Centrists are hated by the left and disdained the right. They are called smug, cowardly, deceitful, indecisive, opportunistic, and unable to hold, let alone defend a strong political opinion. But there are various kinds of centrists. This blog post discusses four interesting types: the moderate centrist, the phony centrist, the straw-manning centrist, and the selective centrist.
1. The moderate centrist
The moderate always takes a position in the middle between the left and the right:
- “If the left wants many LGBTQ rights and the right wants none, then I want some.”
- “If the left wants more multiculturalism and the right wants less, then I want about as much as we currently have.”
Moderate centrism varies from being wise to being completely unacceptable. It may be a good rule of thumb to always look for an Aristotelian middle way because usually everyone can teach you something and nobody has figured it all out perfectly. As a categorical principle of compromise, however, moderate centrism leads to a ludicrous position where one’s own opinion becomes an uncritical function of the opinions of others: if one party says we need to exterminate all Jews and another says we should not kill any Jews, then the middle way of killing some Jews is obviously not a golden mean. In general, the categorically moderate centrist will find his opinions passively shifting with fluctuating ideological trends, and he will often run into problems with slippery slopes; he is however, mostly a straw man.
2. The phony centrist
The phony uses selective facts, unstigmatized talking points, uncontroversial values, and neologisms to mask his radical ideology:
- “I’m not a liberal, but please consider this selection of facts that prove that women are still oppressed by the patriarchy.”
- “I’m not a fascist, but in the marketplace of ideas we should be free to discuss the ethnic composition of globalist elites.”
Consider, however, that some people put into the ‘phony’ category are genuinely more interested in truth than in politics; or they might actually be selective centrists (#4).
3. The straw-manning centrist
The straw-manner claims that his position is more prudent than the opinions he ascribes to the left and the right, unaware that these ascriptions are caricatures or fringe beliefs:
- “I’m a centrist because I advocate neither the elimination of gender differences nor the enforcement of medieval gender roles.”
- “I’m a centrist because I want our national borders neither to be uncontrolled nor to be closed to everyone.”
The current rise of this form of centrism is a result of social media activists consistently misrepresenting their ideological enemies. If the straw-manning centrist is not ignorant about what people on the left and right actually believe, he is a phony (#2); if he educates himself and stops straw-manning, he may become a moderate (#1) or a selective centrist (#4).
4. The selective centrist
The selectivist may have radical views on certain topics, but he is not ideologically attached to the left or the right:
- “I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” (Libertarianism)
- “I’m pro immigration but against gay rights.” (Or vice versa)
This is centrism beyond the left-right divide: having some strong opinions without simply adopting the positions of an ideological tribe. In reality, however, the left and the right are not arbitrary conglomerates of opinion; they are usually rooted in relatively consistent moral principles that provide a guiding thread, for example, the principle of empathy on the left and the principle of loyalty on the right. Therefore, the selective centrist will have to have a quite uncommon moral sentiment.1
- When to Endure Meaninglessness
- The Mindcoolness Declaration of Ideology
- How to Maximize Happiness in Society
- The Merits of Direct Democracy
- Political Virtue Signaling