Aristotle described virtue as the “golden mean” between excess and deficiency. The Ancient Greek philosopher considered someone with an excess of courage to be arrogant but someone with too little to be cowardly. When it comes to politics, however, there’s no patience for the middle path.

Centrism is the political ideology of falling in the center of right-wing and left-wing stances on issues. It revolves around the idea of ensuring a nation’s politics never falls too far in favor of the right or the left.

The political climate in 2016 had to be one of the worst for centrists. Conservatives and liberals alike looked at centrists not as their friends, but as friends of the opposing party. Both parties spared any sympathy for their more moderate counterparts. People simply wanted to be surrounded by those as dedicated to their party as they were.

A Gallup poll conducted in 2016 revealed that a majority of Americans, 57 percent, think America needs a third political party. Although this in no way suggests a trend in centrism, it does suggest a trend of people being dissatisfied with a two-party, left-versus-right system in politics.

Represented by candidate Gary Johnson in the 2016 election, the Libertarian Party became the home for some centrists in 2016, ushering in a new group of “centrist Libertarians.” Along with believing in Libertarian ideals, which revolve around maintaining liberty in every sense, the party also managed to be moderate on its stances in politics.

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 17 percent of Americans fall into this “mushy middle” of politics. This begs the question: in U.S. politics, could centrism ever become popular? Well, it matters how “popular” we are talking. There is no doubt the two major political parties will be with us for a long time. The Democrat-Republican pair has established itself in various forms since the late 1700s, beginning first with the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. However, the history of these parties dominating the U.S. does not mean a new party driven by centrist ideologies would not be able to establish a following.

It’s possible the centrist path was the one America was supposed to walk down, as many of the Founding Fathers despised the ideas of political parties with individual stances in the first place. Thomas Jefferson said, “If I could not go to heaven but with a [political] party, I would not go there at all.”

Maybe the root of the negative opinion about political centrists comes from the idea they have simply not made up their mind. But people have not yet acknowledged the distinction of a strong belief in the center and a weak belief on issues.

Adopting political views in moderation does not mean dropping all of one’s strongly-held beliefs, but it does mean being asked to consider the opposite stance or, at best, consider the opinion between the two political poles.

It is not a crazy prediction to say both U.S. political parties are becoming radicalized. When left only to judge the opposing party from its public mistakes, the chasm between the left and the right is split even more devastatingly.

Centrism is not a philosophy of compromise of two paths as much as it is its own path between the two. Centrism requires a trust in the average of two distinct sides; a belief that “virtue,” as Aristotle called it, comes from maintaining a balance between an excess and a deficiency.

As George Washington once said about the division between the right and left, political parties “are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

We have become gears turning in the potent engines Washington described, failing to question or critically examine the outcomes of our beliefs. We have become so attached to progress to the left or right we have lost sight of what we are progressing towards. In order to carry the will of American idealism, we need to look to toward the golden mean as the best method of keeping the American spirit alive.

About The Author

Noah Baum
News & Opinion Editor

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