Political spectrum

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The political spectrum is a concept for representing different political stances in relation to one another.


[edit] Left-right axis

At its most basic, the political spectrum consists of a line or continuum from left to right, with varying shades of opinion in between. Some people, particularly those at the far sides of the spectrum, will tend to simplify it further to be just two positions; left or right, with no room for compromise. More realistic ways of assembling a political spectrum tend to be far more complex, but the single dimensional spectrum from "left" to "right" is the most commonly used and most popular.

The terms "left-wing" and "right-wing" originated in the years following the French Revolution of 1789, when the nobility were seated on the right side in parliament meeting, and representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie sat on the left. Thus, the term "right-wing" became associated with maintaining the status quo and protecting the interests of the established elites, like the nobility, clergy and the wealthy. The "left wing" is associated with demanding progress and equality, although the extent can vary from liberals and social democrats who seek change through economic reform (while retaining a market-based system) to communists, who advocate the destruction of capitalism and collective ownership of the means of production.

Although the meanings of left and right vary between different countries, there is more than sufficient shared meaning to enable leftists in one country to affiliate with leftists in other countries and for rightists in in one country to affiliate with rightists in other countries, unless of course their countries are at war. The shared meanings that form the bases for their affiliation involve beliefs about human nature. Otherwise, they would be unable to form organizations like the Socialist International or the International Democrat Union.

The following is the classic left-to-right political spectrum that still makes a good deal of sense to many people in the United States of America and resonates strongly throughout Western civilizations.


The term "radical" has broadened in popular usage to mean extremists of either the left or the right, though (ironically) it's more often used now to describe rightist extremists. The following linear political spectrum shows examples of western ideologies and where they would fit:

Anarchism----Communism ---- Socialism ----- Social Democracy ----- Liberalism ---- Centrism ----- Neoliberalism ---- Conservatism ----- Reactionism ----- Fascism

[edit] Problems with a 1-dimensional spectrum

There are several problems with the the left-to-right spectrum. One is that the uses and definitions of the terms vary considerably between different cultures and contexts, since they are dependent on the political and economic status quo. For example, in authoritarian countries such as the USSR or China, hard-liners have sometimes been described as "conservatives," while proponents of the free market were regarded as progressive reformers, essentially the opposite of how the left and right wings of a spectrum would be labelled in democratic countries the United States. "Centrism" is not so much a clearly distinguishable position in its own right, as it is always defined in the context of other positions - what counts as a "centrist" position in one country may well be considered extreme in another. The terms "left" and "right" are also meaningless for people in many non-Western cultures, simply because they lack a tradition of categorizing politicians and parties in this manner. Another problem with the left-right distinction is that it suggests a one-dimensional spectrum that is often reduced to disagreements over economic policy, ignoring the importance of social issues and freedoms.

Another common observation is that the movements found at both the far-left and far-right positions tend to have more in common with each other than they do with more moderate liberals or conservatives, since both extremes have a tendency towards radicalism and totalitarianism. The horseshoe theory contends that the left-right axis should be viewed in terms of a horseshoe curve, with the ends of the axis curving towards each other, rather than a straight line from one extreme to the other.

[edit] Other measures

The Political Compass
The Nolan Chart

Another problem with the left-to-right spectrum is that there are some political positions which do not fit into it. For example, libertarianism upholds both personal liberties (traditionally left-wing) and unrestrained economic freedom (traditionally right-wing). This hasn't stopped some libertarians from claiming that therefore they are centrists.

Likewise, with what is traditionally viewed as the far-right, fascism and etc, were not always right wing on the economic spectrum. Nazi Germany on the one hand was founded on white supremacy, anti-antisemitism, and traditionalism (all right-wing ideas) but had an economic system that was to the left of "New Deal" America, (distinctly left-wing), although by no means communist or even really socialist.

Libertarians often contend that a full variety of opinions can be better represented by two-dimensional diagrams where the (economic) left-to-right spectrum is balanced with another (social) axis representing a varying level of restriction on civil and social freedoms, both of which can be either left and right wing. Two examples of such a representation are the Nolan Chart and the Political Compass, where political opinions can be plotted anywhere in a square grid based on the two axes.

