Professor Wheelan Lectures on Centrism

Professor Wheelan explains his vision for centrism.

Professor Wheelan explains his vision of centrism in America.

On Thursday, April 3, Senior Lecturer in Economics Charles Wheelan ’88, the author of The Centrist Manifesto and the founder of The Centrist Project, gave a public lecture on the dysfunctional, polarized state of politics in America and his proposals to remedy the situation. Professor Wheelan, who is both a former Republican and a former Democratic congressional candidate, defined his version of centrism as taking the best of both liberal and conservative ideas to enact pragmatic solutions to pressing problems. Thus, these centrist views are not necessarily moderate, as they involve distinctly conservative approaches to some issues (mostly fiscal issues) and distinctly liberal approaches to others (mostly social issues). For example, Professor Wheelan lectures on the sensibility of entitlement reform promoted by the Republican Party while simultaneously criticizing Republicans for their logical inconsistency in supporting small government except when it comes to issues such as gay marriage.

Professor Wheelan explained how he intends to impact American politics by running centrist candidates—either as independents or on the Centrist Party ticket—in Senate races. His goal is to have around four or five truly centrist and independent Senators, who will then have disproportionate sway in determining which side has a majority of the votes or whether a filibuster is sustained or overridden. In explaining his rational for targeting the Senate, Professor Wheelan explains that the targeting Presidency is a fool’s errand because of the Electoral College while targeting the House is also nearly impossible because of heavily gerrymandered districts.

Currently, The Centrist Project is interested in the 2014 South Dakota Senate race. Larry Pressler, a three-term former Republican Senator, is running as an independent and embodies many of the centrist principles espoused by Professor Wheelan. The Centrist Project would like to use Larry Pressler as a “proof-of-concept,” demonstrating that a centrist candidate can have meaningful impact on a race. However, for The Centrist Project to support a candidate, the candidate must agree to a short list of centrist principles, one of which is still in contention between the candidate and Professor Wheelan.

The lecture comes at a fortuitous time, as campus is rocked by inflamed passions and extremism regarding the Freedom Budget, which Professor Wheelan alluded to. Professor Wheelan’s lecture was the inaugural event in Collis Miniversity’s “Not Another Lecture Series,” which will be replacing Miniversity courses that have been facing declining enrollment. By any measure, the event was a huge success. Free books were given to the first 70 attendees, and the event packed over 100 people into One Wheelock.