A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, November 14, 2005

Proud to be a Moderate

A lot is made by various dug-in polemiscists, that to be a moderate is to be a fence sitting panzy ass. That is, if you aren't a Bush-hating moonbat, or a rag-head bashing evangelical, you just aren't trying hard enough and you need to declare your true intentions. Which, quite frankly, is a load of dingoes kidneys. Why, exactly, is the polemitization, fear-mongering and acerbic sniping of lockstep partisanship to be applauded?

Many liberals I know decry the fact that most liberals won't admit to being liberal-- presumably out of fear of being thrown into the pond by conservatives to see if they float. Similarly, I have heard many hard right Republicans decry that RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) are selling the party down the river and should just declare themselves Democrats since they are towing the party line hard enough and are actually willing to work with the OTHER side.

Nowhere, with the possible exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andrew Sullivan, my own humble blog and my own small contigent of friends, do I hear ANYBODY decrying the lack of freethinking, independent minded moderates who vote as they believe is best, not how someone else tells them to. Ye gods how I wish Arnie could run for President-- though if his trials in California are any testament, any attempt to actually reform anything would go down in flames as both sides attempted to be the first to cut his knees out from under him.

I know, I know, all the liberals who read these posts (do I have any left? I hope so, because though my thinking has drifted to the conservative side of things, I still very much value thoughtful insight from all perspectives) will find it rich that such an avowed conservative as I wants more compromise. But I do. Seriously. I also want more civility and more unity. I want less personal attacks on individuals in politics and more substanative attacks on bad policy.

On his blog, TC recently applauded a hard left rampage from somebody else's blog, and I found his belief that there was more value in mad ranting than in reasoned discourse both depressing and unsuprising. Likewise the rant of the anonymous guy that responded to my post by saying:
Screw the bloody middle ground! I don't want to hear about how if we can just reason with these folks in power, maybe they'll come around to our way of thinking. They are never going to, because they are a bastard bunch of rapacious, child eating dogs, and they will use whatever tactics they can to grab more and more for the "have a lot" crowd.
Which just makes me think, 'Yeah, okay buddy. Take your meds and curl up in your corner like a nice little nutbag, would you please?' The only people that eat that up are the people that already agree with you. For people who disagree with you, or those that *GASP* find themselves ambivalent toward the "bastard bunch of rapacious, child eating dogs" this type of rant either cements in their mind that the other side is nuts and can safely be ignored, or convinces them that they want nothing to do with people this extreme.

Honestly, other than to make yourself feel better, what's the point of this kind of over the top rhetoric? To get noticed by others who agree with you so that they'll pat you on the back and say, "Yeah, way to tell those bastards!"? Even if you believe that everyone in power is a rapacious, child eating dog, wouldn't it be better to... what's the word?... oh yeah... restrain your urge to howl at the moon in hopes of writing something that might actually interest or influence someone? The anonymous responder to my post wants the "power heads in charge" to notice that people are mad, as in angry, but posts like this just convince the reader that the writer is mad, as in completely bonkers.

I call myself a libertarian. In truth, I am generally not such-- libertarians favor individual liberty over all else, and while I favor individual liberty, I believe it needs to be leavened with a fair degree of societal oversight because humans are, by nature, quite capable of really horrendous things. Societal oversight does not have to be government oversight, though that is probably the most significant force, but also includes the church, the schools and plain old folks look out for each other. I believe there is a need for national defense and I believe there is a role for federal, state and local governments. Unfortunately, right now all three are bloated overbearing vehicles which too often exist merely to propogate themselves and Lord would I love to see a whole lot of genuine small government conservatives in office simply to shrink the bureaucracy for a decade or so.

But I digress. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with being a moderate and being willing to compromise. It does not mean that you have no values, no beliefs worth fighting for-- rather it acknowledges that no one philosophy has all the answers and that, on a practical level, governing people actually requires input from many sources. Moderation in all things, Aristotle tells us, and those words still resonate through the milleniums between then and now precisely because extremism tends to become a closed feedback loop where outside stimuli is no longer allowed. An echo chamber of the same mantra repeated over and over to people who already know it by heart. This is the problem with blogs-- I love the blogosphere and generally find it to be a wonderful and informative tool, but by its very nature it tends to polarize both issues and people.

Being a die-hard liberal (hey there TC!) or stern and unforgiving conservative (how ya' doin', John?) is easy-- you can reflexively dismiss anything the other side says. Being a moderate, where you need to weigh, evaluate and analysis divergent opinions in a constantly changing political, economic and cultural environment is hard. Being willing to admit that you might be wrong, or that your convictions on one particular issue may need to be compromised in order to gain what you wish on a different issue is hard. Holding the line on all issues, even if it means that none of them will actually gain the ground that you desire, is easy-- and ultimately less productive.

This is my call then-- moderates, independents, libertarians and free-thinking folks of all types: Be proud of your independence! Do not let hard-core liberals and hard-core conservatives convince you that you are just wishy-washy mamby-pambies-- nothing could be farther from the truth! To weigh, to judge, to consider multiple perspectives and, ultimately, to come to your own conclusions is not only harder, it also better. Better for you, better for those around you, and better for your community, your state, your country and your world.

Compromise is not a dirty word, my friends, and yes, I would love it if some of the people who are uncomfortable on the extremes wanted to join us in the middle.

Moderates UNITE!


Some good points, Nick. I haven't commented in a while, but I have been reading. I think you should refine your point a little more. For example, it is absolutely wrong to exterminate Jews. However, during WWII, I think it was acceptable to hold this view and take certain actions that would only save a few Jews, like Oskar Schindler did. You don't compromise on the principle, but if all you can do is vindicate a portion of that principle, you do it.

I don't have a problem with compromising in general, but to compromise is not itself the goal. Some moderates I see as worshiping compromise for its own sake. In which case, the wisdom of Solomon would be totally lost on them -- they really would have preferred to have seen the baby cut in two.
Greg! Glad to know you still check in. You're absolutely right, compromising for the sake of compromising is silly and counter-productive. But there are so many issues out there where neither side will give an inch, and instead simply villifies those that disagree with them.

The two things that really bug me are when politicians actually propose commons sense, smart legislation-- like Coburn's anti-pork amendment-- and it gets shot down, and the fact that instead of arguing policy and cost/benefits, politicians now seem to make everything personal and, 98.4356% of the time, negative.
As regards politics, perhaps you would care to share with us who you think is an extremist, and who is a moderate? I doist think that the moderate list will be a mear trickle.
It's not so much that there are lots of extremists as it is that compromise with members of the other party seems to be viewed with great disdain these days. I think there are a lot more moderates out there, folks willing to search for common ground, but they are getting shouted down and denounced by the extremists in both politics and the media if they don't tow the party line-- whichever line that may be.

And, of course, few, if any, politicians are on the extreme edges of ALL issues-- but it seems the extremes get the publicity, while compromises like the recent one on judicial filibusters, are decried on both sides as "giving in." That and the personalization of attack politics.
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