The Vosem chart reworks the Nolan chart into three axes: Cultural, fiscal, and corporate.[1] The two ends of each axis are sometimes labeled as "hierarchical" vs. "egalitarian."

[edit] Leftism

If you are or want to become a political activist of "THELEFT," or learn "hersay," you better read this book
If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain.
—falsely attributed to Winston Churchill[2]

Leftist is widely used in US politics to refer to socialism and anti-capitalist ideologies, although it is also often mistakenly applied to liberals, which can cause confusion and resentment, since there is a vast difference between the two groups. For anyone who studies politics with rigor, the conflation of "leftist" and "liberal" is truly infuriating; the American right-wing talking point machine refers to anyone "left of center-right" (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Al Franken), as a "far-left" politician or pundit, further confusing political discourse. Indeed, the nomenclature of US politics is so skewed as to be practically unrecognizable to anyone from outside the US.

[edit] Far left

The term far left is a label used for political movements and parties that champion the abolition of private property and the "equality of outcome", i.e. a perfectly equal society in terms of (in theory) income, belongings, and rights. Most of these movements fall under the label of either communist (for which there are an absurd number of "subdivisions"), left-wing anarchist, or sometimes (though somewhat rarely today) socialist. Hard greens may be labeled far-left. If you hear it in American politics, bear in mind the possibility that it could be just being used as a snarl word to describe any liberal, or at least any liberal who doesn't kowtow to mainstream consensus politics in Washington.

Some leftists wish to overthrow capitalism, and believe that "bourgeois democracy" is a sham, designed only to keep the rich in their places of privilege, while others believe in achieving a socialist society through democratic means. There are many different forms of leftism, as reflected in such terms as Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite, neo-Trostkyite, Maoist, democratic socialist, libertarian socialist, anarchist, De Leonist, council communist, guild socialist, etc., not to mention various modern and postmodern theoretical schools that seem to exist mainly in academic circles, such as deconstructionism, left- or post-feminism, Critical Theory, and the Frankfurt School (sometimes so-called “Academical Left”). Many of these groups have a fierce rivalry with each other, such as the Marxist-Leninists with libertarian socialists, and the Stalinists and Maoists with just about everybody else.

Common ideas:

  • The abolition of private property.
  • The abolition of class and perfect or near-perfect economic equality among people.
  • In contrast to common opinion nearly all far-left philosophies call for the eventual (or, in the case of Anarchism, immediate) abolition of government (in theory at least).
  • Usually the abolition of discrimination, since this is seen as a method of dividing the lower class from unity with one another. This one's somewhat of a headscratcher considering the extreme social conservatism present in many communist dictatorships such as under Stalinist or Maoist systems.
  • Many used to call for a single united world, usually without borders, though the idea of "Socialism in one country" caused some far-left movements to become highly nationalistic.
  • Methods used to obtain said goals range from embracing pacifism (unlike the far-right) to outright violence.

Rarely do far-left movements actually enact these goals since in practice the most ruthless members of these movements tend to position themselves to take it over, at which point they tend to devolve into highly nationalistic and brutal dictatorships. Anarchist left movements have had more success in standing by their ideals however, such as in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War and Ukraine during the Russian Civil War, until both the fascists and the Stalinists killed them that is.

[edit] Not far left

Like the label far-right, the term is oftentimes used inappropriately and pejoratively to movements that are not actually of the extreme left, such as:

  • Social Democracy - As social democrats accept the presence of a widespread market system, private property, and some degree of class inequality they are not far-left. This label is even more absurd when applied to "Third Way" social democrats who are essentially centrists.
  • Social Liberalism - As social liberals are even more toned down than old-styled social democrats (as they do not advocate for nationalization of any business) it's really hard to see how they are "far-left" in any meaningful sense of the word.
  • Juche - This one's actually debatable. Most scholars today believe North Korea's ideology is actually much closer to ethnic fascism than communism.
  • Nazism - Nazism is a form of fascism which is inherently far-right. While the Nazis did enact some policies that could be seen as "left" by the US political sphere, their stance on ultra-nationalism, racial superiority, their promotion of social inequality, etc. makes them far-right. One must also remember that the NSDAP means "National Socialist German Workers' Party"; while socialists and workers are far-left, wingnuts like to ignore that "National" and "German" were far-right, "patriotic" terms in 1930's Germany. Economists also rate Nazi Germany as center in terms of economic stance as it had no clearly defined economic policy and hated both communists and capitalists.

