The Lonely Middle
I recently had the honor of chairing a conference focused on public policy and government relations for the Mid-America Chamber Executives. Our final speaker was Mick Fleming, past president of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Fleming was the driving force behind the highly influential Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025. Published in 2015, this report predicted the eight factors that would have the greatest impact on chambers of commerce and their communities in 2025. One of the eight factors, political and social fragmentation, was perhaps the defining characteristic of 2017 nationally and increasingly here in Hudson. Recognizing one of his eight predicted factors had already reared its ugly head, Fleming told his audience, "It's lonely in the middle."
The middle Fleming is referring to is the place on the political spectrum where local chambers of commerce tend to reside. I'm often asked by self-declared liberals why chambers are so Republican and self-declared conservatives why chambers are so friendly to Democratic causes. The reality is if a chamber of commerce is doing its job, it isn't viewing issues as Republican, Democrat, conservative, or liberal. We are viewing public policy through one lens only, is it good for the business climate in our communities? Support for public transit that will get qualified workers to vacant jobs? That sounds pretty liberal. Opposition to mandated sick and safe leave that creates administrative nightmares for businesses? That sounds pretty conservative. The reality is in our view they are neither, they are simply good for business.
This micro-level, issue by issue approach to politics is what leads to chambers of commerce living in the middle of political spectrum. It is also what makes us a bit of a unicorn in a country where politics is played out in an unprecedented macro-level, party vs. party way. Fleming is correct, the middle of the political spectrum is a lonely place these days, but a place the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau has no intention of leaving. We invite you to join us.