In an era of extremist politics, Gil Troy argues, moderation and moderate leaders are needed more than ever. Challenges like managing the debt, preserving the environment, fighting terrorism, improving education-in short, protecting America today and building toward tomorrow-require the kind of consensus that can only come from leaders who seek the centre.
As Troy reminds us, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 seemed to presage such a shift. Nearly four years later, however, political moderation remains as elusive as ever.
Troy champions the presidencies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. They succeeded not because of their bold political visions, he argues, but because of their moderation. The great presidents of American history have always sought a golden mean-from George Washington, who brilliantly mediated between the competing visions of Jefferson and Hamilton; to Abraham Lincoln, who rescued the union with his principled pragmatism; to the two Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin, who united millions of Americans with their powerful, affirmative, nationalist visions; to the bracing can-do optimism of Kennedy and Reagan.
Troy explains how presidents can both hew to the center and address important political challenges. By his reckoning, the best presidents have exercised "muscular moderation." In his afterword Troy cogently critiques President Obama's fraught evolution from a "Magic Moderate" deeply committed to extending his election night civility as widely as possible to his gradual realisation that a much more muscular moderation would be required. Obama's increasingly tough-minded and much less forgiving rhetoric might not immediately heal the scars from our polarised politics but might be necessary in the short run.
Troy underscores in this new edition that moderation must be restored or greatness-for our presidents and our nation-will likely be denied.
First time in paperback. Originally published as Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents. 20 photographs