The ReCenter Response

As promised, here is ReCenter’s response to yesterday’s post.


In her blog post of April 20, Sheila Kennedy expresses dismay, if not outright despair, over the current deep polarization in American political life.

We at ReCenter Indiana can relate. In fact, that’s why we formed this non-profit, bipartisan organization.

Our friend Sheila, who once was a proud Republican, likens today’s GOP to a cult. Again, there’s plenty of evidence of that. A group in the thrall of an authoritarian, charismatic leader, abandoning its long-held principles? Check.

Nonetheless, Indiana needs the balance of a healthy two-party system. Our state also needs the ideas of reasonable people across the political spectrum. Fortunately, as Sheila acknowledges, there are still people like that in the Republican Party. One of ReCenter Indiana’s goals is to give them encouragement to stand up to the strident voices of fear and division.

Sheila’s additional concern is that “the contemporary Republican Party is autocratic,” requiring “adherence to extremist and antidemocratic positions.” On the national level, she accurately points out, “Republicans who put people over party and patriotism over politics are promptly ejected from positions of influence.” And she correctly decries the blatant gerrymandering that enables a “radical supermajority” to keep getting elected to state offices here in Indiana.

To be clear, the supermajority is radical because, in so many gerrymandered districts, the only real competition is in the primary, and the only imperative is to avoid being outflanked on the right.

But we still find room for hope. Carmel and Evansville are two of Indiana’s largest cities. Both have successful centrist Republican mayors who are not seeking re-election. Each of those cities this spring has a competitive Republican primary to nominate a potential successor.

In Carmel, two of the three mayoral candidates in the GOP primary impress us with their willingness to listen to and represent all the residents of their community. The third candidate did not respond to our requests for an interview.

In Evansville, both candidates in the Republican mayoral primary talked with us. And one of them clearly appreciates that complex problems don’t have simple solutions. She also understands the importance of building consensus.

Sheila concludes that “the only way America will emerge from our current divisions is a massive electoral defeat of the GOP, and its subsequent dramatic reformation or replacement.”

Our concern with that is what might emerge from the rubble. That outcome is unknown and terribly risky. First, because if just one political party remains standing, it is all but certain to prove the axiom that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Second, because even more antidemocratic and violence-prone forces could well take the GOP’s place.

No one supposes that moving Indiana politics back to the center will be easy or fast. But we think it will be easier, faster and safer to save the Republican Party from its worst instincts than to try to build a viable second party on its ruins. We are heartened that notable Republicans in our state have not given up on their party; we’re not ready to give up, either. (And if Indiana Democrats ever succumb to the siren song of extremism, we’ll try to help them save their party, too.)

We agree with Sheila that the political marketplace is broken. We also agree that a sound electoral defeat of extremism can lead to a more normalized marketplace. Voters in arch-conservative Kansas eased the conversation back to the middle in 2018 and again in 2022.

If Indiana can shake off the stranglehold of supermajority rule, we Hoosiers might even embrace concepts – now gaining traction across the country – that give power back to the voters. Concepts such as ranked choice voting, nonpartisan redistricting, maybe even campaign finance reform.

If ReCenter Indiana is to succeed, it will be because of an enlightened and passionate electorate who are willing to transcend divisive politics. Especially young Hoosiers, who historically have had low political participation but are showing signs of increased participation and engagement, demanding accountability and results.

ReCenter’s goal is to spread awareness of the issues at stake and the choices at hand. And that also means encouraging centrist candidates to enter the fray.

Sheila is right that we may not succeed.  But we are certain to fail if we don’t try.


  1. Well done, Shelia!

    I would add that a country where the press tracks down whistleblowers for the intelligentsia is a fascist one, especially when that newspaper claims to be the voice of the state – New York Times.

    Any claims of being a democracy can be abandoned. Add the NYT’s case to Murdoch wiggling out a victory of sorts. Both say we are further down the Fascist rabbit hole than we thought.

    Yesterday, an Indiana legislator called an additional giant surplus In Indiana “a blip.” It wasn’t expected? All the tax credits expiring on people during a recession are a blip.

    He then compared California to Indiana, and I lost my shit…

  2. “…Indiana needs the balance of a healthy two-party system.”

    This NATION needs the balance of a healthy two-party system! We are limited to and must work within our state systems; Republican rhetoric is convincing states they have the right to completely govern themselves without interference from the federal government. This is an attempt to divide the 50 United states into 50 separate units as Europe is divided into separate nations. After many years Europe created the European Union to unite the nations on many governmental and individual issues. We fought the Revolutionary War to separate us from being governed by the British to become the United States of America, then had to fight the Civil War in an attempt to re-unite the states as a nation. Our internal Civil War has never ended and Democratic and Republican parties have switched places and we have returned to a Cold Civil War with the current Republicans seeking separation and sovereignty and the power to rule over the Democratic party by ending democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution of the United States of America. “Round and round it goes; and where it stops nobody knows!” President Lincoln stated, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” This nation divided against itself cannot (and WILL not) stand; here is where John Peter Sorg can quote from the Bible about “…reaping the whirlwind…”

    As I commented yesterday; the ReCenter’s values can be broken down into the two-party system we have today. You have created an organization of non-profit, bipartisan people to come together to seek solutions; another Think Tank. I agree with your goals and your priorities but, what will you do that is different than the other Think Tanks who are being drowned out by Republican’s loud, unending rhetoric funded by the millions of donations from those who want no rule over them but will seek and gladly accept the financial benefits democracy want to provide? In Indianapolis voters are blaming Mayor Hogsett for the crime rate here; the state’s lax gun laws and state support of the NRA are the source and the cause of our local morning news shooting reports to begin our days. Our right to live is basic but is no longer assured as we go through our day-to-day lives.

