Sooner or later … one has to take sides — if one is to remain human.

Graham Greene
The Quiet American

Political neutrality is no longer an option. In fact, neutrality is part of the problem. I wish we lived in a “both/and” country, but we don’t. We live in an “either/or” nation, the most pertinent dichotomy being: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Anti-democracy is the problem, so neutral means passively anti-democratic. You can only be pro-democracy if you intentionally, actively do something about it.

Anti-democracy thrives on neutrality. Silence gives consent — consent to the Big Lie about the 2020 election, to overturning legal elections when you don’t like the results, to political insurrections. If you don’t actively speak out against anti-democracy, you’re giving consent.

Sooner than later, we have to take a side … if we want to remain a democracy.

Neutrality is uncommitted, indifferent. It doesn’t want to influence the outcome.

That’s been the traditional position of the national media. To that end, the networks — including PBS — declined to televise President Biden’s primetime speech in Philadelphia on Sept 1. Evidently, they were worried the speech would be viewed as “too partisan.” They wanted to stay neutral. In his speech, Biden pointed out an obvious truth: Trump and the MAGA Republicans are extremists. He called on “mainstream” Republicans to choose the side of democracy.

There are times when being partisan is a bad thing and being neutral is a good thing. This is not one of those times. They should have televised the speech.

Reporting that Republicans have become the party of extremism happens to be the truth, and the national media should be telling the truth, not trying to prove how “impartial” they are.

That applies to the rest of us also. Our job as citizens is not to be impartial. Our job is to save our democracy when it is under attack. Neutrality will not accomplish that.

For many years, the U.S. has been a “center-right” country. But the Republican Party has become more and more extreme over the past 40 years, to the point where there is no functioning “center right” anymore. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are the only ones willing to speak out against the forces of autocracy that have overtaken their party. The rest give consent with their silence.

You cannot support, actively or passively, the inhumane policies of autocracy without damaging your humanity. Neutrality is no longer an option.

The only functioning part of our political spectrum is center left. The far right is totally dysfunctional, awash in conspiracy theories, bowing to the cult of personality.

The far left, meanwhile, doesn’t exist. At most it is a tiny percentage, unlike the far right, which comprises 90% of the Republican Party. The “further” left, the so-called “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party, wants more than the center left and wants it sooner. What they want is reasonable, but to their great credit, they have cooperated with the center left in moving this country forward. They have accepted that modest progress is better than going in the direction the far right wants to take us, which is backward. So they compromised.

Compromise can be positive or negative. If you compromise too much, you become “compromised.” If you’re incapable of compromising, you end up even more compromised. Extremists are incapable of compromise.

This country needs to get back on the rails. Only the center left, with help from the further left — and the center right — can build a coalition that will get this country moving forward. Functioning government is pro-democratic. The anti-democratic coalition consists of government-haters, plus the indifferent and uninformed, plus the passively neutral.

Those who currently take refuge in the illusion of benevolent neutrality — the center right and the split-the-difference media — are key to whether anti-democratic extremism will be defeated in the midterms and in the 2024 presidential election. That means defeating Trump as well as extremist governors and Republican state legislators who have been passing, or pushing, anti-democratic and inhumane legislation.

Trump will never be indicted and convicted for his crimes. So whenever we get this country back on the rails, we will need to address the glaring weaknesses in our justice and judicial system, which protects elitists like Trump who have no respect for the law and dare the system to do something about it.

The only accountability still functioning is the vote. Our electoral system worked beautifully in 2020, but it has since been compromised by anti-voting legislation in red states.

That’s why we need the media to start telling the truth and why we need the center right to choose democracy — which means voting against anti-democratic Republicans until their party rejects the despots and autocracy enablers in Congress and in our state capitals.

It means voting to support the center left, the functional part of our political system. We must become a center-left country, one that believes again in government and finds ways to make it work — for all of us.

Even for those too far gone to realize how much they need it.

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