“Nah, dude, I’m a centrist.” The unamusing smugness of the statement belched out of your friend’s lips is enough to put anyone who’s invested an inkling of time into researching the topics at hand into a state of simmering rage. “Everything in moderation. Live and let live. It is what it is.” This is the type of person, you remind yourself, that smokes pot while tripping on psilocybin and compares it to religious experiences he admits to have never actually had. This is the type of person, you remind yourself, who has trouble reading books and didn’t finish high school, smells of patchouli and marijuana, and claims to be “his own kind of Buddhist,” though he doesn’t seem to know what the eightfold path is when you ask about it. This is the type of person, you remind yourself, that you shouldn’t be discussing politics with.
But that’s okay, because there are other so-called centrists who at least put on the pretenses of social respectability. Instead of smelling like patchouli, they probably smell like the inside of a new car that comes out of a can. Instead of professing to be Buddhist, they’re probably non-denominational Christians or Unitarians, or thinly-veiled atheists in the form of agnostics. And instead of smoking pot, they probably indulge in red wine and can talk your ear off about specific aromas and tastes and how to pick the kind of grapes you’d want in specific wines when you’re planning your next dinner.
But what is centrism? Maybe, while listening to these folks, you could understand some form of moderation between political extremes. Maybe you think that capitulation on certain aspects of policy is important to maintain a functioning republic, and that ignoring or overlooking disagreeable traits in customers and business owners is important in order to maintain a functioning market. And you’d be right. But that leaves a lot of open ground to cover under a political category, nor does it define a platform or methodology toward political action. In fact, such a vague term signifies only two things: a) that ‘centrism’ is a purely contextual term and thus is incapable of having any coherent platform, and b) that the holder of the term doesn’t seem to have strong opinions on matters one way or the other.
The Left’s Unending Revolution
I’ve alluded in previous posts to the rift that separates right-wing politics from those on the left. Commentators today—particularly those conservative commentators eager to include libertarians and please atheists—have a tendency to identify left-wing politics with collectivism and right-wing politics with individualism. But this definition insufficiently groups anarchists and libertarians in with classical republicans, while simultaneously implying that monarchists belong on the left (while perpetuating the myth that monarchism is just another form of authoritarian dictatorship). Given that anarchism was developed by and often works alongside communism, it’s supposed antithesis, something about that definition obviously can’t be correct.
And that’s because it isn’t correct. ‘Leftism’ got its name from the French Revolutionary times, while the right was dubbed such as a reaction to those on the left. The left does not stand for collectivism per se, so much as it stands for revolution against the prevailing order. That revolution can take a variety of forms—political communism or anarchism, a cultural promotion of libertine debauchery, a social revolt against familiar institutions—but it must always be characterized as a revolution. Leftism, at its core, has no particular principles to uphold, and the lip service its adherents pay to things like liberty, fraternity, and equality are cast to the winds as soon as the revolutionary goings get rough—or worse, when the leftists actually get what they want. Every communist regime that has ever been established is a clear enough example of that.
The left requires continual revolution. Leninism, Maoism, Stalinism, et al each contributed their fair share of pseudo-intellectual garbage toward their revolutionary ends; each emphasized, in their own ways, the Marxist permutation of Hegelian dialectic. History, they claimed, was best understood through the context of the an oppressed population’s continuous revolution against the establishment in the form of class warfare, and that the proper establishment of a communist utopia required the abolition of class altogether. The problem was that this line of thought trapped itself by its own definitions. The dialectical synthesis of this class warfare only solidified the very structures they were trying to abolish; rather than do away with class power structures, every workers’ revolution merely changed who held the power, leaving them to seek violent revenge on presumed enemies of the revolution at every turn.
This pattern has precedent that predates Marxism itself. The French Revolution, violent and self-destructive, spectacularly established the pattern of secular bloodletting that the Bolsheviks, Maoists, and the various Latin American communist regimes would follow. The class structure would never be resolved, the power dynamic present in the class warfare dialectic would never reach a temporal synthesis, and the best a revolutionary could hope for was to have his particular guy end up on top. The irony of the dialectic is that the dialectic’s synthesis causally proceeds from the antitheses, rather than temporally; instead of acting as the climax of a story which unfolds through the actions of key players, the dialectic of revolution will continue to exist regardless of whether violent insurgency and the toppling of whomever resides at the top of the power structure occurs at all. History itself is the synthesis of this dialectic, not any one particular revolution.
