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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Ruben Navarrette Jr.: In politics, centrists are the real action heroes

By Ruben Navarrette Jr. Washington Post

As someone who lives in the sensible center, and often feels as if I’m the only person in the neighborhood, my New Year’s resolution is to fully embrace the Goldilocks principle.

Avoid the extremes. It’s in the middle where you find truth, clarity and peace. The happy medium is just right.

When the discussion turns to politics – as it often did this year – you’ll occasionally hear people say it’s time to reclaim the center.

That’s not right. It’s more accurate to say that, in politics, it’s time for the center to reclaim some respect. The midway point needs to bulk up and stop apologizing to the radicals for not being as crazy as they are.

And who better to help us bulk up than a former bodybuilder and action movie star who muscled his way through the political process to become governor of the nation’s most populous state?

Arnold Schwarzenegger told us he’d be back, and now he is.

The 73-year-old Austrian immigrant is not running for office again or endorsing another candidate. Rather, he appears to be running a personal campaign to give some street cred to those of us who travel down the middle of the road. You know, next to the road markings and the animal carcasses.

Isn’t that what a lot of folks believe? That the center is for weaklings?

Wrong. Centrists are not wimps. How could that be true? We have to fight all the time, and on all fronts. We take all comers – out in the open.

The bomb throwers on the right or left will retreat to their ideological cave, where they’re protected by the likeminded.

No one protects centrists because we’re not in their camp 100% of the time. So we learn to stand alone, and defend ourselves. Our superpower is not caring what people think.

The real cowards are the folks who follow the crowd because they think strength comes from numbers.

Apparently, this didn’t occur to Jim Hightower, the irascible political commentator and Democratic activist who in the 1980’s served two terms as Agriculture Commissioner of Texas. His 1998 book – “There’s Nothing in The Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion” – started the attack on centrism.

When you’re in the center, you engage in critical thinking, and pick fights with partisans in both camps.

When you’re in the center, you have a constant beef with both liberals and conservatives.

When you’re in the center, you despise the political parties. You see Republicans and Democrats as a two-headed snake.

Most of all, when you’re in the center, you aim to be an honest broker. You call out lies, inconsistencies and double standards wherever they exist.

That’s how Schwarzenegger rolls. Politically, the Californian has always been in the center. Sure, while he was in office, the Republican was painted as a right-winger by Democrats and the liberal media. But it’s hard to make that caricature stick when your target is pro-immigrant, pro-environment, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control and pro-choice on abortion.

Today, the Terminator is detested by many Trump supporters in California, considered the epitome of a Hollywood RINO (Republican In Name Only) who leans to the left.

No matter. Schwarzenegger is comfortable standing in the middle of the road, and calling out both parties. That is the sermon he gave recently during an appearance on the CNN show hosted by Michael Smerconish, who also fashions himself a centrist.

Schwarzenegger said that he thought Joe Biden was elected president “because he appeared to be in the center.” This is a bipartisan trend, he suggested, that helped produce the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

“I believe with what Eisenhower said – politics is like a road,” Schwarzenegger said. “You know, the center is drivable. And the left and the right is the gutter.”

It’s clear that Schwarzenegger thinks Donald Trump strayed from the middle-of-the-road and governed from the gutter.

That’s true. In more ways than one.

“The center is where the action is,” Schwarzenegger said.

Listen to Arnold. He’s right. The center (BEG ITAL)is(END ITAL) where the action is, and where more Americans should make camp.

And, for the rest of the year – and all the years to come – that’s where you’ll find me.

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Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

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