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The term centrist is a difficult enough word to define, but centrism is even harder. It comes with all of the stereotypes that people of other political persuasions try to slather all over it in an effort to demean, all of the misconceptions about centrist voters that already exist and you also have to contend with the myth of a centrist ideology.
Centrism – The Centrist Ideology Myth
In short, there is no such thing as centrism, if (and this is the crux) you use the term to mean a centrist ideology. This doesn’t mean that an ideology for centrists and moderates couldn’t arise at some point (I’d even venture an educated guess that it will one day), but one does not exist currently.
An ideology isn’t merely a set of political opinions that a segment of people generally hold. Liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, socialism and communism are good illustrations of why this idea of there being an ideology among centrists holds no water.
Those ‘isms’ are groupings of political stances that have overarching ideas that overtly tie certain collections of opinions together. They often have long histories of political theorists who invent reasons why certain ideas in otherwise disconnected issue areas should be tied together, and why those ideas are more “right” (often in a morally superior sense) than other ways of thinking.
While there are websites that endeavor toward a day when there is an ideology that we call centrism, none of them have a widespread or influential following among centrists. There just plain isn’t a hunger among centrists for this sort of thing, and even among those who would like to see an ideology for those of us in the center of the American political spectrum, there is a great deal of disagreement as to what the particulars of that ideology would be.
There are other ways you can use the term, however, that do make some sense…
Centrism as a More General Term
If you’re using the term very loosely, for example as a label of describe the centrist way of looking at things; that makes some sense. It’s a sloppy way to express that thought, as one could just say something to the effect of “polls have shown that most centrists think _____”.
It’s unreasonable to expect people to use political terms accurately. Most people don’t mean to misuse terms like this, or use them in any sort of derogatory sense. But it’s up to people who delve into these issues deep enough to read articles like this to make sure that people who use this term aren’t under the impression that there is some sort ideology covering people in the center that equates to liberalism on the left, conservatism on the right, etc.
We’re Better off Without Some Artificial Centrism Ideology
After talking to, and reading blog and forums posts from, literally thousands of centrists and moderates, I can tell you that the majority of us come to stand in the center through a process that includes a rejection of ideology. It would be much easier to accept these pre-packaged political opinion batches, mainly because it requires far less independent thinking – already something that is far to prevalent in our country and world, but we try to apply them to reality as find them lacking.
We don’t need to base our political opinions slapped together into an artificial ideological framework called centrism. Making some sense on paper, and having some internal (aka circular) logic, doesn’t make something any more or less likely to cause a better or worse result when applied to governmental policy. How many times have you heard something like “communism makes sense on paper”?
Each and every one of us take the sum of our experiences, bring the best lessons we’ve learned along the way, and apply them to the circumstances we’re faced with. We’re better off without having a rigid ideological filter to limit our perceptions and options.
We’re better off putting any energy that would be wasted on developing some artificial political centrism framework, and put it toward organizing an opposition movement against the corrupt and divisive partisans that are getting in the way of our country from reaching it’s potential for far too long as it is.