[edit] Liberalism

Funny cartoon showing the socialist brain of a Democrat.
Democratic corruption does not count. Only Republican corruption counts. Fact!
See the main article on this topic: Fun:Really embarrassing liberals

A liberal tends to champion liberty, individual rights and equality, although it depends on what measures are being taken to realize those rights. Due to this, liberalism can fall under many branches, some even self-contradictory; for instance, classical liberalism favors limiting government action to promote individual rights while social or modern liberalism (aka "progressivism") tends to favor government action to protect individuals. Unlike conservatism, its traditional political opposite, liberalism may be against the status quo, favoring changes to what liberals perceive as a better society.

A lot of liberals believe conservatives are trying to curtail women's reproductive rights, impose religion on society, and preserve and promote corporate power and power for the historically privileged. Some liberals attack conservatives as general-purpose scapegoats for any ills of society as seen from their liberal perspective. (A lot of conservatives do make for an easy target. See Ann Coulter for just one of many examples.)

[edit] In Europe

Europeans typically use the term to describe politics that draw on classical liberalism's basic touchstone of the individual operating in a free market economy, a notion similar to modern libertarianism. These liberals oppose government regulation on the free market to promote flow of goods in the market.

The left-wing in Europe today, however, is closer to the American interpretation of liberal. Most developed countries in the West are more left-wing than the U.S., with government playing a bigger role in general, handling universal health care, work vacations, and comprehensive sex education. The common accusations of socialism in the U.S. would've fallen face-flat in European ears, as several socialist leaders stand a significant chance or have won in elections. Not only this, but Europeans are frequently puzzled why Barack Obama is commonly called a "socialist" by his detractors. (See also ad hominem.)

A prominent example is the United Kingdom's politics. The UK Conservative Party would be called out as "liberals" by Republicans (or "socialists" depending on their mood) in the U.S. They support continuing the NHS while they allow abortions and same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, however, during economic recession, the party proposes spending cuts, something more in line with conservative thought in the States.

[edit] In the USA

Liberalism, above all, means emancipation - emancipation from one's fears, his inadequacies, from prejudice, from discrimination, from poverty.
—Hubert Humphrey, American politician

In the United States, liberalism is typically used to describe politics on the centre-left side of the political spectrum. Liberals tend to favor equal rights gained by government. For instance, liberals often favor the public option, gay marriage, banning the death penalty, environmentalism, increased government regulation on corporations as well as trade union presence. On other issues, to promote individual freedom, they tend to favor reproductive rights and the separation of church and state, so they may advocate secularism, removing religious symbols in public grounds, and disallowing creationism to be taught at public schools. As a result, the vast majority of liberals vote Democrat, although the party is not solidly on the left. It's probably a lesser of evils option.

The term "liberal" is used rather... liberally in the US, but most American liberals are advocates of social liberalism, which veers centre to centre-left, though it may also refer to advocates of the Third Way (If slightly to the right of social liberals) or social democracy (If slightly to their left) on economics.

Over the past few decades, the GOP has near-successfully framed it as a synonym for "socialist." This is partially due to their use of bullshit scare tactics and partially a legacy from the second Red Scare, when some people with communist sympathies, not wanting to state their affiliation openly, called themselves "liberals" or "progressives" instead. Liberalism is seen as pure evil by the Religious Right and its counterparts overseas; these groups work tirelessly to depict supporters as Satanic monsters, and to make the very word into an insult. (As a possible result of this, fewer people identify themselves as liberal compared to the amounts of self-identified conservatives and moderates, instead identifying themselves with the name of their party.)

[edit] Conservatism

Conservative, n.: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
—Ambrose Bierce
A conservative on the political spectrum tends to be for the status quo, consistency, and traditional forms, while being against change on the grounds that it might be for the worse. In the gulag, the term has been conflated by many with very narrow social and religious prescriptions and co-opted by neoconservatism. During the 2008 election campaign, an article in Atlantic Monthly contrasted the old-fashioned conservatism of Edmund Burke with the right-wing radicalism of Newt Gingrich and company.[3]

Note that left/right and liberal/conservative are only regarded as synonymous in the United States. Following a hung parliament in 2010 the Liberal Democrats entered into a coalition government with the Conservative Party. In Australia, the Liberal Party are the direct analogues of the US Republicans or the UK Conservatives — they're economically liberal and socially very conservative. Explaining this to American conservatives tends to make their heads explode.

