Charles Wheelan and “The Centrist Manifesto”

Charles Wheelan, founder and co-chair of Unite America, wrote an interesting book called “The Centrist Manifesto” in 2013. At that time, he laid out a strategy for centrists. He suggested forgetting the Presidential election because the Electoral College makes it virtually impossible for a Centrist Party candidate to win, no matter how well they do in the general election. Why that is true is a longer story, but I completely agree that a Centrist Party candidate would have little chance of success in the Presidential election.

He also suggested that the House was a difficult target because gerrymandering has created so many safe Republican and Democratic districts. He was right about that then, and it is probably truer today than it was in 2013.

He observed that since it is not possible to gerrymander at the state level, the Senate should be the target for Centrist Party candidates. He also suggested that just a handful of Centrist Senators could wield enormous power. He suggested that the best solution was, therefore, for Centrist Party Senate candidates to run, in the general elections, in the couple of dozen states that have split state wide office holders. To see him speak about these ideas at a lecture at Dartmouth, in 2013, click here.

I think this a great idea. If Centrist Party Senate candidates emerge and they look like they might have a chance of winning, I believe CIVPAC would almost certainly endorse them.

Having said that, CIVPAC’s strategy is somewhat different. CIVPAC wants to focus on Senate elections in open primary, purple states and in the, admittedly, small number of purple Congressional districts in those states. The ultimate objective is the same—to create a core of hyper-powerful centrist members of Congress. The difference is that CIVPAC wants to elect them, primarily, through the existing political parties and to do that it requires that CIVPAC focus on the primaries as well as on the general elections. The key is to take advantage of the open primary process and persuade Republican, Democratic, and independent centrists to vote for the most centrist of the available candidates in whatever primary the candidate happens to be entered. Similarly, CIVPAC would hope to be able to influence the Presidential elections by focusing attention on Presidential primaries in open primary states.

Charles Wheelan’s organization, Unite America, now appears to be focused on trying to make some very important institutional changes rather than on promoting the concept of Centrist Party candidates. CIVPAC supports most, if not all, of these institutional changes. To learn more about them click here.

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