“Moderation is best in all things,” wrote the Greek poet Hesiod. Twenty-seven centuries later, that is still good advice for pols trying to get stuff done.

Exhibit A: President Joe Biden, laughably portrayed by his right-wing critics as a “far left” figure, but living off the same reach-for-the-center MO that got him elected in the first place. Most recent illustration: his dismissal of sketchy criminal-justice reforms proposed for DC. (Decreased penalties for carjacking, home invasions and homicides? No thanks.)

Biden also benefits from a moderate temperament, especially by comparison with his dyspeptic predecessor, President Cheeseburger J. Toss. This formula was perfected by former Gov. Charlie Baker, who topped the charts by suppressing his inner tool and relentlessly seeking compromise.

But both Biden and Baker were specifically chosen by voters to provide moderate content and tone. What if you’re a liberal hailed as a pathbreaking figure with a mandate to shake things up?

If you’re Maura Healey and Michelle Wu, you grab any opportunity to showcase moderation. The lefty groups and activists who helped them into office might not like it, but they’d better get used to it.

Healey could have ditched Baker’s capital-gains tax cut from the package she unveiled last week. Instead, it’s in (at least, until the Legislature removes it) to the irritation of the left and neutral analysts like Evan Horowitz of the Tufts Center for State Policy Analysis who called the cap-gains cut and her proposed estate tax reforms  “just tax cuts that benefit wealthy people.”

In a March 5 WBZ TV interview we asked Wu about that critique of Healey’s plan. “That is outside the purview of the city of Boston,” she said. “We want to see the resources going to where residents need [them], and our businesses are a crucial part of how our economy grows.” Not exactly channeling Bernie Sanders.

Wu’s long-promised rent control plan has already passed the Goldilocks test – both left and right hate it so it must be just right. Offered a chance to clap back at real-estate interests that seem ready to sue her proposal to shreds, she passed: “We know what we need to do… we just need to decide to do it together.”

Off the air, the mayor, unprompted, brought up the firing of first-term Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot by crime-weary voters. Wu’s been taking her share of heat over crime, and when asked about it struggled to find a balance between critiquing her critics and empathizing with community fears. “Last year compared to the year before our crime numbers were actually down as a whole and well below the five year average,” she said. But she conceded the situation can’t be assessed strictly “based on data because every community member who experiences this relives the trauma every time a new incident is in the news.”

Both Wu and Healey project calmness and patience, two characteristics shunned by extremists. And there’s no question they both lean left; just ask the imbeciles who troll them online.

But both understand they came to power because enough voters saw them as reasonably moderate, not because too few did.

The same formula applies to governing.

Unless you want to go with Oscar Wilde’s guide to political failure: “Nothing succeeds like excess.”

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Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.