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Politics of the middle: Website seeks moderation

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 27, 2011
— Ike Rebout thinks a lot of people are moderates—somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum.

He also thinks the major political parties aren't appealing to those moderates. So he decided to do something about it.


The Janesville man has studied website design, so he and a like-minded friend started a website, ModerateMadison.com, two weeks ago.


Rebout, 32, said the idea grew out of his experience as a volunteer coordinator for Democrats in the 2008 elections.


Volunteers were willing to go door-to-door to leave leaflets that had a positive message from Barack Obama's campaign, but they resisted doing the same for a state Senate campaign because that campaign's message was so negative, Rebout said.


Then while working in student government at Western Technical College in La Crosse, he found that liberals and conservatives could discuss and come to agreement on issues if they put their partisan leanings aside.


One of his friends at Western was Don Gaunkey, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who is Rebout's partner in constructing the website.


"He classifies me as a left-wing moderate, and I classify him as a right-wing moderate," Rebout said.


Nevertheless, they can discuss issues and usually find middle ground, Rebout said. That ability to find middle ground is something Rebout finds missing in politics today.


"I think that has to do with the party rhetoric being just jacked up all the time," Rebout said.


ModerateMadison.com posts news releases from politicians and interest groups, listing them by topic. Still under construction is a page for each of the state's 33 state senators and 99 Assembly representatives, listing votes and statements related to those issues.


"We just want to say, 'This is what your legislators said, this is their voting record, and this is what lobbying groups are saying about these issues. Now you make your decision,'" Rebout said.


Rebout hopes to have all that information updated by January.


ModerateMadison.com is not the only website that follows Wisconsin politics. There's WisPolitics.com and The Wheeler Report. They're useful, but Rebout said they don't post voting records the way he intents to.


Rebout also looked at Project Vote Smart, which lists votes only on "key issues," but found that limiting.


ModerateMadison.com is not going to deal with the state's congressional delegation, at least not yet. It would probably take a full-time person to keep up with Washington politics, and the website has no income to hire anyone right now, Rebout said.


The website isn't making any money, but Rebout is looking for donations and advertisers. He's not sure whether the effort will be for-profit or nonprofit.


Rebout recently moved back to Janesville from La Crosse. He works second shift at a warehouse in Beloit and works on ModerateMadison.com in his spare time. He aims to have the site up and running through the fall 2012 elections, and then he'll re-evaluate, he said.


Rebout said the website won't endorse candidates. It will issue opinions, but those will be clearly marked, he said.


Viewers will be able to comment on the website. Rebout said he will delete threats and vulgar language, but other than that, he wants open debate.


The site is getting 75 to 150 views each day, which gives Rebout encouragement that there might be an interest in moderate politics.


"I don't think people are that far to left or to the right as these parties want them to seem to be," he said. "They just don't have all the information they need. So this is a place to give them that info, and then people can decide for themselves."



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