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What Would A Centrist Do?

The notion of centrism invites scorn from true believers. In many cases it is justified. A politician or person who just bends to the wind and prioritizes staying out of the crossfire, can often be accused of believing in nothing. Those in the so-called center deserve no respect if it is merely a hiding place for cowards and opportunists. But there’s another way to consider centrism.

Introduced as far back as 1976 by Donald Warren in his book, The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation, the concept of a centrist being a “radical” is based on the idea that a concrete, uncompromising political agenda can form that rejects extremism on the Right and on the Left. This concept is further explored in Ted Halstead’s more recent book The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics, published in 2002.

What Warren came up with in 1976, or Halstead in 2002, may or may not be applicable to America in 2021. But they expressed a powerful idea: The center does not have to be the refuge of cowards and opportunists. It can represent a vision and an agenda that is as revolutionary and as precise, if not even more precise, than the ideologies on the Left and Right that it rejects.

One of the liberating factors in proposing a radical centrist agenda is that it doesn’t have to adhere to ideological dogma from either extreme. It can focus on pragmatic policy solutions that rely on popular support […] Read More

When is Extremism Justified?

It was him they’d come for, not only Jabez Stone. He read it in the glitter of their eyes and in the way the stranger hid his mouth with one hand. And if he fought them with their own weapons, he’d fall into their power; he knew that, thought he couldn’t have told you how. It was his own anger and horror that burned in their eyes; and he’d have to wipe that out or the case was lost.” – The Devil and Daniel Webster, by Stephen Vincent Benet

This excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s masterpiece offers a critical perspective on the nature of extremism. It is altogether justifiable to have an extreme reaction to an extreme problem, but if one descends to the same level of hatred and evil that inspires their oppressors, their fight loses its virtue. But can fate be reasonably expected to deliver a positive outcome merely because the good guys were more eloquent? Daniel Webster knew he could not overcome hatred with hatred, but his ability to persuade a jury of the damned to spare a man’s soul, while a powerful moral fable, is nonetheless fiction.

In the year when The Devil and Daniel Webster was written, 1937, ideological hatred was exploding into violence and war across the world. But unlike in Germany, where an entire population succumbed to the exhortations of a fascist demagogue, in America, the growing extremist militancy was attenuated by the calm leadership of FDR. The point here isn’t to […] Read More

Realignment and Race in the Anglosphere

Two national elections, one decisive and the other a cliffhanger, have shaken the politics of the West to its core. In the United Kingdom, just last month, Conservative candidate Boris Johnson won a decisive victory for himself and his party. In the United States, barely three years ago, Republican candidate Donald Trump won the presidential election in a stunning upset where he narrowly lost the popular vote but logged a decisive victory in the electoral college.

The voters that supported these candidates represent a movement that has been building for several years but was not expected to result in a political realignment so disruptive and polarizing. Both candidates prevailed in the face of almost universal condemnation from the establishment media, the entertainment glitterati, most major political donors, and even members of their own party.

The reasons for their success are no secret, the only surprise was the level of support they were able to attract. To repeat what everyone acknowledges – whether or not they agree or disagree – Boris Johnson and Donald Trump owe their political success to a populist reassertion of national sovereignty. They represent renegotiating bad trade deals, reconsidering mass immigration, restructuring tax laws to discourage exporting jobs, repealing crippling regulations, and rethinking foreign policy to replace nation building with principled realism.

There’s much more to this picture, however, something harder to recognize, obscured by Johnson’s bombast and Trump’s bellicosity. While both of these politicians are channeling resurgent nationalism, they are also common sense centrists. While common […] Read More