We'll kick this month off with a topic I've been waiting to discuss: Centrists. It doesn't seem like an important until you begin to see how permeating a centrist attitude exists in America. But not only that, but once you see how the liberal left exploits centrism to their advantage reveals that it is, in fact, a big issue.
So what is a centrist? Centrists commonly stylize themselves as the voice of reason. The practical, down to earth types that seek common ground in solving problems. Compromise, to most centrists, is the key to getting things done. Centrist like to consider themselves the "sane" people, not swinging too heavily to one ideological side or the other. They value their ability to identify and reject the more "extreme" parts of the right and left.
Note that centrists are not to be confused with independents, though some times they overlap. The big difference is that independents, who identify as such, may hold strong, uncompromising beliefs that lean right or left, but are not necessarily in lock step with what's considered one of the traditional party's platform. They're not always seeking common ground and instead rely on their own values instead ofy party affiliation to determine how they vote. There are independents that are centrists just as there are Democrats and Republicans that are also centrists.
You've probably picked up by my description of centrists that I might not have a very favorable opinion of them. The answer is yes, and no. Do I believe compromise, seeking common ground, being down to earth and level headed is a good thing? Absolutely so. It's an absolute must to have this kind of grounding to be a well adjusted, balanced person. But do I believe that being this way is the only way? Nope, I don't. It's part of being a well balanced person, but not the only part. Having been one myself, I feel I can speak to it with confidence.
This is where my opinion of centrists start to sour. To me, when confronted with conflict, the initial reaction most centrists make is to "make peace" or find common ground, regardless of facts or truth. To them, it seems more important to douse a heated debate than to actually weigh in on the debate constructively. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing to want to do as long as it's used intelligently. Making peace or finding common ground just for common ground's sake is just as bad, and some times worse, than a heated debate. These people tend to think the problem is the vehemence of the debate, and not necessarily its substance. That somehow confrontation itself is bad. That expressing views passionately is to be avoided. This is wrong thinking. While expressing feelings strongly has its pitfalls that need to be minded, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Many things can lead people to believing aggression in any form is wrong (which is worth another post all on its own). The fact is that there are people who wholly oppose all aggression, passion, and strongly expressed opinions regardless of context.
It's this inclination to make peace, find common ground, and rebuff strongly expressed opinions that liberals exploit. It's quite a clever scheme. If you've read my post on the Chicago political machine, then this will sound familiar. If you could sum up this scheme into three words, it'd be "nobody is innocent". This strategy's foundation is the assumption that no one is ever completely innocent of wrong doing. It's something we can all agree upon. No one is completely innocent of wrong doing. Building on that foundation, liberals are able to engage in open and increasingly egregious practices. Then when they're called out on these tactics, they simply go "hey, they do it too you know!", which somehow makes what they're doing ok since "everyone does it". You can look at it as a kind of form of moral relativism. The really clever part is how it shields their actions from further scrutiny. By using a simple, binary argument such as "all politicians" lie, it makes all politicians look just as bad. And if anyone wants to refute that statement, they then run into the problem of having to convince someone that it matters that one politician's lies are far worse, greater, and more deceitful than the others - a more subjective, analog argument. You see, the "nobody is innocent" line has been used throughout history as a means to justify horrid actions. By discrediting their accuser, it typically insulates them from most, or any, deserved repercussions.
And should we take into consideration whether someone is a worse liar than someone else? Of course we should. Even though the act of lying itself is bad and shouldn't be done, someone who tells bigger lies more often is more likely to cause far more damage than someone who my have fibbed about watching the game on Sunday or got mixed up in how fast they finished a marathon. If we didn't take varying levels of badness into consideration, then it'd be like saying the man who murdered the man who raped his child is just as bad as a serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer. So while both parties are clearly guilty of murder, it is wrong to suggest that they both are "just as bad".
So what does that have to do with centrists? Quite simply, liberals will play the "nobody is innocent" card, which appeals to a centrist's instinct to "make peace" or find common ground. So while a conservative may rightfully get angry that a United States Senator openly lied about saying Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for 10 years, a centrist, having sensed the need to diffuse the angry conservative, will say "Yeah, but all politicians lie, you shouldn't get so angry!". You see how that works? Now the conservative looks like an overreacting spaz while the liar in question gets away virtually scot-free.
