The problem with the Centrist movement: does it even exist?
The Centrist movement in the U.S. suffers from a major issue: they don’t exist and they don’t even know it.
Centrism is the political philosophy that focuses on pragmatism and solutions. On its official website, the Centrist Party states, “Centrism isn’t defined by compromise or moderation, but is considerate of them.” There are many issues with this line of thinking.
First off, Centrism can only exist in the presence of at least two other incompatible ideologies. In the U.S. these two main ideologies are embodied by liberals/progressives and conservatives/alt-right. This contingency is an issue because the assumption of Centrism is that these two moral frameworks are on opposite ends of a spectrum and will never agree.
However, this simply isn’t true. There are issues that cause the boundaries of seemingly opposite ideologies to overlap.
Consider the unusual alliance between some radical feminists and conservative Christians, two groups one would never expect to see in agreement.
American radical feminist Andrea Dworkin is a great example. One of Dworkin’s most prominent campaigns was against the porn industry. She argued that pornography was degrading to women and the sexual revolution damaged men, women and children alike. The New York Times notes that her views allowed her to foster unlikely friendships with like-minded conservatives, such as former Bush administration speechwriter David Frum and anti-abortion activist Charlotte Allen.
This improbable alliance demonstrates that ideologies don’t exist in relation to each other in some strict geometric definition. They exist as blurry abstractions with a culture and history. But with no linear relationship between ideologies, there can be no center. Essentially, the center exists as a myth to give the claimed centrist an appeal at rationality.
The entire left/right political distinction is nonsense to begin with. It emerged during the French Revolution, when supporters of the King having strong veto power sat to his right while those opposed to this power were seated to his left. This has been the dominant narrative for political distinctions ever since, though this must be said with the caveat that there are many competing models describing political thoughts in relation to one another. More reason not to continue this centrist mythology of the middle—it serves no purpose other than to mislead.
Finally, Centrism, unlike the other sides, lacks solid fundamental beliefs. The Western worldview has infected political dialogue, until today, with the idea that compromise is the most rational response to a solution. This idea needs to be challenged because politics isn’t defined by the willingness to compromise and compromise is not, in itself, a philosophy. And yet, Centrism makes use of compromise more than it adheres to any structured set of ideas. In doing so, it loses the ability to call itself an ideology or a political movement.
Eric Kopelovitch is a senior majoring in political science and accounting.