Can Moderates and Progressives find any way to work together?

They both need to do their part. Without it, woe is be to our collective future.


I write with a profound sense of sadness and foreboding. In my 83 years, I’ve never experienced such feelings of despair over the state of our democracy.

I’ve all but given up on the Republican Party. It’s so deeply ensnared in conspiracy theories that it’s abandoned whatever grip it ever had on Reason.

But what especially disturbs me are the continuing rifts between the Progressive and Moderate wings of the Democratic Party. While I support the Progressive agenda, I’m put off by its tone. Namely, if it doesn’t get immediately all that it wants, then it’s prepared to sabotage what we’re able to obtain at the present time.

Yes, in saying this, it’s obvious that I’m more of a Moderate. But even more, I’m a Liberal Social Scientist. As such, I’m deeply immersed in the study of Conflict, and especially whatever resolutions are possible. In short, I’m as deeply concerned with process as I am with content.

My lifelong friend and close colleague Ralph H. Kilmann, and his collaborator Ken Thomas, have developed the most comprehensive framework of which I know on the nature of Conflict. It’s summarized in the figure below.


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Think of a pie. The vertical dimension Get pertains to the size of the pie one wants for him or herself. The horizontal dimension Give refers to the size of the pie one is willing to give to another.

Competing is the case where one wants the whole pie for him or herself. Avoiding is where both parties get none of the pie by withdrawing completely from a Conflict situation.

Accommodating is the case where one gives the whole pie to another, thus getting nothing for oneself. Compromising is where each gives half of the pie. And, Collaborating is where both get a whole pie by expanding one’s options.

While Collaborating is arguably the best of all worlds, it, unfortunately, takes the most work and time to achieve. It not only requires a deep understanding of the different positions, but even more, a deeper appreciation of their respective merits.  

As I see it, herein lies the basic difference between Progressives and Moderates. Whereas Progressives want the whole pie, Moderates want by means of Compromise to get “what’s possible at the present time.” As such, Moderates are unable and unwilling to Accommodate completely to the demands of Progressives. Nor should they in my judgement. In other words, Moderates have come as far as they can at the present. The key is “at the present.” It does not mean that we should stop working towards the aims of Progressives, for whom other than extreme Conservatives can deny the seriousness of Climate Change?

While Moderates may not at the present be able to go all the way with Progressives, they need to announce in no uncertain terms how and when they will be willing to support them. And, Progressives have to be willing to Compromise. They both need to do their part. Without it, woe is be to our collective future.


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