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Governors typically stay on topic at media briefings, adhering to pre-planned talking points and always trying to bring reporters’ questions back to the message-of-the-day. Going off-script can be risky; a “wrong” answer threatens to derail the administration’s carefully planned public message.

So it was unusual this week when Gov. Phil Scott was asked about his allegiance to the Republican Party in light of his frequent policy disagreements with the state and national organizations. He went off script, and we wanted to cheer.

The governor’s breaks with the conservatives in the GOP have been significant, from his public signing of several gun control bills in 2018 (to a mixed chorus of cheers and boos from people on both sides of that controversial issue) to his statement last month urging Vermonters to ensure the transgender community “feels safe in our state.”

“To Vermonters in the LGBTQA+ community, I want you to know we stand with you and support you but know we have more work to do.” This statement came as conservatives continue their assault on our LGBTQA neighbors and their supporters.

When asked about these policy breaks with his party, the governor didn’t duck the question, describing himself as a moderate centrist, and adding, “I’ve reached across the aisle expecting people to reach back to me, as well, to work together. It’s more difficult, whether you’re a moderate centrist Democrat or a moderate centrist Republican. It’s equally as hard. It’s easy to go to the extremes — the extreme left or the extreme right. Everybody knows where you’re going to be and what your vote is going to be.

“Admittedly the moderate centrists are becoming further and further and fewer and fewer, regardless of the party. When you look at the Northeast in particular … I think we’re more moderate, more centrist, than others. I think most Americans are more centered.”

He said the party system — with primary elections that drive candidates to appeal to the base of their parties, “forces the candidates to go to the extremes — either the extreme left or the extreme right.”

“This doesn’t leave us much of a lane in the center,” Scott said. “It’s imperative that we continue to find that lane.”

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To be clear, the governor has a political team around him at all times; he’s not above or immune to party politics. And we’re sure his polling shows that centrist message to be popular in left-leaning Vermont (he served in the state Senate from 2001-2010; as lieutenant governor from 2011-2017; and been reelected governor since his first term in 2017). No one makes it to the governorship without keeping a finger in the political wind.

Still, in this time of extreme political division across the nation, with screaming — not discussion — from advocates on both sides of every issue, and the dragging down of well-meaning informed people into the muck, we can only appreciate Scott’s direct call for cooperation and seeking answers in the middle.

He’s right. Most Americans are more centered.

We don’t agree on everything. But most of us don’t villainize our neighbors who are different than we are. We hold out hope our judicial system is fair and balanced, and will impartially be there when we need it. We ache for the people of Ukraine and other nations awash in violence, and wish we could do more to help; then feel slightly sickened when we change the channel and see unhinged political grandstanding here at home.

We are not immune here in Vermont. When an anti-abortion student group protesting against Planned Parenthood in Brattleboro on Tuesday were praying and signing hymns, some passers-by cursed at them. And Planned Parenthood staff continually face threats and verbal abuse for doing their necessary work.

The extremes put us all at risk, put our nation at risk, put our democracy at risk. The extremes drive us to feel frightened and uncertain, to move to and cluster in like-minded neighborhoods and states, to stop listening and civilly, considering differing viewpoints.

Gov. Scott spoke for many when he went off-script this week to voice concern about the growing extremism of both political parties and to call for seeking the middle.

“It’s imperative that we continue to find that lane.”