While the Soviet academics (and their successors in the West) picked up on this, still the pipedream of the ill-defined utopic ideal and the idealized secular version of the individualized human being remained in their heads. If only we could abolish the class system disintegrated as a mission statement, replaced with a slightly less-ambitious cry: if only we could abolish the systems we already have and implement our own! Viciously Machiavellian and appropriately cynical, modern political thought found its culmination in the work to follow. Thus came post-modern philosophy. Thus came the Frankfurt School madness. Thus came modern architecture, anti-white sentiment, the abolition of adulthood, and all the wild and crazy ideologies that we have the Enlightenment-era thinkers to thank for. There was no graduated scale between two distinct but ultimately complete and operable social orders. There was only an enraged revolt against the status quo, and a steepening slope toward the abyss.
And what was the status quo? In a culture increasingly inundated with leftism at every turn, traditionalism has become a derogatory phrase that highlights the stodginess of old folks, while appreciation of the older moral values have been worn away and replaced with post-60s sexual revolutionary nonsense. Naturally, this makes any adequate representation of right-wing values somewhat distorted. At the very least, in can be said that the right stands on principles. It maintains a moral compass, and a very specific one, even when a right-wing group is not specifically Christian or even Western in origin. A strong sense of nationalism, both in civic duty and in economic theory, an emphasis on maintaining strong community and family bonds, and respect for authority—these are all common factors among any right-wing movement that deserves the name. With the maintenance of the social fabric—the family, the community, and the nation—comes a deep and abiding respect for the past, where the culture has come from, and the traditions that it has preserved.
This is not to say that the right worships rigid frameworks of crippling totalitarian authority. Quite the contrary; Western right-wing philosophies are rife with appeals to freedom and liberty, but these are treated as means to particular ends—the soul’s eternal salvation and the society’s greater stability—rather than as ambiguous ends in themselves. The state, according to the right, must ensure the freedom of its subjects to live morally and without unjust obligations or restrictions imposed upon them by its own apparatus. The idea that one can be more free while living within a framework of morals and behavioral regulations baffles the leftist mind. It confuses the tradition of a natural law with the figure of authority who speaks of it. The left extols freedom, but it wishes to destroy the institutions that preserve and ensure it. Leftism’s disgust with Christian metaphysics confuses freedom with licentiousness.
In the West, the left believes that society is a self-destructive mechanism ordered according to principles of oppression. The right, however, believes that society is an organism subject to turmoil and growth, comprised of the individuals within it. The difference is both striking and fitting, as the left’s Marxist platform is built upon a foundation of materialism, which denies the freedom of the will and an intrinsic purpose to life. Society is no more than a complicated machine, comprised of littler machines commonly known as individuals or, perhaps less tastefully, human beings. Christian doctrine, on the other hand, has no room for such mechanism in its metaphysics. Life grows, bears fruit, pursues its ends, and points toward the transcendent; it does not merely function.
Likewise, revolution, be it violent in deed or in ideal, necessarily destroys whole segments of society. Its only capacity is to cause irreparable harm to the greater organ. Advocates of revolution insist that the destruction it causes clears the way for a greater society to be built atop the ruins, as if societies are planned and constructed like factories. But the hovels raised from the rubble, cut off from the traditions and backgrounds of their predecessors, always come to resemble tombs more than homes. It takes generations for a society to recover from revolution, while the culture remains forever marred by it until its eventual extinction.
Revolution cannot operate according to an ethos that allows conciliation between two parties. Compromise is a tool for reform, but reform maintains rather than abolishes institutions and practices. For the left, which desires a ground-up reformatting, maintenance is out of the question. Gradual and subtle social growth is not what the progressivism of the left entails—progressive missions must be active and swift. The progressive movement sought openly to transform all of society within the course of a generation. It actually took them two generations, but they certainly succeeded in transforming it. The impact of the progressive movement of the early 20th century was nearly as destructive to the American soul as the Civil War had been; a hundred years after the project began, the country is once again on the verge of ripping itself to shreds over matters that had been considered settled by our parents.
The Centrism Myth
Faced with the immobility of revolutionary thought, what room is there for a drift toward moderation? And on the other hand, when faced with the staunch traditionalism of the right, what leeway can be bartered to lean toward the revolutionary tendencies of the left? Centrism claims to carve out a middle ground between the two extremes, a middle path that balances traditionalism and revolution, but that’s claiming to forge a middle path between two fundamentally incompatible ideologies.
Take the issue of defining the family. Traditionalism claims the family is pretty much a rock-solid concept: it consists of a mother and father and their children, and sometimes it includes another generation on either side of that. Some families may be considered incomplete—a mother and a son, for instance, without a father, is an incomplete family. Still a family, but by degree removed from the ideal form of it. But a father, another man, and a child? Or a mother, another woman, a man, a father, and two kids? This sort of plurality of definitions muddles the term ‘family’. At what point does it cease to be a family and begin to resemble a commune-like collection of people and children who happen to live together?
