You’re Wrong About: Centrism
Although it’s reasonable to assume that I am left-leaning when it comes to politics because I am especially passionate about human rights, climate change and the importance of considering others who we share society with, I’m more accurately what is called a “radical centrist”.
I know that this means different things to different people, depending on their own political beliefs. These are some of the common beliefs about centrism that I’d like to attempt to debunk with my own personal understanding of centrism and why I consider myself a radical centrist.
Centrist is the same thing as moderate.
A moderate is someone who takes a middle/neutral position on everything. A true centrist will have views that absolutely lean left or right and will call out the other side’s view when it’s a bad take. Yes, this will be according to their own criteria for a “bad take”, sure, but moderates wouldn’t do that. They would be more like: “That’s a bad take, but I’m not going to challenge it!”.
Centrism is just political apathy.
Nope. Centrists definitely care about what they believe in. I highly doubt they’d be engaging in political conversations or making their position known if they didn’t. People who say, “I don’t care about politics, I’m a centrist!” are simply labelling themselves incorrectly.
Centrism is just the favoured position of people who like to play Devil’s advocate.
This assumes that anyone who labels themselves a centrist only do so to “get away with” arguing points from both sides, while clearly leaning to one side (usually the right) in reality. That last part is true: most centrists WILL lean one way, but it’s not because they’re out here being right-wing trolls.
Centrism is just a cop-out for people with “bad” views to get away with having said “bad” views.
For some people, this may be true. But again, “bad” can be subjective and although you might think their take is rubbish, they can genuinely believe it and have their reasons as to why it’s not such a bad view without it being why they choose to label themselves as centrist. Just because you’d likely want to shield any dodgy views you may have behind something, doesn’t mean everyone does that.
Centrism is about “compromise” at all costs.
Not. At. All. Centrism does not have to ignore the bad to access the good. You do not need to take the bullshit that comes with a value held by a particular political ideology to apply it in a different way. Fuck “working across lines” if one of those lines is basic human rights.
It’s IMPOSSIBLE to actually be a centrist because of the fundamental differences in left and right politics.
Yes, there are some views that are simply at odds with others from the other side of the spectrum, but it’s not necessary to integrate ALL views into your own centrist ideology. You can take what you like and leave what you don’t, and it will still be just as valid as the views held by people who identify further along each end of the spectrum.
“Radical” centrist makes no sense because centrism is moderate/apolitical.
I already covered why centrism isn’t moderate or apolitical, but how can centrism be radical?
Well, “radical” just means actively pushing for change in the system. Just like radical leftists and the alt-right, we want governmental reform to fix all the problems caused by previous governments, based on our ideologies. And I say ideologies, because yes, we don’t agree on everything.
Centrists are just pseudointellectuals who think they have the answers to everything.
Nah. I’m smart enough to realise that my views might be wrong, but it’s not as if I decided to just hold a set of views that don’t have any possible merit. I researched and got my critical thinking skills out to make sure I wasn’t just thinking with my butt. Centrists have a preference for evidence-based policy.
So, what DO I believe as a “radical centrist”?
I believe in the right to exist exactly as you are and do anything you’d like to do with your life so long as you are not directly harming anyone else. This means doing anything that could potentially kill, disable, or cause long-term mental distress to another living person.
And no, the mental distress you create for yourself getting your knickers in a twist over the existence of trans people or a woman making a choice for herself that doesn’t affect you in the slightest doesn’t count.
I believe that capitalism is vastly preferable to communism in a world where we need governments for regulation. Because people are just fundamentally different and will always hold dissenting opinions no matter what form of government we have, we need a form of government that allows for that without oppression. Government-regulated capitalism is one such form. Government-regulated communism? Not so much, as we’ve seen in failed communist states.
I’m not entirely anti-communism. I can freely admit that communism could definitely work in a world where everyone WANTS communism and is willing to work together without a government, but I just don’t think that will ever happen.