    People (Democrats) over parties (Republicans).
    Results (Democrats) over rhetoric (Republicans).
    Patriotism (Democrats) over politics (Republicans).

  3. Here, here! I appreciate the hopeful perspective of this organization. I joined yesterday and am looking forward to volunteer opportunities in the future.

  4. It’s all well and good that ‘large’ cities in Indiana had “successful centrist Republican mayors who are not seeking re-election”. But when our State legislature is working to pass bills that disallow local government from…governing locally, what difference does our local government make?? (I’m thinking of: 2021 HB 1191, which takes away the power of local governments to prevent the use of fossil fuels and to enact other energy-saving and energy-producing regulations; Ind. Code 35-47-11.1-2, which prohibits ‘political subdivisions’ from regulation of firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories; and a host of other pre-emptive bills that are presented each year, ranging from prohibiting localities from regulating worker’s schedules to taxing plastic bags. )

    Until the legislature can be reigned in, nothing in this State will be right. Or as Celie said, “Until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble.”

  5. How many not-for-profits are now working toward an improved political landscape in Indiana. Is the number two or twenty? It’s akin to the current spate of news organizations covering the State House. I count six on-line in addition to whatever newspapers, radio and TV stations offer minimal, highly selective coverage. As I delight in repeating, “Some is preferred to None.
    More is preferred to Less, until it is Too Much.”

  6. ReCenter has a good PR person. This is a nicely worded response. Shame it still said nothing though.

  7. Morton, IMHO, the key is understanding and seeing before it gets to “too much”, and knowing how to stop it before it gets there.

  8. JoAnn, I agree with everything you pointed out.

    ReCenter – my questions for you are:

    1. Do you intend to help rural centrist Democrat candidates get elected to local offices while their opponents win just by focusing on God, guns and abortion?
    2. Will you support the knowledgeable and much more qualified Democrat candidates when they run for state offices?
    3. Are the Republican members of ReCenter willing to speak up and risk angering friends and family in order to do what it may take to convince the radical members of your party to stop listening to all of the alt-right rhetoric and propaganda and focus on electing candidates who intend to represent the best interests of all citizens rather than the candidates that focus only on cultural issues?

    I believe the only way the Republican party can be saved is if the centrist and sane Republicans bravely speak out against the focus on crazy culture issues and tell your fellow members to stop listening to and watching the radical right wing propaganda. A good start would be to speak out against and tell the truth about Fox and Newsmax.

  9. Gotta start somewhere….really like the laser focus on those primaries where a reasonable candidate might have a chance. Will there be no DEM primary in those cities? Repeating the focus on PARTY only, not PERSONS, feeds the partisanship disease.

    But…no mention of the largest “party” – the non-committed/independents. That is a real mistake.

  10. Morton and Peggy make excellent points, but when the disenfranchised “middle” falls off to the side, because many have abandoned BOTH political parties. Now, how many of those folks care about EITHER political solution?

    As for the pressing issue, we’ll see a quick consolidation funded by the non-profits – Lilly, perhaps?

    Then, the question is who has editorial control. If all we have is stenographers vs. investigative journalism, we’ll not break through the power to educate the people, IMHO.

    Once the people figure out it’s just another oligarchic sham, they’ll abandon it—all the work for not.

    I told the Knight Foundation if your role is to get the Ball Family to support you, don’t even bother coming to ECI. We all have IPR as a model.

    The funders can get all the credit they want, but stop now if the DOLLAR$ comes with control. The people want an independent press but cannot afford it.

  11. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. People need to stop assuming the anti-democratic, extremist forces in the GOP, i.e. the Trumpists, are “conservative” and that the sane Republicans are “moderates.” Is Liz Cheney a “moderate?” Is George Will? Is Bill Kristol? No, they are all die hard conservative and fervent opponents of the authoritarian strain in the GOP known as Trumpism. Some of my moderate and even liberal Republican friends are huge Trumpers.

  12. Why do we assume there should only be two parties? Perhaps Re-Center should work to dismantle the protections the two major parties have enacted as laws. As an example, ballot access laws that require third parties and independent candidates to submit petitions before they can be on the ballot where candidates from the major parties need only sign up for free. I have always wondered why taxpayers must foot the bill for primary elections, which are solely for the benefit of the major parties. In Indiana, a primary voter must declare the party s/he votes in. That declaration becomes public record and adds a data point for the major parties to exploit. Voter turnout might increase if voters did not have to add to their public, electronic profile.

