A new group tries to save democracy from Trumpism

You’ll run into those who claim there are no California moderates any more, that the supposed disease of wokeism has disappeared the once-abundant Golden State political middles from public life.

As a dyed-in-the-wool centrist myself, I know that we have not gone the way of the dodo bird, as all I have to do is pinch myself to know that I exist. (When every few years I note in this space my middle-of-the-roadism, two or three readers feign apoplexy, as they believe I am Friedrich Engels reincarnate. As these otherwise sweet folks find that apparent pinko Ann Coulter a smidge too far to the left, there’s no real reason to pay them any mind.)

We’re not too hot, not too cold: we’re just right.

A former colleague of mine from the time he was editorial page editor of the San Gabriel Valley Newspapers, Kevin O’Leary, is also an entirely moderate person.

But rather than just crow about it in the manner of yours truly, he’s doing something to advance moderation.

Kevin, a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy at UC Irvine and a longtime lecturer in political science at Chapman University, has co-founded a new nonprofit called Saving Democracy, and he wants all Californians of goodwill to join in the cause.

Kevin dropped a note the other day, and after inquiring about how me and mine are surviving the rain and the cold, he dove into the fray:

“The breakdown of democracy is a gradual process in which the once unimaginable and unacceptable become normalized. In the House, 175 GOP election deniers won their 2022 races, a sizable increase over the 139 Republicans who voted against the electoral college count on Jan. 6.  When political leaders act in this way, their actions influenced a great many of their followers to do the same, posing a profound threat to our democracy. Alongside a small group of friends, I’ve established savingdemocracy.us, an innovative non-partisan organization focused on increasing the pro-democracy vote in critical swing districts across the nation for the 2024 election.

“In our highly polarized, calcified politics, the best strategy to break the political power of the far right is to enlist increased participation by three groups: moderate Republicans and Independents, disaffected voters, and younger Gen-Z and Millennial voters.”

He continues: “By working hard in 2023, we can increase the pro-democracy electorate — from Liz Cheney conservatives to Bernie Sanders progressives — and issue an emphatic defeat to politicians leading America down the authoritarian road.” He points to savingdemocracy.us for an outline of “our unique approach.”

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You will notice, as I have, that at least initially he doesn’t seem to be as worried about, I don’t know, the Democratic Socialists of America as he is about the reactionary right.

He’s not decrying Critical Race Theory or the Black History AP test.

So if you think those academic disputes are what is wrecking our politics, this won’t work for you. The group’s emphasis is on countering “a flurry of disinformation, lies, voting rights restrictions, and proposed partisan control over elections” from the Trumpists among us.

And Kevin and his kind are not shy about where they see the present danger coming from: “Our political troubles are being caused by the approximately 35% of the nation that makes up 70% of the Republican Party. An intense, illiberal minority can cause terrible trouble, but they are also outnumbered by the majority.” I think they are right. Rather, I think they are centrist.

Will you join us in the middle of the road?

Larry Wilson is on the Southern California News Group editorial board. lwilson@scng.com

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