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Every educated liberal has that moment of clarity at some point in their life. A fleeting instant where all of the pretenses of their typical college incubated socialism disappear and one is left staring, with amazement, at just how effective this little capitalist experiment truly is.  I’m sure the standard college hard-right winger experiences it as well, absorbing the country’s success all the while criticizing the very institution that keeps it that way.

In intellectual political circles, the Poli-Sci departments are often so separated from the business schools that the cultures rarely meet . Instead, these business schools leave many otherwise progressive-minded students with the mindset that since money makes the world go round, and Republicans let you keep more of it, it’s a no-brainer. Liberals leave college with an anorectic view of the business world, many failing to see that the expansion of enterprise and the solidifying of a progressive society are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

In both the Republican and Democratic parties, we see individuals who are challenging these notions. Prominent Democrats like Nextel co-founder Mark Warner prove that there is room for conscience in business and Republicans like Arlen Specter remind us that conservatism is about creating responsive government, not using it to impose narrow blanket moral ideals.

The Republican Party is, as it was in 1964 with the nomination of Goldwater over Rockefeller, at an ideological crossroads. In that election, the new conservative ideological backbone for the party was laid and held relatively steady for the next 30 years. This new concept of conservatism, a focus on individual achievement and government accountability, inspired candidates from across the political spectrum. Not only did it fundamentally change the Republicans and their various competing social and economic ideologies…it changed liberals and Democrats as well.

Conservatism simultaneously bloomed during and was perverted by the Reagan administration. With the politics of optimism and personal responsibility being tainted by the immense power of the office, Reagan preached shrinking the government while he expanded the military to a historic size and scope.

Today, we are at yet another crossroads in the ever evolving ideologies of American politics. Should we liberalize the markets and let a vibrant economy ebb and flow or should we socialize commerce to better protect consumers? Should the government have a say in what is and isn’t moral or should we promote tolerance across the board?

A better question would be, does a middle even exist?

In American politics the parties like to be boiled down to the Right promoting free markets and government regulated social issues while the Left promotes government regulated economy and social liberalism…two perfectly complimentary views that together make for a very cozy tug of war.

The problem with this narrow view of political ideology is that it doesn’t take into account the nuances of particular issues and their effects on the society at large.

Case in point: A slim majority of Americans support the death penalty, and of that pool of supporters a sizable plurality would support capital punishment for rapists, and child molesters. Many of them would probably offer to do it themselves actually.

But if the punishment for rape and murder were the same, would that not encourage criminals to kill their victims for the chance at getting away? All of a sudden support for the death penalty begins to decline. Things are no longer so cut and dry.

This is American politics in a nutshell, a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.

There have ALWAYS been two parties in America, two sides of the same coin.  When those sides begin to separate, when they deviate from each other in the name of “base politics” and pandering, then there is no coin left.

To take this lovely little metaphor a bit further, centrism protrays itself as the defining line, the point at which the coin can perfectly balance itself and faithfully represent both sides of the argument.  Only that doesn’t happen, does it? Physics gets in the way.

In politics, as in nature, a coin can only rest on its side.

That coin can be flipped.

Let’s keep on flippin guys.