a disservice to my readers if I failed to address these facts simply because they reflect more negatively on one side than the other. As I said in the “About” section when I first launched our site, “We … recognize that impartiality does not [always] mean neutrality.” News, by its very nature, affects either a positive or negative bent, inevitably casting either a favorable or unfavorable light upon its subject. And it is up to the subjects to ensure that they are acting in a manner consistent with favorable coverage — not the journalists.

Because, in the end, it is the GOP who has changed, not me.

I still favor keeping the filibuster, even though it challenges progress. I am not in favor of packing the court, despite the fact that a minority of Americans have now chosen the majority of justices. I maintain these positions because I would want the other side to maintain them were the inverse true and they in a position of power. And when I draft my analyses of the issues, I do my best to provide alternative perspectives and various routes to accomplish similar ends — ones that are rooted in fact, economic theory, and science.

I, while a bit more progressive in my old age than in my youth, have not materially changed in how I view and address the issues.

And while my friends on the left will argue that the GOP hasn’t either — that these proclivities have always skimmed just below the surface — I disagree somewhat with that contention.

There is a reason, after all, why the party’s former leaders have come out in droves against its current iteration.

Late former Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Former President George W. Bush (who recently described the party as “isolationist, protectionist, and, to a certain extent, nativist”).

Former House Speaker John Boehner.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

These prominent leaders of the Republican Party, both past and present, have recognized the shift and thought it important to stand up against the rising tide of conspiracy theories and authoritarianism. And, if exhaustive, the list would continue ad infinitum.

Liz Cheney was removed from her leadership position by voice vote today for committing the grave offense of criticizing the former president’s un-American attempts at lying to the public about the sanctity of our elections and at holding onto power in contravention of our citizens’ will.

That is not normal.

In fact, little of this is normal.

The continued reverence for Matt Gaetz is not normal.

The rise of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert is not normal.

The “America First” caucus of the party that was set to place an emphasis on “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” would have been normal … in the days of colonization.

And tempted though we may be to dismiss this subset of the party as a radical minority, the vote on Cheney’s future today proves that it is anything but.

Cheney is not a “RINO who doesn’t advance the interests of the party,” as party leaders would have you believe. Cheney voted with Trump 93 percent of the time. Elise Stefanik? Her likely replacement? 78 percent.

That being said, this has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with the fact that Cheney was not going to allow the party to lie about the validity of our elections. It is a plain and reprehensible attack on democracy.

But that is the prescribed form these days.

The Republican Party has devolved into a dangerous, anti-American dictator mill that is content to peddle conspiracy theories at the expense of truth and the rule of law. They delight in roiling the waters and kicking up the sediment beneath, sacrificing competent legislating in an effort to enflame the emotions of their core base. And the more radical we allow them to become without consequence, the greater the threat to our republic and to rational, sane governance everywhere.

I guess I could stay mum on that, in the interest of upholding some fanciful appearance of neutrality.

But as Rep. Cheney said in her speech on the eve of her ouster, “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

I, too, am done letting the Republican Party and its brazen indifference to democratic norms quiet my objections.

I will not sit back and watch in silence as these lies are propagated and emboldened by our country’s leaders.

None of us should participate in that.

No matter where on the spectrum we fall.

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