In a time when both sides of the political aisle are pushing even more radical policies, it is not surprising when some claim to be moderate to avoid that “radical” label.
How does one identify a conservative or a liberal? It is not through their physical appearances like race, age, or gender, but through what they genuinely believe in. It is what policies they champion or politicians they constantly condemn. It is what political party they want to control Congress and the White House or what judicial philosophy they want to dominate in the Supreme Court.
I bring this to light because my friend has constantly insisted he is, in fact, a “moderate” or a “centrist.” He is clearly a fiscal liberal, supports liberal foreign policies, and wants the Democratic party to control both houses of Congress in the mid-term elections next year in 2022. If he could vote, he would have voted for Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Joe Biden in 2020. He did not express support for Obama in either election because he said he has not studied the Republican nominees. He also supported Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and once supported his policies to nationalize the healthcare and energy industries.
After Sanders lost the nomination, he supported Biden, and now advocates for Biden’s policy in raising the corporate tax rate by 7%, raising the capital gains for long-term investments by over 100%, and initiating spending ten trillion tax-payer dollars, half of the national GDP, in one fiscal quarter.
For foreign policy, he has said our greatest geopolitical enemy is Russia for cyberterrorism. During the recent Israeli-Palestine conflict, he said Israel was the clear aggressor. Additionally, he was wary of Trump’s policy to move the American Israeli embassy to Jerusalem and strongly opposed Trump’s trade war with China, which involved increasing tariffs. To add the icing on the cake, he said Trump’s presidency was the worst thing to happen to America since WWII, including 9/11.
If any political theorist or scientist looked at his positions on various topics, they would conclude he is further on the left than moderate Democratic congressman. And in the past, I have constantly told my anonymous friend he is on the left. However, he counters this by saying he is conservative on most social issues. Granted, he believes America is not institutionally racist and that law enforcement is essential in crime prevention. He also rejects critical race theory. Furthermore, he supports the second amendment and the death penalty.
The point is, however, that his conservative viewpoints do not negate his liberal viewpoints because he is willing to drop his conservative positions in favor of advancing his liberal ones. Even though he denies it, he wholeheartedly believes the federal tax code or Biden’s geopolitical position on China is more important than gender policy on restroom use.
The reason why he denies his liberal-leaning is because being a centrist means greater validation for personal arguments and less political bias. If one says he is a conservative or liberal, they will most likely be regarded as biased in reporting the news or saying their subjective conclusion of a major event. This is mainly the reason why clearly liberal-dominated news outlets like CNN, Washington Post, Politico, and New York Times insist on their objectivity despite their clear political preferences.
There is a reason why Biden painted his 2020 presidential run as a “bulwark for moderation” because if he was as radical as Sanders, he would turn off a lot of essential moderates. He rejected unpopular policies like defunding the police and failed to support packing the Supreme Court because he would lose necessary support from both congressmen and voters. Despite that false image of moderation, he is now pushing for the greatest federal spending in US history since World War II.
Lastly, the term “radical” has become a dirty word often associated with irrational or hyperbolic thinking. Since centrism is the opposite of the radicalism, being a centrist seems to be the least problematic position to hold that yields level-headed indifference. You neither uphold nor break the status quo; you just are neutral. Hiding behind the label “centrist” is not constructive, and the rewards of actually convincing someone of your supposed centrism are insignificant. What’s even worse, however, is that if someone is unwilling to come to terms with their true political identity, it’s difficult to open an honest conversation about important issues.
But I understand the desire to reject both political parties. They are practically two sides of the same coin, and associating with either of them means you bear the good, bad, and especially the ugly of each party. And our current political system inevitably presents an exceedingly toxic tribality. It’s either you are with me or against me. Perhaps the remedy would be to realize what ideology you believe is the best for governance and to also recognize that people who disagree with you are just that: people who disagree with you, not like a spawn of Satan.