This isn’t such a radical idea anymore. Judicial enforcement of the same-sex marriage ruling surrendered any coherent definition of the family to the realm of the socially-convenient pact between any two people of legal standing and age. The notion that the institution of marriage existed to service and undergird the concept of the family has been steadily eroded since the wholesale embrace of contraception, the sexual revolution of the 60s (which encouraged pre-marital sex, made convenient by easy contraception) and the widespread rise in divorce. As the biological function of procreation became sidelined in order to service short-term indulgences of the flesh, the emphasis on family togetherness declined. Marriage shifted; it was no longer something a man and a woman committed themselves to in order to raise a family, acknowledged by their community and their peers, and held to a standard. Marriage, like religion, became something not to be judged by the community at all; it became an agreement that remained binding only for so long as both parties felt it necessary. Marriage, once the cornerstone of family, slipped from its foundation and became a mere economical contract open to negotiation at pretty much any time.
Today, single mothers aren’t just extolled for the trials they face raising children while being primary breadwinners at the same time, their single-parent households are held up as fundamentally equal to two-parent households in principle. There is no significant metaphysical difference between the two, our modern sensibilities tell us. And if there is no marked difference between those two, then the possible combinations of parents and children to formulate a “family” becomes endless. In fact, why even have parents at all? Or even kids?
This does lapse into absurdity at some point. A childless society, after all, does not survive for very long. But given the West’s declining birthrates and its worrying embrace of abortion, that’s exactly where we’re headed.
Placed between these ideas—that family has a clearly defined structure and form, or that family has no definable form and is simply a semantic convenience that refers to living arrangements between various individuals—there can be no path of moderation. The moment that the clear definition of family is given caveats is the same moment that the very idea is subverted. The moment two unequal things are treated equally, reason is abandoned.
So what does it mean to be moderate on such an issue? What kind of moderation is possible between irreconcilable and antithetical viewpoints? In the modern strain of thought, moderation means to shut up about your values. Keep them to yourself. You have ideas about the family that run contrary to the present narrative? Well, that’s fine, but it’s just your opinion. Oh, you can prove that not all families are created equal? That there’s an optimal form of the family? You can prove that? Well, that’s still just your opinion. But keep it to yourself. Don’t be a bigot.
Moderation means relativism, and relativism is a weapon of the left’s platform. Compromise on fundamental definitions of social order is capitulation to that agenda.
The Political Arena
I’m not of the opinion that all Democrats are hardcore left-wingers, nor that all card-carrying Democratic party members are, either. By and large, the Democratic party apparatus is populated by people who believe in things like compromises and moderate, regulated growth of the society. Many of them aren’t revolutionaries. And the same is true with the Republican party. But it’s the platform the Democrats stand on that’s so harmful, and it’s the lack of a response on the Republicans’ side that has let it become so costly to American values.
The culture around politics has slipped into its revolutionary state while the conservatives were asleep, and when they woke up—sometime during Clinton’s administration—they hadn’t figured out that the stage on which they had their dialogues with Democratic colleagues had been reconstructed out of Marxist buzzwords.
As a result, politics didn’t need to get revolutionary; the Democratic platform could phrase its ideals through arguments for reform and regulation because the culture had already been inculcated by the revolutionary ideas at the heart of their ideology. Widespread acceptance of contradictory and nonsensical ideas about family values, sexual practices, economic and foreign policy, ethnic identity, and national sovereignty had their revolutions throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, tempering the minds of both the American public and the political opposition. Routed, the Republican party didn’t even realize that the landscape had shifted. They danced to the Marxist piper’s tune on cue, and the few that refused to play along got severe lashings by the media.
The political wing of the left didn’t have to resort to violent revolution in order to get their way. Their allies in academia, entertainment, and news media prepared the way for them already. And twenty years after they had reached the height of their dominance in American social life, middle America stood up and said “Hell no,” finally mounting the political resistance it needed to push back. Cue “Trumpism”, whatever that even means. Trump isn’t the most conservative guy around. He’s barely even a Republican, having been a New York Democrat playing that particular system for most of his life. But he spoke to the heart of American values, to the heart of its traditions, and with a vocabulary that suggested that he was part the country he wanted to lead. And that doesn’t sit well with the left at all.
Now things get dicey. Their agenda has been laid bare. After eight years of Obama had galvanized their arrogance into messianic delusion, people are starting to realize that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Their stranglehold on the media is weakening, their political party is fragmenting and fraying, and their academies are marginalizing themselves into irrelevancy. They’re getting cornered and they know it. And their rhetoric now is even more dangerous that it has ever been before.
Centrism? Moderation? Between people who wish to preserve the rule of law and those that are encouraging people to burn down their own university campuses and urban neighborhoods? There is no middle ground between order and anarchy, and any attempt to forge one merely accepts anarchy by measures of degree. And every society that’s attempted that feat slips quickly into oblivion.