by Michael Welshy Lloyd
Division seems to underscore nearly all political discussion in the last few years.
No matter where you turn, it seems as though the left and right have become more entrenched in their ideologies, more combative, and more hostile toward dissent within their own ranks. As several groups, with a huge amount of mainstream attention, now openly advocate for violence against those with whom they disagree, a new center is beginning to emerge. Dissociated ex-leftists and ex-conservatives are coming together to reaffirm liberal principles and the value of dialogue, putting the reason back into political discourse and refusing to create a new echo chamber.
This is why we created The Liberalists.
Yet this nascent movement still struggles to gain serious traction, perhaps due to the nature of the task, to bring together people with widely disparate views under a banner of liberalism (a banner maligned by many and misunderstood by even more). It seems that no matter the quality and value of the conversation, there is always someone concerned that any given section of the movement is moving too far to the left, or too far to the right. In my view, this is a fundamental flaw in thinking that can undermine the fantastic work being done in these circles.
So today, I wish to create a simple framework for “Centrism”, as I believe it represents those who currently inhabit facebook groups and youtube channels across the internet, To address the concerns and welcome further discussion as to the future of the new center. For this purpose, I have created these four principles, which will be fully explored below:
- Centrism is not indifference
- Centrism does not mean half-way
- Centrists can be left or right
- Centrists value dialogue over dogmatism
These principles are not exhaustive or exclusive, they simply represent the basis of rational political discussion on which centrists choose to communicate. Whether you consider yourself left or right, these are the guidelines that keep us centered, regardless of our individual moral or political principles that no doubt inform the rest of our worldview.
So let’s explore these in detail.
Centrism is not indifference
Centrists, by nature, are likely to expose themselves to the opinions of both the left and the right. For that reason, one of the criticisms they will see most often (as it comes equally from both sides) is that centrism is equivalent to Apathy. That a centrist holds no concrete views and believes all competing ideas are equal.
I have never met a centrist who thinks this way, but it’s easy to see where the caricature comes from.
The truth is that a centrist is someone who refuses to be pulled into ideological groupthink, and will not hold a belief simply because it aligns with their clan. I am a centrist because I hold some views that align with the left, and some that align with the right. I am a centrist because I assess these honestly, and do not shrink away from challenging people just because their beliefs generally align with my own.
Centrism is, in fact, a celebration of concrete political beliefs. We are as principled as we can be. We do not hold our positions without conviction, we simply believe they should be scrutinized as closely as any other. We are open to viewpoints to which we disagree because we understand the value of diverse opinions.
Centrism does not mean a failure to hold strong beliefs, it is the ability to hold your beliefs so strongly that you aren’t afraid to have them challenged by others.
Centrism does not mean half way
Another common misconception is that a centrist is a person who sits roughly halfway between the left and the right.
The truth; Centrists are defined in opposition to the extremes, not in opposition to moderates.
This is why centrists have become so numerous of late; because the extremes have become more pronounced. Without the extreme left and right, we would not need to identify ourselves. We do so because we want to bring the center, those on the left and the right who are equally appalled by their own extremists, together.
Which leads to…
Centrists can be left or right wing
Centrists may self-identify as left or right, or perhaps neither. A person holding views that vary from yours does not mean you can’t come together as centrists.
By the same token, just because a group you are a part of feels like it has a preference toward one side of the political spectrum, this does not mean you are not welcome. Just as you are able to continue to have discussions and challenge your views, you can respect others to value your opinions. The back and forth is what can set the direction of a centrist group, and it’s that diversity that gives us strength. We are informed, knowledgeable and practiced at discussion.
Centrists value dialogue over dogmatism
Finally, the key principle that defines a centrist. We are the people who do not want to be part of an ideological club. We do not wish to be ‘right’, and we do not wish simply to reaffirm our opinions. A centrist is a person who understands that dogmatism breeds quickly and that its only antidote is dialogue. We come together not to create another echo chamber, but to create a truly open platform on which we can better ourselves by challenging our assumptions and exposing ourselves to different viewpoints.
We are becoming a divided people, so we must actively seek to improve our intellectual bedrock, challenge extremism and open new paths of communication. This is why the new center is growing, and this is why we must not allow minor differences in political thought to undermine us.
Together, we can bring back reason to an unreasonable world.