A lot of conservatives are mad at the damned liberals for disagreeing with them, and frequently attack them as general purpose scapegoats for any ills of society as seen from their perspective.

[edit] Social and economic conservatism

I cannot call myself a cultural conservative, because that term, hijacked by the media, is customarily used to describe a person preoccupied with such matters as the preservation of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance; the defense of marriage as an institution for heterosexuals only; the promotion of premarital chastity; and the protection of cancer patients from marijuana addiction.

—Susan Jacoby[4]

Conservative is a very loose term, essentially meaning only "in favour of conserving." While there are many, many types of conservatism, one essential distinction in the field of politics and society is between social conservatism and economic (or fiscal) conservatism. Although the two often go hand-in-hand, especially in American politics, they are not inherently connected, and it is quite possible to be a fiscal conservative without being socially conservative or vice versa.

Social conservatism emphasizes convention, morality (or old-fashioned notions of morality) and established roles within society and the family. Social conservatives are often, though not always, strongly religious. They support traditional gender roles, marriage and "family values" (a term with a multitude of meanings). Social conservatism is often accused of being homophobic, due to its distaste for same-sex marriage and sometimes racist and sexist to some degree because of the associations with traditional hierarchical societies in which everybody knew their place. Demands for "equality" or "justice" tend to be seen at minimum as lofty, abstract proposals that are likely to change with the seasons of intellectual fashion. Disrupting settled folkways in the name of these abstract beliefs will always run afoul of the iron law of unintended consequences, while the traditions that would be changed may be sacred, and certainly are our own. They often express outrage at political correctness and perceived moral decline (e.g. "Hollywood values"). Social conservatism can be extremely influential in politics; the "pro-life" movement to outlaw abortion is an example of social conservatism in action.

The problem with social conservatism is that it's directly contrary to the tenets of small, limited government and personal freedom and responsibility. Wanting the government, especially the Federal government to enact and enforce laws based around your morality directly contradicts this. There's a reason social conservatives used to overwhelmingly support the Democrats: they believed in a strong welfare state to support the public good, for example, based on ideas of christian charity. It was only after the American Civil rights movement circa 1965, that these same voters shifted to the GOP, creating the current contradictory cocktail of conservatives and social regressives/reactionaries calling themselves conservatives.

Economic or fiscal conservatism is also very significant politically. Fiscal conservatives support low taxation and free market capitalism with minimal regulation. This benefits the economic interests of certain industries, entrepreneurs or the ruling class in some countries. In Europe, many economic conservatives are not necessarily socially conservative, often being non-religious and unconcerned by issues such as same-sex marriage. In America, however, the two forms of conservatism are heavily intertwined, especially within the Republican Party and its supporters. This bundling of the two major types of conservatism with each other is extreme to the extent that many conservatives cannot recognise the distinction - and see both concepts as central to "conservative values," leading to the idea that you can be all in favour of abolishing tax, deregulating the market and abolishing trade unions all you like, but if you make a single pro-choice statement, you're labelled as a RINO liberal.

[edit] Supply side economics

This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to the other two characteristics of conservatism; its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.
Friedrich Hayek, Why I Am Not a Conservative (1960)

You can't have a discussion about modern day conservatism, especially economic conservatism, without talking about supply side economics. Supply-side economics is defined as an economic theory which articulates that the economy could be best served by reducing barriers to supply/production as opposed to trying to raise demand. The epitome of supply side economics is the Laffer Curve, which is the precept that government revenue is equal at zero and 100% taxation. Supply-side economics is widely criticized by neo-Keynesian economists, who are in turn voraciously criticized by libertarians.

