Friday, December 02, 2005

What is a Centrist?

The recent political developments in Israel have lead to a lot of thought about what centrism really means. Haaretz brings us an excellent essay about Israeli centrism.

A "genuine" centrist won't necessarily seek the middle ground on every issue. Occasionally, he will think that the right is correct on a particular issue - for instance, the need for a decisive struggle against terror "with the gloves off" - and sometimes he will side with the left - for instance, on the need to preserve the rights of the Palestinian population - and the balance will be seen in the overall picture.

What, then, motivates the centrist? Here is a far more positive answer than the one provided by Yossi Sarid: At a time when the people on either end see before them only one aspect of reality, the centrist tries to see the entire reality. Those on the extremes are similar to people who close one eye in an effort to direct their attention to the objective that interests them. Their vision may be sharper, but a broad swath of reality is simply hidden from view...

The key word in the vocabulary of the centrist is not, as many think, "compromise," but "inclusiveness." As difficult as it is, the centrist wants to include, simultaneously, all values and needs, to be attentive to all sectors. Someone on one side of the spectrum, on the other hand, might be attentive to Palestinians, but tend toward hatred of settlers or the ultra-Orthodox, and the opposite is true as well. Compromise is only the consequence of inclusiveness, not the object, and can come in many forms.

Compromise is only the consequence of inclusiveness, not the object.

Understanding this idea is the key to answering critiques of the centrist way of doing things coming from either pole of the spectrum.

The essay also describes an aspect of centrism similar to what I have tried to describe about moderate Republicanism, especially in this essay. Similarly, the Haaretz essay continues:

On the practical side, those on either end of the spectrum tend to forget the craftiness of history. They tend to think that the way to advance the ideal they believe in is by exerting maximal pressure to implement it, and forget that at the moment they chose that path and ignored their rivals and various other values and needs, they started up the backlash seeking to cancel out their revolution.

Hat tip Centrist Coalition


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