Also, I know what you’re probably thinking: government-regulated capitalism is technically just socialism lite! But I have a specific and kind of complicated view on how I think capitalism should be regulated that doesn’t quite match up with socialism and leans right, so this is a great example of one of my more centrist views.
I can write an entire blog post on exactly how I think capitalism could work best, if anyone is interested. Let me know in the comments.
I believe we have a duty to protect the world we live in and the people we share the world with. However, I don’t think this means that we all need to give up what we have, how we use it, and dedicate ourselves to working our lives in around others. We just need to be more mindful of what effect we can have on other people and the planet.
Even if you don’t believe in climate change or that a thriving society is one that everyone can participate in, you can still appreciate that you NEED these things to exploit, right?! Doesn’t it make sense to treat them better so you can get more out of them?
I believe in semi-direct democracy. I think governmental representation is necessary and we should be leaving the running of a country to people who have dedicated themselves to politics and know what they’re doing, but we should be able to select these people directly and choose which portfolios they manage. We should also be able to switch them out if they’re not doing a satisfactory job at any point, not just a whole group of politicians every few years.
I believe that there is nuance in everything. I always try to consider multiple points of view and how certain factors can influence how people came to have those points of view. I don’t necessarily agree to disagree with those whose views don’t match mine, but I don’t also automatically throw their opinion away without checking where it came from. Except of course if it’s hateful or dangerous, or clearly from a place of troll or wilful ignorance.
I believe in changing my mind. If an idea is presented to me that is to the left or right of what I already believe, I’m not going to cling to the existing idea based on politics if the new idea makes more sense. If you can provide a good, evidence-based argument without hateful rhetoric, I’m going to consider it!
Now, I fully expect people to try to suggest to me that this isn’t centrism even after all that debunking because I borrow more from the left than the right. But that’s only because I personally feel as though the left has a few better ideas, especially in the social sphere of politics which what I am overall most passionate about. However, it would be dishonest of me to say I am a leftist/liberal because I don’t think they have a monopoly on good ideas.
It annoys the hell out of me when I can share an opinion that leans a certain way, and many people reading that opinion will somehow come to some grand conclusion about how I view ALL politics. I fully get that some people are all-in on the left or right because it makes perfect sense to them, and that’s fine. But not all of us think and feel that way, and I just wish the prevailing rhetoric about centrism wasn’t what it is.
We’re here, we care, and we don’t want to compromise with the other side on their shitty beliefs so we can work together. We want to take what ISN’T shitty and try and implement it in a way that can have the widest benefit to the most people without causing division to the point we have these days. I might be one of the more idealistic centrists with this sort of viewpoint, I know, but it’s just how I feel.
EDIT (1st September 2023): I thought I’d just add examples of radical centrist parties/politicians around the world to help give a better view of what it is.
In the US, Andrew Yang is an example of a radical centrist, but of course, in the context of US politics, he’s a right-leaning.
In the UK, the Liberal Democrats are listed as radical centrist, but I would personally define them as liberals (in the true sense of the word, not the American centre-left/Democrats sense of the word) with a focus on reform (which is where “radical” comes in).
In Canada, it could be argued that the Liberal Party was once radical centrist, but I feel like they’re more moderate these days. They aim to appease as many people as possible rather than actually change or reform anything.
For my two countries: the one I live in, the Netherlands, has three parties I would consider radical centre.
The first and (current) largest is D66. On paper, they basically match my views, but in reality, it’s a little different. I’m not entirely sure about the radical part of the label anymore.
The next and fastest rising is New Social Contract. Despite being a Christian faith-based party, the views within that are coming off as big-time radical centrist to me. I cannot with religion-based politics, but otherwise, I think this party is a solid example of radical centrism.
And the third is a small EU-wide party, Volt. It’s quite similar to D66, but is focused largely on the entire EU.
And for the country I’m from (New Zealand): The Opportunities Party. Although I absolutely abhor the founder of the party on a personal level, TOP is like D66 in that I agree with basically everything in their manifesto and a great example of a radical centrist party.