In just eight years, the Bush Administration grew the government faster and larger than any other President, with borrowed money, and demanded $700 billion more to buy up all of Wall Street's bad mortgage paper and preserve the status quo. But when asked to boost the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $250 million dollars to help low-income families pay their heating bills over the winter of 2007-08 with record oil and gas prices, Bush vetoed it as pure socialism.[5]

[edit] Conservative psychology

There is something inherently paradoxical about being an intellectual Conservative: a good measure of the party's raison d'etre resides in the counter-intuitive belief that ideas should be inherited and ignored, not acquired and defended. And they never take the form of convictions.
—Conservative philosopher Roger ScrutonWikipedia's W.svg[6]

Four researchers surveyed research literature about the psychology of conservatism.[7][8] They discovered that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality. No shit. The chief psychological factors of conservatism are Surprise, fear and ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to Ronald Reagan and a nice uniform:

  • Fear and aggression - an easy way to support a conservative position is to scapegoat some convenient "other" and demonise it as a threat to "civilised" values. Islamophobia is simply the current version of this conservative train of thought. Students of history may find other examples.
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance - this may lead to the drawing of premature conclusions or resorting to stereotypes.
  • Need for cognitive closure - As Dubya once said "My job isn't to nuance."
  • Terror management - such as declaring amber alerts at opportune moments, calling opponents "supporters of terrorists" etc.

It is debatable whether these factors are associated chiefly with conservatism. One admitted shortfall in this study was that "little or no empirical data are available from the major communist or formerly communist countries" on this subject,[8] which made a study of communist psychology in general very difficult. However, the researchers acknowledge that these factors were also exhibited by many communist dictators, such as Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro. They respond by claiming that these men, because they resisted change while in power, "may be considered politically conservative, at least in the context of the systems they defended."[8]

In fairness to conservatives, some studies of political extremist groups have suggested that the far-left has very similar traits to the far-right in terms of their tactics and preference for authoritarianism.[9]

What is conservatism and what is wrong with it?[10]

[edit] Rightism

Sir, it is a well-known fact that young people are generally leftwing. It is also well-known that as people get older, they become more rightwing. It is also a fact that, as people get older, their brain cells die at a faster and faster rate. I would therefore like to propose that conservatism be classified as a degenerative disease.
—letter to the Guardian, 1970.[11]
See the main articles on this topic: Conservatism and Fun:Really embarrassing conservatives

The term rightism is rarely used, but tends to refer to a form of extreme conservatism that seeks to do away with democratic politics entirely. In the past, most "rightist" groups either sought a restoration of a previous monarchy, or the creation of a fascist or authoritarian regime to "undo the chaos of democracy." Because the United States has never had a monarch or a totalitarian movement, "true" rightist groups in that country have been relatively few, though the US government has helped fascists such as Pinochet come into power. Another common component of rightism, however, has not waned: extreme nationalism. Most rightist groups try to force out all immigrants and minorities. It is possible that in modern rightism this form of nationalism is the only defining characteristic.

[edit] Far right

Trump has changed the way the Republican Party sees the world. Republicans used to have a basic faith in the dynamism and openness of the free market. Now the party fears openness and competition...It’s not that the deals had changed, or reality. It was that Donald Trump became the Republican nominee and his dark fearfulness became the party’s dark fearfulness. In this case fear is not a reaction to the world. It is a way of seeing the world. It propels your reactions to the world.
David Brooks[12]

The far right or extreme right is a political label used to identify parties and movements based on fascist, racist and/or extremely reactionary ideologies. Officially those on the far right embrace the concept of the "inequality of outcome", meaning that one group is naturally better than another. This can apply to everything from absolute monarchies to Nazism, meaning that many far-rightists oppose others on the far-right who have a different idea of what the ruling class should be.

Much like the term "far left", if you hear the term "far right" it's almost certain to be a slur directed at a conservative.

The label of "far right" is a reference to the French Revolution to refer to those who sat on the right wing of the Assembly and were in favor of an essentially unrestrained aristocracy in terms of the power allocated to them, essentially wanting to either maintain or (later) restore the old order. They also tended to be opposed to the Enlightenment and secularism in favor of more conservative religious influence in government.

From the start of the 20th century onwards more "populist" reactionary political philosophies such as ultranationalism/fascism, racial supremacy (often to a degree that was considered extreme even by the standards of the time), and politically-oriented religious fundamentalism started to overtake the increasingly unpopular extreme pro-Aristocrat agenda that made up what could be considered the former far right. To what degree there is much of a difference between them in practice is up for debate and usually changes from country to country. In the 21st century the far right in the Western world has increasingly drifted towards broadly authoritarian nativist thought, often influenced by former fascist movements.

