Is it really centrism or is it just self-centrism?

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

The joy experienced by many, myself included, as the nation awoke to news of Pennsylvania and Georgia turning blue in the 2020 presidential election was clouded by a sense of begrudging acquiescence. President Joe Biden is notably centrist. 

A Democratic candidate, but one that is moderate nonetheless. His win signified the necessary removal of former President Donald Trump from office, but also pulled the country into a new era of idle politics and a disappointing lack of change. 

Centrism is, by definition, the ideology that places an individual’s political beliefs in between both parties: not too far left and not too far right.

However, given the current political climate in the United States, to identify as a centrist is not a thought-provoking, intriguing practice; rather, it is a “cop-out” and a sign of privilege and ignorance.

There is no denying the party divisiveness that plagues the American political spectrum. Liberals are leaning further and further left and conservatives continue to steer right. 

The aisle has become more of a demilitarized zone than a freezer section in your local Walmart. Reaching over is nothing short of a feat. However, this divisiveness is an uncontrollable phenomenon. 

As personal moral beliefs, religion and opinion infiltrate as deeply as the federal judicial system, historical procedures are being swept aside and replaced with party politics. 

The 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade (1973) was little more than a “screw you” signed and dated by the overwhelmingly conservative SCOTUS and delivered to the Democrats, but the results have been far-reaching and disturbing.

Jan-Werner Müller, a professor of politics at Princeton University, writes in his op-ed with Los Angeles Times, “If one party rejects democracy, equidistance is complicity.” 

Trump’s pseudo-tyrannical thumb hovers over the GOP to date; his ideals, policies, practices and verbiage are the very definition of rejecting democracy. 

From the January 6th insurrection, the effects of which are still notable and relevant today, to his incessant claims regarding election fraud, the Trump era of Republicanism is the opposite of true democracy. 

To align oneself in the middle of the uninspiring Democratic Party, which is far more complacent and moderate than its actual voter base (many of whom consign to voting for the lesser of two evils), and the party that strives to propagate voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering and traditional religious values in government is in effect supporting those same practices. 

To not stand against the inadequacy of the current GOP party is to support it all the same.

Müller refers to a sort of “zombie centrism,” which boils down to remnants of the Cold War and the movement against anti-democratic ideologies.

Yet, in contemporary American politics, is there actually a place for idle moderacy in an era of contrarian ideals, clashing parties and conspiracists? 

There is no effective way to be centrist when the bipartisan system is so polarizing. 

Rather, it follows the group-centric nature of political issues. 

Individuals tend to support certain ideologies and legislature when it is relevant and relatable to them. 

The existence of the self-identified centrist politician is a selfish means to avoid making waves, working solely towards reelection in a time where the political spectrum spans considerably wide and it is nearly impossible to garner support from the opposing party.

Centrism is a tool for the rich, the privileged and the casually ignorant. 

Having socially liberal views and fiscally conservative views are incongruent and oxymoronic in today’s America. 

How can one rally for social welfare programs and returning rights to lower socioeconomic strata, while simultaneously rejecting taxation and propagating capitalism, which preys on the middle and lower classes? Observing centrism is simply a means to cherry-pick the issues that affect the individual; it is the political ideology of the self-serving.