Can a Nation Survive without a Center?

By Ray Hanania

November 18, 2022

America is polarized by leaders of the far Left and far Right rallying voters by fear mongering and bullying, leaving a thoroughly blistered political center almost void of responsible leadership.

Can an airline company survive long with only two hard edged wings and no fuselage to carry passengers? No.

Can a nation survive without a center?

What the country needs is a resurgence of a voting phenomenon that characterized much of the latter half of 20th Century American politics:

the “Reagan Democrats,” Centrists who were Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans.

These “Centrists” embraced fundamental principles of family values, that the institution of the American family be protected from government intrusion, reinforcing not restricting or eliminating religious freedoms, and standing firm against the belief that today’s majority population is responsible for the racism of generations and centuries before, and should be punished.

In practical terms, the rise of the “Reagan Democrats” isn’t the result of the political right cannibalizing stray Democratic “moderates.”

Rather, the Reagan Democrats were ostracized and purged by the Left because of their commitment to conservative principles like family values, belief in religion and the resistance to the growing movement of far-Left extremists.

Now politics is the religion for many. Now government is the catechism. And that leaves little room for traditional Democrats.

When the Democrat Party was at its strongest, it could publicly profess a belief system that was commonly held by the vast majority of Americans: a belief in God, in the American family, and the country. Over the years, moderate Democrats were driven out of the party. They had no place to go. They found Ronald Reagan.

November 1980 NBC Election Day Exit Poll

It began with Newt Gingrich who mastered the politics of personal attacks during the Clinton years to push aside issues as a debate focus and instead set his sights on attacking people.

Gingrich believed he could use that strategy to win back support from the Reagan Democrats — conservative Democrats disillusioned by their party’s steady movement to the far Left — who elected Ronald Reagan as president in November 1980 but slowly waned after his departure eight years later.

After Reagan, the so-called Reagan Democrats were basically leaderless with no center left among the Democratic party. President Bill Clinton responded by talking tough on crime while trying to occupy the political center, but the Democrat Party kept pushing to the political left.

The idea of being a “conservative Democrat” or Liberal Republican may sound odd today, given the sharpness of today’s political discourse and the polarization separating the two parties. But the Reagan Democrats were not an organization. Rather they were a movement of political disenfranchisement that swung elections from the extreme.

Its members were voters unsatisfied with their party’s leadership and the shift to the far Left but who were also wary of what they feared was the growing movement, represented by Gingrich, of the far Right.

Conservative Democrats believed that Republican Ronald Reagan–himself a former Democrat whose anti-communist position led him to a Republican conversion in the 1950—could represent them better than the national Democratic Party candidates.

First there was President Jimmy Carter, who was viewed by working class Democrats as too liberal and too weak; and four years later Carter’s Vice President Walter Mondale was trounced by Reagan.

Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980 and then Mondale in November 1984. Democrats believed that Mondale, who had balanced off Carter’s far Left liberalism, would be a stronger candidate. But his appeal wasn’t strong enough to win conservative Democrats back to the fold.

It’s not too difficult to see that during the years between Gingrich and President Donald Trump voters are crying out for a more “Centrist” responsible leadership.

What Reagan Democrats/Liberal Republicans want is some form of compromise that protects their principles and the American way of life.

For years, the Reagan Democrats were characterized as “moderate” Democrats who opposed the push to the far Left.

But in recent years, those same Reagan Democrats have included liberal Republicans who want the focus to return to the center, to hold down taxes, stem the weaponization of race and bring the focus back to confronting real racism, real anti-Semitism and other “isms” weaponized to bully conservative centrist voters into silence.

But the Center needs courageous leaders who can represent their core political principles and build consensus based on issues, rather than on polarization, rhetoric of epithets.

One of the problems fueling today’s polarization is the mainstream news media, mainly from the Left, which uses bullying labels like “election deniers” to describe anyone who believe voter theft is a reality in this country.

They don’t call it “Crook County” for nothing.

Stealing votes is a foundation of America’s Democracy, a flaw that is only aggravated by technology. It helped elected President John F. Kennedy when the Chicago mob conspired with Kennedy’s father to steal votes to swing Illinois. It turns out his partnership with Texas U.S. Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson made that theft irrelevant.

Today, the idea that votes were stolen has been weaponized to slam and discredit supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The purveyors of this slander against those who question the voter propriety of the 2020 election are empowered by the biased mainstream news media who have no problem undermining the U.S. Constitution or the First Amendment Right to Free Speech when it suits them.

The far Left has hijacked and remolded the definition of the First Amendment to permit violence by their supporters, such as the year-long wave of destruction and violence that followed the accidental killing of drugged up petty criminal George Floyd in cities across the country.

On the contrary, these same far Left-wing extremists defended the criminals who destroyed thousands of businesses during the BLM/Antifa/George Floyd riots. The urged punishment and defunding of police who tried to enforce the law, and hypocritically used the protests of January 6, 2021, to condemn and indict tens of millions of Americans, many of whom had once been Democrats.

Protestors angry with what they believed was the theft of votes — a core foundation of America’s flawed voting system process — took to the streets to demand justice in much the same way as others protested against racism and woman’s rights.

The crowds were estimated to be in the thousands, maybe 35,000 or more. Only a small handful of that large movement turned to violence and in fact less than 1,000 charges have been filed against that group, most of the charges involved trespassing although some went too far and engage in physical violence resulting in deaths.

And precious little discussion about whether federal law enforcement may have stationed instigators at the protests.

What bothers many in what is left of the political center: They can’t publicly discuss and question what happened lest they’re attacked, hounded and silenced by the defenders of the Jan. 6 inquisition.

Was it an “insurrection” or maybe just an emotional protest gone wrong much like the larger and more destructive protests of the Black Lives Matter movement following the George Floyd death.

This emotional divide, fueled by racism in the mainstream news media against anyone who demands justice for all — “All Lives Matter” has been slammed by this failed media as a “racist term — has created an environment in which the country not only is on the path to civil war, but has undermined our strength in the eyes of foreign tyrants like those in Tehran, Pyongyang and Moscow.

America needs Democrats and Republicans who believe in this country, our constitution, the Rule of Law applied fairly across the board not when it suits a movement or media, and the principle of free speech led debate to stand up and take charge.

We can’t confuse the centrism that is needed with the betrayal of self-serving opportunists like Liz Cheney, nominally a Republican and the daughter of the man who orchestrated the failed war in Iraq over fake Weapons of Mass Destruction; or her comrade, Adam Kinzinger.

Kinzinger and Cheney joined far Left Democrats so they could falsely label the “House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol” as being “bipartisan” when it certainly is not. There is nothing bipartisan about the Jan. 6 Committee. It was a political weapon.

We must correct the sickness that has transformed our politics and the mainstream American news media, and restore objective and fair journalism, separating today’s news reporting from the opinion that drives it.

Reagan Democrats are alive and well. They may have been driven out of the party by left-wing extremists who constantly complain about “extremism,” but they love America too.

They support the law. They know the nation needs strong institutions. They want change to strengthen and restore America.

They want an honest mainstream news media. And they want to end today’s polarized self-destructive politics of bullying, silencing and hate.


Ray Hanania is a columnist and former Chicago City Hall reporter. He is also one of the first guest columnists to submit commentary at He can be reached at

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