Common opinions:

  • Anti-immigration, often combined with Islamophobia or other prejudice against the predominating ethnicity and/or religion of immigrants; in many cases outright racism, such as white supremacy and/or ethnic-related conspiracy theories such as Holocaust denial, Eurabia and ideas about "white extinction". Historical far-right movements have included everything from anti-Chinese sentiment to anti-Catholicism and even prejudice against Nordic people
  • Anti-rationalism, defending its pet beliefs even from reason
  • Anti-socialism and extreme anti-communism (as in endorsing conspiracy theories surronding the subject, or commiting massacres against them), though in some cases supporting a limited welfare state and occasionally even "state capitalism"—except in the United States, where any sort of welfare (except corporate welfare, of course) is seen as communism. On the other hand in the States a number of paleoconservatives and laissez-faire types are more hostile to a welfare state and may desire to see the social safety net gutted entirely.
  • Nationalism, possibly including historical revisionism
  • Pro-life and promoting childbirth (see also white extinction scenario)
  • Supporting family values and traditional gender roles, and is virtually always homophobic[13]
  • Tough stance on crime, probably in support of capital punishment
  • Environmentalism might be prevalent, especially in a "protection home and soil" kind of way, though other far-right groups champion anti-environmental sentiment (climate change denial etc.) A more Christian Democratic approach to the environment ("protecting God's creation") can also be present in clerical fascism
  • Questioning (or even outright rejecting) universal civil rights and human rights.
  • Reactionary beliefs, meaning beliefs that things were better some time ago (often before some major legislative change, such as civil rights laws). The "evil era" tends to be the 1960s, which were a period of great change in much of the Western World, whereas the "good old times" can be anything from the 1950s to pre-industrial times.
  • A far right group without even trace amounts of Anti-Semitism is rare - even in places where Judaism is rare and there isn't even Jewish immigration. The exception of course is the Israeli far right, which, while true far-right parties rarely enter the Knesset, have an abundance of membership in the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party. Everything else on this list is present in spades in the Israeli far-right.
  • Racism - same as anti-semitism above, almost always found, even in trace amounts.
  • Religious Fundamentalism- Religion is often very intertwined with far-right beliefs, even if said far-right beliefs conflict with their religious beliefs.
  • Conspiracy theories - The far right & conspiracy theories go together better than bread & butter

[edit] Centrism

See the main article on this topic: Fun:Really embarrassing moderates

Centrism is a set of political positions that lie between the "left" and "right" wings of the political spectrum. The term is usually applied to a global spectrum of political philosophies and ideologies, not to those of single nations, as their political centers tend to differ strongly based on history, culture and the state of development. As a result, a party that might be centrist in a global sense such as the American Democratic Party, might be seen as "left" in its own national context.[14]

In established democracies, it is usually highly beneficial (and intellectually reasonable) for a party to occupy most of the territory in the middle of the spectrum, especially in majoritarian electoral systems, as this is where the coveted swing votes are to be found. Hence, parties often strive to occupy a center-left or center-right position, or at least try to brand themselves as such. While pure "centrist" parties have a mixed record of electoral success, advancing centrist policies to some extent is a popular strategy among parties in modern developed nations. For example, both dominant parties in Germany are so moderate as to be nearly identical. Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken such advantage of the centrist discourse that she's manipulated the political structure to benefit her most of all; discussion is less about who replaces Merkel and more about who becomes her top lieutenant or successor.

Some centrist parties and politicians might endorse the Third Way.

Almost all of the Pirate Parties are centrist parties with special interest in civil rights and copyright reform.

[edit] "Moderate": mixed views and career pols

In recent years, the term "political moderate" (aka, centrism) has become a buzzword in the United States. The term often comes with a negative connotation, due to the United States' rather partisan politics.

The term "moderate" rarely refers to open-minded debaters. Instead, it is most often applied to people who have some conservative views and some liberal views — e.g., "I'm a fiscal conservative and a social liberal." Some are just wishy-washy. Others are actually closet extremists pretending to be moderate so they can get elected.[15] And some are just calculating, self-aggrandizing schemers.

