During the fall 1996 Call to Renewal tour, we had the opportunity to speak directly to thousands of people across the country, and to hear their questions and concerns. I am more convinced than ever that many Americans are looking for a moral vision of politics beyond both the Religious Right and the Liberal Left.
Calls to the countless radio talk shows we did on the tour confirmed what we heard each night at the town meetingsnamely, that people are vitally interested in the real issues at stake in our public life, that people are deeply disillusioned with both political parties and political choices in general, that the old solutionsliberal and conservative, Left and Rightno longer supply adequate answers to our problems, and that more and more people are eagerly searching for alternatives.
But what are those alternatives? And what does it mean to go beyond Right and Left? We certainly don't want to sacrifice prophetic politics for a mushy middle. Big corporate donors won while people on welfare lost as Bill Clinton rushed to the political center in order to ensure his re-election. A Republican Congress also regained election by moderating its message and keeping Newt Gingrich in the closet. Corporate contributions were the largest in history; clearly, the people doing the downsizing of America are buying huge influence in both political parties. Newsweek reports that .03 percent of the population now controls the funding of the political process. I suppose that's one definition of centrism.
The day after the election, both parties claimed victory, along with every special interest across the political spectrum. From the AFL-CIO to the National Rifle Association, from the Christian Coalition to the Interfaith Alliance, groups rushed to claim credit for the outcome, trying to show that they were effective in providing the margin of victory for their targeted races.