Monday, September 26, 2005"Moderates" enjoy a lot of prestige in political circles. Moderates are supposed to be the sober, sensible people who split the difference between the two political sides and don't get too worked up about things. Unfortunately, I think what today passes for moderation is really just a hodgepodge of inconsistent (and occasionally wrongheaded) points of view. If what you mean by "moderate" is the application of reason unclouded by prejudices, then I aspire to be a moderate. Unfortunately, when most people say "moderate" all I hear is lazy thinking.
Let me give you two examples of the positions of the "lazy middle."
Bull Moose thinks that what Russ Feingold did is great because it establishes the principle of deference to Presidential nominations. Therefore by voting for Roberts, Feingold has helped the next Democratic President get his nominees through. Of course, this presumes that a) there should be near-complete deference to the President on court nominations, and b) that Republicans will reciprocate Feingold's gesture - which we know from the Clinton years, when they held up tons of appointments, that they won't. Nothing quite like wish-fulfillment.
The Mighty Middle (via Commonsense Desk) suggests that there is a majoritarian centrist position in the U.S. represented by himself. His laundry list includes being in favor of the Iraq War but thinking it was incompetently managed, parental notification and late abortion bans but pro-choice in the 1st trimester, legalizing gay marriage, recognizing government as a necessary evil, pro-commercialization but also pro-progressive taxation/welfare state, anti-racism but pro-affirmative action, gun rights but gun safety, drilling in Alaska, drug legalization, easygoing secularism, and anti-censorship.
Now this smorgasbord of positions may or not represent where the majority of "middle" voters are, but my more important question is - what do they have in common? The easy answer would be "nothing" but the real answer is "just splitting the difference between conservatism and liberalism." The desire to do so is certainly understandable, but this just assumes that both sides have some truth to them, which isn't necessarily the case. One side could simply be wrong. In a debate between Eurosocialists and Communists, we know the Communists were wrong. In the debate between Fascists and Democrats, we know the Fascists were wrong. In the debate between civil rights advocates and segregationists, we know segregationists were wrong. In the debate between Lincoln and Douglas, we know Douglas was wrong. And today in the debate between evolutionary biologists and "intelligent design" advocates, we know the id'ers are wrong. Why? Because experience and reason tell us so.
So here's the problem: self-proclaimed moderates want to take the good from both sides of an issue in search of a better truth by recognizing the merits of each. But this only works when both sides of the debate have some merit. And in most cases I would suggest that conservative ideology is so distorted, so distant from our basic orientation as human beings, that any negotiation with them, any compromise, is just a deal with the devil.
Moderatism is NOT just splitting the difference between two sets of arguments. If it was, then we would be halfway to fascism, racism, and tyranny (oh, wait). Moderatism is the cool application of reason to the facts of the case. So I would contend that there is a true "moderate" position in American politics, and that position is liberalism. It's not our fault the other side is just kooky.