"Radical Centrism"?!

Rohit Khare rohit at ics.uci.edu
Tue Aug 19 22:53:54 PDT 2003

> RadicalCentrism.org is an anti-partisan think tank based near 
> Sacramento, California,

No bonus points for divining which FoRK came up with the idea of 
telling Arnie to move *more* to the center. How can anyone be more 
radically centered than the center? Unless, of course, it's an 
eccentric proletariat :-)


An Open Letter to Recall Candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger

Dear Mr. Schwarzenegger:

Congratulations on your bid to become governor of America's most 
populous state. We know that much of the world considers this recall 
(and your campaign) little more than a wacky California joke. But we 
believe that the recall, despite its background of petty partisanship 
and sometimes childish rage, is a refreshing reminder that citizens 
want, need, and deserve good governance. And we applaud you for your 
goals of wanting to be pro-business, pro-environment, pro-education, 
and pro-fiscal responsibility, all at the same time.

Of course, we know where roads paved with good intentions can lead. 
Everyone is wondering how you are going to translate these lofty, even 
paradoxical, ideals into concrete proposals, policies, and priorities-- 
in short, into a real political platform. In case you are still 
hammering out the details of yours, we wanted to tell you about ours.

We are part of an emerging political movement called Radical Centrism. 
[1] We reject the extremism of an individualistic Right and a 
paternalistic Left, as well as the complacency of the so-called 
"sensible center." We believe that it is still possible to build a 
broad-based governing coalition to pursue fundamental change by 
pursuing three common-sense values:

i.	Listen critically to everyone
ii.	Make the hard decisions openly
iii.	Admit to your mistakes

The problem with professional politicians isn't that they're 
particularly evil or stupid; it's just that they've fallen into the 
very human trap of believing only their friends and ignoring their 
critics. As a result, they find themselves making ever greater 
compromises to maintain the allegiance of ever narrower vocal 
minorities. The only way out is not to worry whether your "core 
constituency" likes you, but instead to get the broad majority to 
respect you. That starts by treating everyone with respect, including 
and especially those who disagree with you (an approach sometimes 
called Aikido Politics). [2]

In particular, we would like you to recommend to you a Radical Centrist 
platform focused on a few key areas:

A. Fiscal responsibility
California's financial system reflects a tortured history of 
ideological and political battles. Each individual fight was often 
noble, but the end result was losing the war of financial discipline. 
We urge you to reform the process of how financial decisions are made, 
and to create a tax and budget process that is fair, transparent, and 
sustainable--regardless of who wins and loses. [3] Admit the truth: 
when we've spent ourselves into the indebtedness that our state has, 
there's no painless way out. We believe, however, that people are 
willing to accept painful decisions as long as they know that the 
process is honest, the pain will be shared, and the results will 
benefit everyone.

B. Professionalized education
The fundamental problem with public education isn't financial, but 
structural. Education reform is currently trapped between conservatives 
who seemingly want to abandon public education, and liberal teachers' 
unions and colleges who appear committed to protecting the present 
mediocrity. We believe that the best way to improve education is to 
train and reward teachers like professionals rather than bureaucrats. 
[4] In exchange for that newfound respect, however, parents and 
communities need to be able to hold educators accountable for their 
results, similar to what we expect from businesses and elected 
officials. It won't be easy, and it won't be cheap, but people are 
amazingly willing to make sacrifices if they believe that it will 
really help our kids.

C. Cost-effective Justice
If there's one thing citizens demand from their government, it is 
public safety. So it's time to admit that we aren't getting our money's 
worth from our antiquated and expensive criminal justice system. We 
need a justice system focused on directly addressing the causes and 
effects of crime, at both the individual and community level, rather 
than simply locking people up so we don't have to think about them. 
Many organizations are developing models based on the ideas of 
collaborative, therapeutic, or restorative justice, which focus on 
transforming communities yet still hold individuals accountable. [5] 
What is needed is leadership from someone tough enough to turn these 
models into reality.

D. Energy AND Environment
It's time to explode the myth that economic development and 
environmental stewardship are incompatible goals. With our natural, 
human, and technological resources, California has an opportunity to 
reap the rewards of making the world a better place. The National 
Energy Policy Initiative [6], an alliance of energy producers and 
environmental activists, shows that it is possible to find a common 
ground that can lead us to a money-making, lifestyle-enriching, 
environmentally- sustaining future. If did that in our state, we could 
show the world how to save both our trees and our SUVs. [7]

E. Political reform
You probably know better than anyone that this recall presents a unique 
opportunity to take your message directly to the people. Although it 
has generally served us well for centuries, the two-party system has 
now led to gatekeeper primaries where candidates are tested for 
ideological purity, as defined by the faithful few who show up. The end 
result is a calcification of political thought and a dearth of 
candidates who can represent majority viewpoints. To reinvigorate the 
political process, we encourage you to adopt (a) "instant runoffs" 
where voters rank candidates in order of preference, and (b) 
proportional Presidential voting, where the states' electors are 
divided based on the proportion of votes each candidate received. [8] 
Both might wreak havoc with existing party politics, but ultimately 
would improve both the choices and the impact of California citizens.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We know that you have some 
smart people on your staff, so hopefully they'll come up with even 
better ideas than these. But if nothing else, we hope that this 
encourages you to think "outside the box," and dare to make a radical 
change--a Radical Centrist change--in California. And perhaps the 
powers that be will discover that, even if the recall is a joke, it is 
a practical joke. On them.
Your Friends at RadicalCentrism.org

RadicalCentrism.org is an anti-partisan think tank based near 
Sacramento, California, which is seeking to develop a new paradigm of 
civil society encompassing politics, economics, and philosophy. We are 
dedicated to developing and promoting the ideals of Radical Centrism as 
expressed in our Radical Centrist Manifesto: The Ground Rules of Civil 


Radical Centrist thought is exemplified by such books as The Third Way 
(Anthony Giddens) and The Radical Center (Halstead & Lind), as well as 
Mark Satin's The Radical Middle Newsletter (See 
For a working example of Aikido Politics, see the Rocky Mountain 
Institute's definition of "Positive Action." 
For innovative thinking on taxation in the digital age, see The Radical 
Center (above), pp. 128-147.
The Radical Middle Newsletter, September / October 2002, "What Our 
Schools Need Now: Great Teachers, Great Teachers, Great Teachers." 
As one example, The PFI Centre for Justice and Reconciliation defines 
Restorative Justice as "a systematic response to wrongdoing that 
emphasizes healing the wounds of victims, offenders and communities 
caused or revealed by the criminal behavior." 
The National Energy Policy Initiative is a non-governmental, 
non-partisan, foundation-funded project designed to support the 
development of a stakeholder-based national energy policy. 
See the Rocky Mountain Institute's Hypercar(TM) project, which aims to 
spur development of vehicles such as a triple-efficiency SUV.
See Halstead & Lind's in-depth analysis of electoral reform in The 
Radical Center (above), pp. 109-123, arguably the most compelling 
section of the book.

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