Editor bemoans U.S. political polarization



With the imminent presidential election and the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks just four days past, newspaper editor and former speechwriter John Avlon ’96 gave a timely speech to about 25 students on centrism in politics at a Calhoun College Master’s Tea yesterday.

In the eight years since he graduated, Avlon has worked on former President Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, been the chief speechwriter and deputy communications director for former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, published an essay as part of an anthology on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and written a book, “Independent Nation: How the Vital Center is changing American Politics.” He currently serves as an editor and columnist for The New York Sun.

“Americans are living in a time where things are more polarized than ever before,” Avlon said. “The moderate majority feels politically homeless.”

Avlon contrasted the 2004 election, which he said has taken on a “divide and conquer mentality,” with Clinton’s victory in the 1992 election, which he characterized as “an example of a centrist campaign that was interesting.”

For Avlon, Clinton’s victory was a prime example of how disregarding party labels and letting the centrist position have a political stake is a better way to campaign and ultimately govern.

Avlon said Giuliani earned his respect and attention when he, despite party labels, worked with Clinton to pass the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. Avlon said the political partnership was exemplary in casting aside party lines and focusing on the issues. He also cited Sept. 11 as another major instance in which partisanship was set aside.

Students who attended the tea said they appreciated Avlon’s perspective.

“It was refreshing to hear someone talking from the middle and not from a partisan standpoint,” Michael Camarda ’08 said.

Meredith Brooks ’05 said she enjoyed hearing a fellow Yalie discuss the political environment on campus.

“What was most interesting was hearing about election years on campus and what is now happening 10 years later,” she said.

In terms of voting in the presidential election, Avlon said he is an independent and includes himself among what he called “six percent of voters who are still undecided.”

“If it hadn’t been for [Sept. 11, 2001], I would probably vote Democrat,” he said. “There’s a part of me that Kerry has not been able to totally sway. I don’t want to picture Bin Laden celebrating in a cave on Nov. 3.”

The current election aside, Avlon said eight years out of Calhoun’s gates he loves his job because “working in politics is history in the present.”

“You get to make history and try to make good history,” he said.

Comments