Another example would be the grid lock in congress. Many people see the Republicans as "extreme" and uncompromising on their positions, but they don't seem to take into consideration why they seem to be that way. I'll try to put it into an example:
Let's say you're standing a few feet away from the edge of a cliff with your back to said cliff. In front of you is another person who wants to get closer to the edge of the cliff to look at the view, but can't get around you to do so. Obviously, you're not too keen on getting any closer to the cliff than you have to. Thus, you two strike a compromise: You'll move back just a couple feet for a few minutes to give him a better view than he has now if he promises to retreat those two feet after the time is up so you return to relative safety. You're giving up a bit of safety while he's giving up some viewing quality. But, after the time has expired, not only does the person not back off like agreed upon, but he then intends to go all the way to the cliff's edge, which would undoubtedly push you off.
This is how I view the Republican's position. They're not compromising because they feel they've already been pushed to the edge. And there's evidence of that in how republicans continued to compromise on various issues only to have the Obama administration and Democrats not only fail to live up to their end of the bargain, but then incredulously push for more. If you were to look at it from that angle, the Republicans' position might not seem so extreme. The left exploits that perception to make those standing up for their principals look extreme in the eyes of the public. They know that they can "compromise" to get what they want, renege on their end of the bargain, then call out the opposition when they are opposed to further "compromising" all the while their own deceitful tactics get washed away in the "nobody is innocent" ploy. It's a nice neat package that has been in use for decades.
And finally, there's one last way that liberals exploit centrists. And that's through the media. If you need an example of that, how many of you automatically thought "oh dear, it's another extreme right wing nut job blaming the media" when you read the previous sentence? If you did, then you've been the victim of one of the media's most dangerous tools. As I've written about earlier, the media has the power to shape our cultural landscape. They have the power to shape popular opinion....or "shift the center" if you will.
Here's a numerical illustration of what I'm talking about. Let's say you have numbers 1 - 99. Each number represents a place along the ideological spectrum. 1 is the ultra hardcore leftist. 99 is the ultra hardcore right. Logically, 50 would be your center. The spectrum ranges might break down like this:
- 1 - 9: Ultra Hardcore Left
- 10 - 29: Extreme Left
- 30 - 49: Left of Center
- 50: Center
- 51 - 70: Right of Center
- 71 - 90: Extreme Right
- 91 - 99: Ultra Hardcore Right
Everything's ok, until you add the media's influence. Let's say they push an opinion that says "You know, 50 is not really center, it's more like 30." As they push this opinion, people begin to believe that it's true that the rest of the country is like this, so "center" gradually moves to 30. Upon reaching 30, the ideological spectrum makes a dramatic shift:
- 1 - 9: Extreme left (was Ultra Hardcore Left)
- 10 - 29: Left of Center (was Extreme Left)
- 30: Center
- 31 - 50: Right of Center (was Left of Center)
- 51 - 70: Extreme Right (was Right of Center)
- 71 - 99: Ultra Hardcore Right (absorbed old Extreme Right)
As you see, shifting Center 20 points to the left has made extreme leftist positions seem more moderate or in the center while at the same time making moderate right look more extreme. Even moderate left positions look more conservative. The ultra hardcore leftists only look "extreme" now and the extreme right now look ultra hardcore.
Therefore, by the media being able to shift the center to the left, they are able to gain the unwitting support of the centrists out there who like to believe themselves to be the pragmatic, open minded types opposed to extreme ideology. Yet all the while, they're helping push a leftist agenda while simultaneously rebuffing a now "extreme" conservative agenda. By adjusting center, the media has been able to not only directly demonize conservative opposition, but indirectly by having centrists jump on the confrontation grenade in the name of "keeping the peace".
It's a frustrating thing to deal with, which goes to show how effective the left has been at exploiting centrist sentiment. One thing I hope by reading this, is that when it comes to political confrontations, is that those that consider themselves "the voice of reason" centrist take a moment to put stock on why they think that. Why do they believe their opinion is the practical, down to earth opinion? Is it because that's what some talking head on CNN said? Is it because that's what Jon Stewart would say? If the answer traces back to similar sources, then I'd recommend that they try to broaden their base. Look around. And not just the normal leftist outlets. Take the time to understand WHY they feel their beliefs are so pragmatic, that they're the obvious opinion to deflate extreme ideological fighting.
I firmly believe tempering one's beliefs with self skepticism is the only way one can become a stronger person in character. I also believe that most people, if they really examined their own beliefs, would be surprised to find out they lean conservative. For example, the current Governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, was originally a Democrat. Her friends set up a lunch to try to convince her to switch parties, but she went in fully expecting to politely decline. Yet, after the lunch, she told her husband "I'll be damned - we're Republicans", meaning that her ideology, which she thought was Democrat, was actually more Republican.
But lastly, I hope centrists will wake up and not only realize they've been played, but get mad about it. Get mad about it enough to vote against the party with the ideology that has led them around the nose so cunningly for decades. This is not your run of the mill election, as I've been saying, and the people used to the comfy warmth in the center need to realize that even their values are in jeopardy.