I just came across this blog post, and the final paragraph in particular reminded me of the conversation you and Rob and I were having in the car today going to and from the East Bay LP's Wine & Liberty event. Although you clearly do not simply favor whatever is most popular at the moment, it seems to me that you were advocating a political philosophy that is very situational rather than being based on universal values. How would you respond to the criticism that like the approach described below, yours is a pragmatic one in which only what is considered socially viable is allowed to occur, and thus is very well suited as a rationalization in the hands of those who simply want to uphold the status quo?
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The Danger of Political Centrism
It is often assumed that centrists are good because they are not "extreme". Centrists are generally viewed as being preferable to the so-called "far left" and "far right". However, it is my contention that centrists are the most dangerous type of politician and that the nature of politics tends towards centrism. For while elements on the political left and right may have erroneous views in various ways, centrists merely combine the erroneous views of both sides into a consensus.
Furthermore, the centrist is highly adaptable to a variety of positions and hence oppurtunistically changes their position in the name of expediency. There is no fixity or certainty to their position. Centrists are the most expedient type of politicians, and in the name of expediency they will aschew any genuine principles. Centrism is the most pragmatic way to gain and hold onto power by appealing to as many different groups as possible without necessarily believing in any particular principle espoused by each group. A so-called fringe group by itself is usually fairly harmless in comparison because there is no way for them to gain populist support.
The fact of the matter is that the political establishment depends in large part on a bipartisan consensus. Everything from the patriot act to the decision to go to war in Iraq was passed by a large bipartisan consensus. Centrism is the most efficient means at maintaining the status quo. Politicians generally play to the center to gain support anyways, moreso as the democratic process goes on. Before any disagreements take place between politicians, there is a general underlying consensus on certain fundamental elements of the status quo and the internal processes or rules of the institution itself. What they mostly disagree on is not fundamentals so much as particulars and implementation.
Politics becomes a purely pragmatic process in which only what is considered to be "politically viable" tends to occur. The centrist is the master at playing this game. Whatever is the most popular at the moment or whatever is appealing to the widest range of people is what they will tend to support, regaurdless of any principle. Precisely what "the center" is changes depending on expediency. And this is why political centrism is dangerous, as it has no real meaning and is merely an indispensible mechanism for sustaining political power.