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Don't Mock the Centrists



How many times have I had to defend myself when I’ve been asked my political views? More than I could count. You’d expect, from the number of people who have told me ‘that’s an idiotic viewpoint’, that I’d have some strange, fringe views on some extreme end of the political spectrum. But no — sensible publics beware! — I’m a centrist, who believes centrism is the future of governance! To me, and I recognize that my vision is unlike those of many other people, the designation is not the symptom of some wet towel of a political vision, but rather the key to better politics in the 21st century, and perhaps the way to safeguard democraties in the face of political extremism.


What are centrists? People who don’t fully identify with the right or left, or rather those who like ideas and values of the one as well as the other. Is it less well-defined than the traditional ideologies? Undoubtedly. Does it work with the spectrum vision of politics? Not really. People see that as a weakness, but the emancipation from the rigid political designations is, I would say, a strength, and key to centrism as a concept.


The principal issue with politics today is the dominance of ideological rhetorics over common sense. Traditional parties feel a strange need for consistency in their ideas, which can push them to the most ridiculous policy ideas in order to ensure that their ideas are ‘coherent’. Worse than rhetorical entrapment, perhaps, is traditional ‘right-left’ parties’ attitudes when actively pursuing voter bases: they tend to cosy up to the more extreme factions of their political ideologies in order to claim more voters. In the world we live in today, where far-right ideas in particular are increasingly a part of political debate, there’s the risk of more extreme ideology ‘piggy-backing’ itself through more moderate traditional parties, because of this. Just look at the Tory stance on Brexit and immigration: some Tories currently declaring that Brexit was the best decision in British history actively campaigned against it in 2016, and the increasingly tough stance of Tory leadership towards immigration seems like a policy area tailor-made for attracting certain voters. Wishing to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda is a great example of the idiocies vote-hunting leads parties to. Centrism isn’t prone to those phenomena in the same way. When centrist governments need to find a coalition, or tap new elector sources, they have moderate ideas from the right and the left to choose from, which protects the system from extreme ideologies. When more moderate ‘traditional’ parties need more votes, and there is a centrist electoral pool, they will be inclined to search for electoral success therein, which incidentally provides an additional hurdle for extremism.


Having a strong centrist block allows politics to be more consensual as well. A centrist group is more open to entering in coalitions with others, not feeling bound or restricted by its beliefs or stance; it’s able to recognise the value of different perspectives and can work towards finding solutions that benefit everyone, rather than just a party or ideological base. Centrism is capable, like no other sensitivity, of finding consensus with other parties, but it is also a moderating force, which through consensus achieves more rational government. It’s a useful and constructive partner: whether one is on the right or the left, you will have some points in common with the politically centred, and they with you. That’s the reality of centrism: one isn’t stuck in asinine partisanship, one can collaborate with other parties and sensitivities in order to work for the greater good, something too often sacrificed at the altar of a party, its interests, and its political rhetoric.


Now, of course, there is the idiotic centre, the one who is at the centre just for the sake of it, the one who refuses to cooperate, or the one who uses the centre as a cover-up for more traditional political positions. But truly, an intelligent centre, if it is able to form, can be the best friend of the people, and of the political system. As always, but particularly in these times, should we not all be aiming for consensual governance?


So don’t mock the centrists. They may not conform to your black-and-white political system, where being on the right means disagreeing categorically with the left and vice-versa, but that’s a good thing. Just because they’re not willing to join ranks with the traditional parties does not mean that they are useless or unconstructive, and just because they’re moderate doesn’t mean they’re without principles. Centrists need to exist for better, more consensual, and less divisive politics. You call them wishy-washy, but don’t think they don’t call you egotistical and short-sighted.



Illustration: Ahira Varkey


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