Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On fair-mindedness and being a "moderate"

Yesterday, I was hanging out on a sports message board I frequent, and someone, in discussing a sports personality's possible politics, said of her, "She is so fair in her views--so she is probably a moderate."

This statement immediately rubbed me the wrong way, but it also caused me to think a lot. On the surface, it would indeed seem that a very fair-minded person would "see both sides" of an issue. It is important to understand both sides of an issue and to make decisions based on observable fact; I agree with that.

But political opinions are formed because of values, not discreet facts. I am what most people would consider a progressive (or a feminazi, animal rights nut, gay agenda-promoting, tree-hugging, unAmerican leftist, if you want to go in that direction). I also consider myself fair-minded. I am the first to call out an idiot liberal (which keeps me pretty busy), and the first to condemn unfair bashing of a conservative. I also do not like assumptions made that cannot be backed up by fact. I also have a sense of humor.

But being fair-minded makes me no less liberal; I like to think it makes me more so.

What is a "moderate"? I'm not sure. Is it a person who thinks gays shouldn't be beaten up, but that they also shouldn't be permitted to marry? A person who understands there were no weapons of mass destruction, but who is nevertheless glad we got rid of Saddam Hussein? A person who knows that the war is wrong but who thinks it is in bad taste to protest?

In her fascinating book, Ferocious Romance, Donna Minkowitz writes that she found she had more in common with the right-wing groups she infiltrated than she did with many other "non-extremist" people. I understand that. As much as I profoundly disagree with right-wing people, and believe that much of their agenda is based on ignorance, I acknowledge that at least they give a damn. Their thinking about issues may be incomplete, but at least they have feelings about issues. They are no more frightening to me than the millions of Americans who are "too busy," or who "don't like politics," or are afraid to ever take a stand about anything.


I guess the case could be made that 'moderate' has taken the place of the 'centerist' mentality of some years back. But your point is well taken... it would seem to be a fall-back position for some of the less courageous in our society who fear labels and all they entail.

By Anonymous broncobob, at 4:04 PM  

I think "moderate" probably does mean "centrist." But what is a "centrist"? Same thing. I understand that in Congress, there are people who play the role that say, John Breaux, played, to mediate the two sides (that's a joke too--there is only one side now) and make a deal. But among ordinary citizens, there is no need for deal-making.

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