Rise of the Revolutionary Moderate

What took place in Egypt between Jan. 25 and Feb. 11, 2011, was a revolution, but it was non-violent and it joined together disparate ideological factions, rich and poor, old and young, Christian and Muslim. It gave the lie to the notion that moderation in politics cannot be a revolutionary force for transformative change.

In the United States, we have put far too much stock in the idea that identity politics boils down, in this aftermath of centuries of discrimination, to liberal versus conservative, with two diametrically opposed views on every policy. Conservative activists are “radicals” somehow intent on ruining the middle class, while progressive activists are “revolutionaries” somehow intent on waging a Marxist class war.

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Red-Blooded Conservatives & Blue-Ocean Progressives

There is a fallacy at the heart of the political discourse of late 20th and early 21st century America: that conservatives and liberals are diametrically opposed, unable to work together, and committed at their very core to one another’s destruction. Certainly, when ideology comes into the debate, there are hotly contested arguments to be had. But honest conservatives and honest liberals have a lot more in common than we normally admit.

At the heart of what motivates people to call themselves conservative, there is an impulse to gravitate toward clarity, toward what is known to be good in people and in society, toward a set of principles by which society can find its way through the turbulent waters of an unknowable future. At the heart of what motivates people to call themselves liberal or progressive is a not-too-dissimilar impulse to gravitate toward reason, toward what is known to be good in people and in society, toward a set of principles by which we can work together to calm the seas of a turbulent and unknowable future.

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To Honor the Consent of the Governed

Today, the pro-democracy protest movement that began to put down roots in Egypt’s public life on January 25, 2011, at Midan Tahrir (or Liberation Square) in central Cairo, not only continued its expansion across the capital and throughout the nation, but achieved one of its major political aims: the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled as an authoritarian strongman for thirty years, without ever lifting the emergency laws that allowed him to crush dissent and marginalize political opposition.

February 11, 2011, must be remembered as a day when human decency and justice won out over the arbitrary acts of autocrats and torturers. Today must be remembered as a day when the idea that the only legitimate government is one that is formed with the consent of the governed was again affirmed by a diverse and impassioned political center demanding basic respect for fundamental values and the ethical treatment of all people.

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