“Centrism” does not exist
Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 9, 2018
Lately, in the age of “Trumpian” rhetoric and an increasingly divided political sphere, my Twitter feed has been filled with calls for bipartisanship, compromise and ending the political divide. Many of these politically aligned “centrists” calling for compromise and bipartisanship oppose political extremism regardless of its leftist or rightist agenda. Ideologically, this “centrist’ message has proliferated throughout our social consciousness, reverberating into every corner of society: from the classroom with newfound emphasis on presenting “both sides of the argument” to Trump’s condemnation of Neo-Nazis and counter-protesters as “display[ing] hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
For many, this newfound love for neutrality is an attempt to avoid the pejorative associations that come with an aggressive defense of any ideologically rightist or leftist stance. The truth is that everyone has an opinion. To claim that you’re entirely indifferent in regard to a controversial political stance is both deceitful and dangerous. There are only really two stances to take: the status quo and change. To choose change is to antagonize the status quo. To choose the status quo is to antagonize change. To choose change is to advocate for some new passage of law or to create some new social understanding and definition. To choose the status quo is to reject new law and to reject new social understandings or definitions. While neither the status quo nor change is inherently an immoral stance to take, given historical circumstances, some obvious immoralities crop up.
For instance, in order to choose the status quo during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement was to oppose civil rights legislation guaranteeing equal citizenship for African Americans. To choose the status quo in this circumstance was, in an egregious understatement, an immorality. In the aftermath of the 2008 housing market crash and subsequent financial crisis, to choose the status quo was both irresponsible and negligent. To oppose the passing of the Dodd-Frank act would be to advocate for the possibility of another financial meltdown.
On the flip side, there are times that choosing change could also present issues. For instance, to advocate — as PETA does — for the treatment of animals as human beings can seem many times frivolous and unnecessary. To advocate for change in this manner, while not explicitly immoral, can operate to undermine social understandings of what it is to be human. In another case, advocating for a so-called “Muslim Ban” is a stance for change. I don’t think it’s a controversy to say that this “Muslim Ban” is not a change representing a particularly moral position.
In all of these cases, the choice to advocate for change or the status quo is not inherently bad. Given the circumstances surrounding these cases, however, an understanding of immorality becomes abundantly clear. To claim indifference, centrists allege, is to neither advocate for the status quo nor to advocate for change. However, in reality, to claim indifference is to choose the status quo. To claim indifference is to advocate against change. The only way change is achieved in our democratic world is through the picket line or the voting booth. By not voicing opinion through either of these media, centrists automatically choose the status quo.
As Sir Isaac Newton, observed an object will remain in uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. Society is, for all intents and purposes, one of these Newtonian objects. Society will continue in uniform motion unless an equal and opposite external force advocating for change acts upon it. Our political sphere will remain the same unless change is obviously and aggressively fought for.
By prescribing to a “centrist” view, the rest of the world and I will interpret your stance as advocating for the status quo. There’s no need to hide your bias for continuity. It makes sense. Human beings, I think, have a desire for continuity. There’s a certain security that is achieved only through continuity. However, there are morally imperative times that taking a stance for “centrism” and subsequently the status quo means advocating for oppression. There are times that taking a “centrist” stance means advocating for disenfranchisement. There are times that taking a “centrist” stance means advocating for hatred, bigotry and xenophobia.
To all my “centrist” friends reading: Pick your battles wisely. Fight for your “centrist” and status quo views when it really matters. Do not simply choose political indifference in every situation to avoid the criticism you will inevitably receive. There are many times when choosing “centrism” is to side with the oppressors and bigoted. In issues of great moral importance, choose to stand on the side of the oppressed, hated, marginalized and disenfranchised. In these heavy and pressing situations, I implore you to shed the stain of “centrism” and advocate for change.