You aren’t really a moderate

I’ve long found it extremely annoying when someone claims to be a political moderate despite, ya know, all the positions he or she holds. Aside from being wrong, it feeds into this idea that simply because something falls into the middle, it must be the best, or at least better than the extremes.

Let’s take something clear like the civil rights movement. It was considered radical and extreme to be of the position that blacks and other minorities deserved equal protection under the law. On the other hand, at least as time moved on, it was also considered extreme to want to curtail too many rights. After all, blacks were people, right? The best position, then, was to be a “moderate” and fall right between those nasty extremes: let’s give blacks some rights, but also keep them in check. MLK lamented these moderates in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. Clearly something is not right simply because it happens to be a middle position.

But at least those people actually were moderates by the standards of the day. In the political sense, they were intellectually honest.They actually did take a road between two extremes and thus deserved the title “moderates”. But today? The so-called “moderates” of today definitely are not straddling the middle ground. How many of us have friends who want so desperately and pathetically to cling to that label, yet there’s virtually no chance they would ever vote for a particular party? I know most people have to know someone like that.

But don’t take my word for it. A recent study confirms it: the nation is more polarized than ever, and true moderates are a dying breed:

Among the increasingly growing segment of Americans who identify with neither party and call themselves independents, there are fewer moderates. Many in the “middle” hold strong, ideological views. The study concluded that three groups in the center of the Pew typology “have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels.”

“What we see is a much bigger and increasingly diverse middle,” Pew center president Andrew Kohut said. “What’s striking about it is that they’re not so moderate. People in the middle have some strong, well-defined ideological points of view.”

What the study doesn’t mention is that it’s always these jackasses who are also the first to chime in and question the very foundations of our labels. Say to someone “I’m a liberal” and the very first thing a modern day pseudo-moderate will say is, “But what is a liberal, really?” (And just the same goes for those professing to be conservatives.) It seems to me that the real issue here is that these people just have a problem with labels. They’re the popped-collar assholes of politics.

Damn hipsters.

5 Responses

  1. The ‘people in the middle’ is mostly a joke.

    In Massachusetts, most people are registered Independents, as I am, because at the time primaries roll around, an Independent can vote in either party’s primary. Why would someone register as one party and not be able to freely choose a primary election?

  2. Is it not freely choosing when the choose to register, knowing they are picking a primary?

    In Maine you have to be a party member to vote in any of the primaries, so if it interests you to do so, you have to choose. Of course you can swap at anytime to be able to vote in a different primary so it has the same effect.

  3. I think it may have more to do with complete disillusion with both parties or with the entire political system.

  4. Eh, I would call it individualism. There is some of what you mention there, but mostly I think people don’t feel like they ‘belong’ to anything, even though they split pretty even in the presidential election almost every time, even with obama, so it might just as well be 50/50.

  5. I think you’ll find a lot of libertarians will agree with your portrayal here. I’m registered with one of the two major parties (the obvious one) just so I can vote in primaries without too much hassle, and I consider myself conservative on some issues and liberal on others, but in no way does that make me a moderate.

    Instead, I consider myself an extremist on most issues – and that’s not something to be shy about. The ACLU is an extremist organization for civil rights, and I love them for that. I’m pretty extreme in my support of free immigration, free trade and free speech.

    I know moderates exist, but I agree with your point that independence of political party =/= moderation.

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