All Hail the Centrists

Stop dunking on moderates and start listening to them

It’s a growing trend in America. Those who refuse to toe the party line are labeled as RINOs, DINOs, cuckservatives, or even worse…a “Centrist.” There are now entire internet forums dedicated to mocking Centrists and Moderates. But rather than dehumanizing the rational middle, these are the folks we ought to be listening to. Here’s why.

The Nature of Knowledge

In order to understand who a Moderate is and is not, we must first understand the nature of knowledge. Aristotle once said, the more you know, the more you come to understand what you don’t know. Like a balloon, as one accumulates knowledge, the balloon inflates, but as it inflates the surface area also grows, expanding the knowledge of the unknown.

To skirt the need for in-depth knowledge on every possible topic, humans have developed belief models, or mental heuristics, that help us understand and describe the world.

Core Beliefs

The American Left and Right differ in their core belief models, and this shapes how they see the world. In the pursuit of happiness:

The Left generally see people as born good. Evil, therefore, come from society, not the individual.

The American Right, view people as born generally bad. Evil can only be vanquished by that individual.

On the Right, the struggle for personal betterment is an individual one. Thus, there is greater respect for power, hierarchy, and the social status quo. On the Left, that struggle exists in society, so there is a desire to change the existing social order.

That’s why Leftists are willing to “Defund the Police” and Rightists stand behind the thin blue line. That’s why Rightists oppose a vaccine mandate, while Leftists celebrate it.

Arising from those core beliefs, individuals are then predisposed to latch on to more complex belief models, such as a support of capitalism, socialism, libertarianism…etc. This includes religious beliefs as well.

Oversimplification

But there is a saying about models, “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” Models boil the complex nature of the world down to such raw simplicity that they no longer accurately capture the nuances and caveats of the real world.

There is no such thing as a capitalist country, for example, or a socialist one, for that matter. Both are theoretical constructs, models, that are useful but oversimplified representations of reality.

When someone unwilling to do the necessary knowledge accumulation required to move past a simplistic understanding of their chosen belief model, they may become dogmatic and absolute in those beliefs.

The reason this happens is related to the Dunning-Kruger effect, where people with limited competence on subjects tend to have overconfidence in their knowledge because they don’t know enough to understand the breadth of their own fallibility.

Thus, the lack of knowledge leads to overconfidence in simplistic belief models that can result in extremist thinking. When someone says, for example, “socialism doesn’t work” or “capitalism is evil,” they are making a sweeping absolutist statement: a key trait of extremists.

Moderates

Moderates are different. With regard to the “core beliefs,'“ most will hold that people are not born bad or good, but tabula rasa…or as blank slates.

As a consequence, in the pursuit of happiness, rational people can simultaneously hold the view that individual choices matter, but so does the society that constrains those individual choices.

The individual and society are intertwined, one cannot prosper without the other, and the degree of both variables’ contribution varies. This is a harder concept to understand and describe, but is more accurate than the absolutist beliefs pushed by extremists. In short, moderates are willing to acknowledge the subtle nuances that make reality…reality.

Moderates may even lean in one political direction or another, but what’s key is that they recognize their own fallibility and understand the limits of their own knowledge in a way that extremists do not.

Like Yin and Yang, the Moderate Left and Moderate Right are necessary compliments to one another, not opposites. Even though Yin and Yang are black and white, they each contain an element of the other, signifying the understanding that neither side can be fully absolute.

The Horseshoe Effect

Extremists are dangerous. Absolutist overconfidence in a chosen belief model gives rise to the Horseshoe Effect. The Horseshoe Effect holds that the more radical are extremists are, the more alike these extremists become…even if they don’t share the same beliefs. The political spectrum, between Left and Right, in effect, curves back in on itself, bringing both Left and Right closer together.

Stalin and Hitler, represented opposite ends of political ideology. Yet the outcome of their rule was broadly similar. They promised a utopian vision, and those who did not share an absolute belief in that vision, were arrested and/or murdered. Meanwhile, information did that did not conform to official ideology was banned.

Americans would be surprised to learn that the Communist Soviet Union banned Darwin’s Theory of Evolution because they felt it ran counter to Marxist ideology. Just as American Evangelical extremists seek to ban it for running against their own belief model. The beliefs may differ, but the outcome doesn’t.

The Silent Majority

The problem today is that while Moderates make up the majority, the system systematically neglects them. These are individuals who represent reason, not ideology. And yet, these are the very people we don’t listen to. We even chastise, criticize, and ridicule them.

Knowing their own fallibility, Moderates tend to be less firm in their convictions and appear less confident. No one votes for a politician who tell the truth, they vote for people who confidently reaffirm their own biases.

Further, politicians don’t covet the Moderate vote because moderate voters are unmotivated. Lacking extreme passion and conviction, they are less likely to vote in primaries.

The media ignores them as well. There are many well-known Right wing and Left wing talking heads, but can you think of any well-known moderates? Moderates don’t garner attention because they don’t shock you. They bore you with detailed analysis and nuanced debate. Such is not suited for a population with an attention span of 140 characters or an evening news soundbite.

The Lianeon Project is an advocate of Progress, but progress cannot come from the extremes. Extremists are fervent in their foolishness. Rather, it is the timid Moderates that hold the true keys to reasoned solutions.

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