  13. Greg Bowes; like so many others, you have forgotten the Green Party and the Libertarians. In 2016 over 7 MILLION people voted for them; many probably to vote against Hillary and/or Trump. Those 7 MILLION effected the Electoral College vote in states and the election was given to Trump. Third and fourth parties and write-ins have no chance of winning a presidency but their votes can effect elections.

    And there are requirements to qualify for candidacy in elections; Democrats and Republicans do not simply “sign up for free.

  14. “Hope springs eternal,” as the saying goes. And, yes, ReCenter has a good PR person there, but,
    ” Especially young Hoosiers, who historically have had low political participation but are showing signs of increased participation and engagement, demanding accountability and results.,” is not a complete sentence.

  15. Greg writes, “…work to dismantle the protections the two major parties have enacted as laws…”

    Every group that forms an idea has to have a clear idea of the problem it is addressing, Many of the commenters here don’t want to accept the problem nor institute the solution. I’m not sure where these fears lie. Are they afraid of losing their social standing? Are they scared to let go?

    If all of us were tasked with creating a new government, how many would support an oligarchy or democracy? We could do it in stages and narrow it down…

    Imagine that?

  16. My other worry – Youngkin – Yes, I am not a crazy – elect me governor – oops, I lied
    Or like all of the other “moderate Republicans”, once elected, they put party loyalty above all

    I think Nancy asked the right questions

    I also agree with Paul – I can respect and completely disagree with real conservatives, but MAGA people are only “conservative” if you use the scale of “dictator = conservative”; “democracy = liberal” – but that gets too confusing – call the MAGA people what they are – MAGA people or pro-autocracy, but not conservative – Leave that label for Cheney, Will, and Kristol

  17. While I cannot say with certainty that Indiana’s less radical Republicans are loudly voicing their concerns about the insanity of what appears to be the most powerful bloc in their party, it is overwhelmingly obvious that any “moderates” serving in our federal government are failing to speak up. The crazies are in charge and others in the party who occupy seats in Congress may quietly whisper concerns, they all vote along the party line like sheep. Their quiet complicity in the systematic destruction of our institutions and Constitution makes them as guilty as the bonkers trump diehards.

  18. I am the president of ReCenter Indiana and have the following answers to Nancy’s questions:

    1. Do you intend to help rural centrist Democrat candidates get elected to local offices while their opponents win just by focusing on God, guns and abortion? Yes, help us identify specific areas where our support might make a difference.
    2. Will you support the knowledgeable and much more qualified Democrat candidates when they run for state offices? We will support candidates of either party who support our values.
    3. Are the Republican members of ReCenter willing to speak up and risk angering friends and family in order to do what it may take to convince the radical members of your party to stop listening to all of the alt-right rhetoric and propaganda and focus on electing candidates who intend to represent the best interests of all citizens rather than the candidates that focus only on cultural issues? Yes.

  19. Is their a Republican primary for either Governor or the US Senate? If there is (and I haven’t seen any evidence that there is), we all need to declare as Republicans for the primary and do our best to keep the B Team (Braun and Banks) from winning. Both are total slaves to the Rong party fanatics.

    If there isn’t a useful Republican primary, then we need to concentrate on getting viable Democratic candidates to oppose them in the General election and work to turn out the vote to make sure the B Team goes down to defeat.

  20. Centrism should not always be the goal, because centrism can turn into a kind of “tyranny of unity” that actually holds up progress and justice for people at the margins.

    Noah Berlatsky addresses this well in his recent Substack newsletter post:

    “Scholarly appeals to social harmony and unity aren’t just sidelining inequality as an issue. They’re leaning into a staple of white supremacist ideology and nationalist rhetoric. ‘Unity,’ as an overriding virtue in the United States has long meant, ‘unity of white people.’ A social science that sees polarization and partisanship as the main threats to democracy is a social science that implicitly—and often more than implicitly—is calling for white, Christo-fascist solidarity against Black (and feminist, and queer, and disabled) demands for justice….

    “Polarization is in large part the result of people disagreeing on substantive issues. The problem is not ‘mere misperceptions of the opposing side’ if, for example, you’re a trans child denied gender-affirming care, or a Black relative of a family member shot in the back by police.”

    He points out that the odious “Birth of a Nation” is essentially a narrative that suggests that white centrism was an essential push-back to the “polarization” caused by Reconstruction. “The mistaken chapter of Reconstruction, during which Black people briefly gained voting rights and some measure of equality, is overcome specifically through a rejection of polarization. North and South realize that the battle which separated them was a mistake, and come together in a great tidal wave of whiteness—symbolized by the massed Klan in their robes. The sweeping pale tide swamps the architects of disunity. Not, in this case, social media platforms, but Black people.”

    I’d be interested to hear Sheila and ReCenter’s response to his essay, because it articulated many of my concerns with calls for centrism that I had felt but wasn’t able to put into so many words.

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