WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS) – The downtown streets near the Capitol are filling with extremists Wednesday morning, Alex Jones fanatics, QAnon loons, white supremacists and other assorted mixed nuts. They’re here with an extreme demand – that Congress discard the legitimate results of an American election.
So it’s fitting that this is a banner day for an often-reviled and underestimated current in our political culture – moderation.
Start with Georgia, once among the nation’s most extreme bastions of violent racism and anti-Semitism. Recoiling from the drooling conspiracy fantasies of the president and rejecting the absurd depictions of the Democratic candidates as “communists” who “hate America,” voters there will (pending confirmation of Jon Ossoff’s apparent victory) send an African-American and a Jew to the US Senate.
That marks the end of Mitch McConnell’s extremist management of the Senate, an era of rank hypocrisy and refusal to allow the core democratic activity of floor votes on key issues. And it dramatically enhances the power of relatively moderate Senate Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who become crucial swing votes.
And then there’s the president-elect, a moderate temperamentally, strategically and ideological.
For the right and left wings of American politics, this is infuriating. Moderates like to build consensus; non-moderates believe if you’re not with them, you’re against them. Moderates prefer to move slowly and cautiously; to the extremes, this is weakness. Extremists gravitate toward knee-jerk slogans like “defund the police” and “stop the steal”; moderates prefer policy prescriptions of longer than three words, and hesitate to make false, inflammatory charges against others.
However troubling it may be that a large minority of Georgia and the nation are willing to indulge in extremism, the fact remains that moderation won in November and won again Tuesday. Now it‘ s up to Joe Biden and other moderates to make sure this isn’t just a brief respite from the rise of the extremes.