The (nonexistent) Centrists

Posted on 21 February 2020

Volrath2002 CC BY SA 4.0 2016

From the US we hear a lot about the “centrist” vote. This vote is even lauded for being moderate and level-headed. In Australia we hear about the “swing” vote. These are voters who are not actively aligned to any party and may vote as the wind blows.

These are in fact the same sorts of voters in both countries.

Since the US has devolved into a two-party system, both parties have reason to be complimentary of non-aligned voters. They will be told that they are the good people, the people with a thoughtful vote. Honestly, if they were that thoughtful then upon occasion they would be centre. Other times they would appear left or right, depending upon where the goalposts have moved between the two parties.

Once upon a time the Democrats were more right-wing and the Republicans were more left. In the nineteenth century Democrats voted against the freedom of enslaved people and Republicans voted for their release. In the sixties Democrat President John F Kennedy proposed and the US legislature voted in a Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In the 1980s Republican President Ronald Reagan brought in many neo-liberal policies which eroded the rights of workers and freed the very wealthy from social responsibility. In the 1990s Democrat President Bill Clinton put forward very similar policies. You would be hard pressed to find much centre bewteen those two presidents.

So who are these “centrists”?

A great number of them will be people who are terrified of conflict. They don’t want to be part of any side. They don’t want to reveal a preference for fear of choosing the wrong one and being punished for it, or worse…facing violence. The more heated the debate becomes between two prevalent sides, the more they will want to disappear.

Another related set of people will not want to express a preference until such time as they can see who will be a winner. They want to be on the side of a winner because not only will it be safer due to the numbers, they will also have more opportunities to gain power for themselves.

Then, we have the manipulators. When sides of an argument are evenly matched, these are people who happily conspire to influence all sides. Their position of indecision becomes a form of power in its own right. “I might join your side, if you do this for me.”

Finally, we have a small number who have an opinion that for the moment looks like centre.

Trying to convert these people is a waste of time. Most of them will say “yes” to anything you say, without meaning it. They will keep saying “yes” all the way to the poll, then vote as they like. The polls will be skewed and you will have gained nothing.

The people you are most likely to convert are those who genuinely tell you, they don’t know. Then when they are hit by an issue that affects them personally, they will see why they might want to take a side. Just remember, though, these people are unlikely to become pure left or pure right.

In Australia it was the left-wing Labor party in alliance with the Protectionist party that brought in the White Australia Policy, in order to “protect” workers’s jobs from Asians. Many people are progressive or conservative on one policy, and are the polar opposite on other policies. That’s the closest most people will get to being “centrist”: a patchwork of self-interests.

If you want to gain people to your political position, consistently be on the side of universal well-being. Constantly press to find the most effective means by which to maintain universal well-being. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, while sustaining a strong position of justice. Being nicey-nice, don’t rock the boat, does not equate to a stable society. That is a position of fear that gives predators power. Being a party of well-being you will be attractive because you will represent deep safety. Everyone will know your motives are for their best interest. This may be a slow journey, but your consistency will pay off.

In peace and kindness,


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