Let me just begin by saying that yes, the title of this blog is intentionally tongue-in-cheek.
There is nothing inherently radical about centrism or any other moderate philosophy which values rational decision making on an issue-by-issue basis over the seemingly more popular party lines and inflexible collective indignations which dominate the current political landscape. And yet, by virtue of its preference for measured technocracy over populist emotional appeal, it usually ends up the elephant in the room upon chiming in. People are legitimately perplexed at how we can agree with them on some issues and deride them as morons on others. Worse yet is when we sympathize with their intentions while poking massive holes in their logic. That, apparently, makes us neoliberal Wall Street phonies.
Like all other self-professed political philosophies, centrism can mean different things to different people, making any attempt to objectively define it an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, the basic tenets (in my view at least) are extremely simple:
- Individual human rights are inalienable (emphasis on the ‘individual’).
- When those rights come into conflict, compromise is the only logical, rational option.
- Authoritarianism in any form is antithetical to civilized society.
- Appeals to emotion are a disqualifying factor in any argument that contains them. All policy positions must be supported by logical processes, or the appearance of one at the very least. If your argument does not compute, it is invalid.
Everything else ought to follow from there.
Of course since this is politics we’re talking about, it doesn’t work that easily. A simple Google search for ‘centrism’ will turn up no shortage of half-baked musings equating it with everything from unquestioning devotion to the US constitution, to Southern Baptist Christianity (both of which sound pretty absurd to me). Not surprisingly, one of the most common criticisms leveled at centrism is that it prescribes no clear values; seemingly flip-flopping from issue to issue. To be clear, that’s a pretty stupid criticism as it either intentionally or ignorantly confuses a lack of dogmatic commandments for an overall lack of convictions. To the contrary, our convictions are not merely simpleminded lines in the sand on any given issue (“No pipelines!”, “No refugees!”), but rather the belief that no policy is above debate, no authority is beyond reproach, and no morality is absolute. Admittedly, that’s not exactly the sort of inspiring message that lends itself well to party politics. Complex analyses and nuances don’t draw crowds. But if anything, that makes it all the more important to get the message out there. The notion that the one-size-fits all, easy-sounding, slogan-making populist drivel peddled by most political activists could provide the best outcome for the greatest number of people is patently absurd, and incredibly dangerous, both to freedom of thought and general prosperity.
And so here we are.
To our dear friends on both ends of the political spectrum, don’t get too cocky. You cannot vanquish reason. We are here. And we will fight to the bloody end.