Friday, September 30, 2005

Another Stab at "What's a Centrist?"

My regular commenter (almost collaborator!) Adam over at AmbivaBlog has what I consider a marvelous definition of a centrist:
If a person cannot find something deeply worthy of admiration on both sides of the political spectrum, that person is not a centrist.
At first that sounds at once self-evident and empty -- kind of like "You know you're middle-aged when old people think you're young and young people think you're old." What, centrists have no views of their own, just patchworks of everyone else's ideas?

But then you look again, and you realize that what so-called "centrism" is all about is rejecting the conventional polarization of views. Remember the story about the two women who come before King Solomon both claiming to be the mother of a baby? Solomon suggests cutting the baby in half, and the woman who protests that she would rather give the baby up is revealed as the true mother. The Right and the Left have cut the truth in half. The Center wants the baby to be whole, no matter who cares for it. It's not about creating some sort of hybrid of opposing views. It's about restoring what should never have been cut apart in the first place.


At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Adam said...

Thanks, Amba. Let me share my motivation for the definition. Many times when someone attempts to define centrism, he or she invokes a commitment to rationality and an impartial hearing of arguments. That is actually a fair definition; however, the problem is that everyone claims to be rational and fair. So as a technique to shut up wingers who claim to be such just pose the above question: "Do you find something deeply admirable in both liberalism and conservatism?" If they can't say so without immmediately following it with a "but", they have unmasked themselves. It's actually an aggressive rhetorical strategy to deny partisans the centrist label.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Jerry said...

King Solomon as the model centrist -- what a great image!


Post a Comment

<< Home