One reason moderate politicians aren't often trusted is that you never know which side of an issue they actually favor until the last moment. A good example is Joe Lieberman, who was in favor of extending Medicare to people aged 55-64 until it seemed that it would actually pass.

[edit] Compromisers

More sane criticisms of centrism, usually coming from social democrats or moderate conservatives/libertarians, are directed at those who strive to be "pure centrists." One of the most common criticisms isn't necessarily at centrism but instead towards those that centrism sometimes tends to attract, mainly opportunist politicians with no core values who see centrism as giving them the best chance of getting elected. (Such people tend to do whatever furthers their own political career as opposed to what actually helps their country/organization.) Furthermore, they also tend to rarely actually fight for anything once elected, and will more or less give in to the most demanding party/faction with power so that they can claim to be reasonable "compromisers," even if said compromise does more bad than good. One example of this was the Simpson-Bowles plan, a budget plan that was championed by centrists simply because it was seen as a "compromise" between the two parties, even though some of the measures in the plan could have arguably worsened the 2008 downturn.

[edit] Sell-outs

Political radicals and extremists tend to criticize centrists for being "sell-outs" to the enemy group that secretly controls everything, or claim that centrists are tricksters bent on oppressing the public. Rarely will these radicals actually recognize centrists, instead preferring to characterize them as the "real radicals." This becomes most obvious when political extremists fail to actually name a centrist and, if pressed, will try to pass either themselves or a more "moderate" hard-right/left/libertarian activist as a centrist.

[edit] Fallacies: Balance, Solemnify, and Disregard

Another common critique of centrism is that centrists will commonly invoke the balance fallacy, commonly acting as if "both sides are just as bad" just so they can hold onto their centrist credentials. This can lead to the more corrupt or extreme of two parties being elected/empowered by opportunists who are fueled by self-interest. This is especially common with Very Serious People.

Alternately, many centrists become Very Serious People -- who talk about serious issues very seriously, yet fail to offer real solutions other than the status quo.

Finally, many centrists tend to disregard ideologies such as socialism and libertarianism completely, ignoring the truth value of individual claims in such philosophies.

[edit] Extremism

Extremism is a catch-all term for those whose political or religious views are far from the center of a given political spectrum, with connotations of being dangerously so. It is often synonymous with wingnut. It also refers to both wingnuts and moonbats simultaneously, given that "wingnut" is sometimes specific to the far right and "moonbat" specific to the far left.

More specifically, it has been used to refer to those wingnuts and moonbats who have an "end justifies the means" mentality and are willing to use violence or other extralegal means to achieve their goals. However, it is sometimes also used to imply that said wingnuts and moonbats are criminal elements willing to use violence even when in some cases they are not.

Wingnuts and moonbats usually don't like being called extremists, although they'll happily call each other extremists. Then again they usually don't like being called wingnuts and moonbats, either.

One of the early and still insightful treatments of the subject is Eric Hoffer's 1951 book "The True Believer." Check it out (as in at your local library).

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. Politics in a Third Dimension: "Remodeling the political spectrum". July 9, 2005. http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/7/7/281/05051. 
  2. http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/quotations/135-quotes-falsely-attributed
  3. Mr. Conservative, The Atlantic
  4. Jacoby, Susan The Age of American Unreason p. 13. 2008. Pantheon Books. ISBN: 1-59722-793-5
  5. Bush veto hits heating bill aid program for poor
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2010/jun/05/roger-scruton-interview
  7. Researchers help define what makes a political conservative
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 The original paper
  9. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science/article/similarities-and-differences-between-left-wing-and-right-wing-radicals/C46411F0228745583D2EB8E91A19D881
  10. What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?
  11. Not all lefties turn right with age. Far from it. Letters to The Guardian, Thursday 10 September 2015 19.11 BST
  12. Brooks, "The Politics of Cowardice", NYT 1.27.17.
  13. Though some on the far-right, such as the Front National or Geert Wilders, may endore or claim to endorse gay rights if they think it gives them a more "liberal" argument against Muslims or other religious minorities
  14. Don't believe us? All but one of the Democratic nominees for POTUS since the 1970s have leaned New Democrat or straight up Blue Dog, even if their rhetoric may say otherwise.
  15. You can often tell them by the company they keep when they aren't campaigning or in session.
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