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October 21, 2013

HAYDEN: Meet in the middle for a change

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly likes to joke that the way he learned to embrace negotiation and compromise was by growing up in a big family where everyone had to give up something for the common good.

“I’m the fifth of five kids,” Donnelly says. “If I didn’t act that way when I was growing up, I wasn’t going to get dinner.”

As the second oldest of 10 siblings, I can relate. When you have that many people coming to table, nobody gets everything they want.

So the Democrat Donnelly contends he’s a centrist by nature, which is how he got involved with the bipartisan “gang of 14” moderates who worked quietly behind the scenes to forge a framework that lead to the deal that re-opened the federal government late Wednesday.

Details of Donnelly’s involvement emerged in Washington Post story published last Monday. In it, the writer described the group as “not the Senate’s usual impact players.”

Five of the 14 – Donnelly included – are in the first term in the Senate. A place, the writer went on to say, where “traditionally, time turns into power at roughly the speed that dead plants turn into oil.”

Donnelly isn’t claiming he has the power to end the powerful polarizations that define Congress these days. But he and his fellow comprising compatriots may be onto something when they claim that Americans want them to seek more answers in the middle.

A new Esquire-NBC News poll released this past week found that more Americans are in the vast middle than on the narrow sides of left or right. Among the interesting findings of the study: Centrists disagree with each other on a multitude issues, but their disagreements come in moderate degrees and not in big yawning gulfs.

The new American Center, for example, supports abortion rights but thinks they should be limited to the first trimester. They support gun rights, too, but think expanded backgrounds checks are OK. The Center favors government intervention that ensures everyone has their basic needs met and has a fair shot at earning a decent living. But they’re also tired of what they see as too much government intervention in people’s personal lives.

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