2008-11-04

No Room for Moderation?


Finally. It's over. The election is finally over. I am sick and tired of polls and talking about politics. Now maybe I can get some work done at the office without some coworker lamenting the end of civilization if so-and so wins. And, finally finally, we can finally start talking about the most important event of fall: college football.

The thing that I hate about politics is that it is so polarizing. Instead of healthy debates and pragmatism on the issues, every position is either totally right or totally wrong. Can't we see that this is an extremely hostile environment for anyone that wants involve themselves in the political process?

To see what I mean, consider the fundamental social need of human beings to belong. Unconsciously, many of us will tone down our personal beliefs if they don't quite match up with the predominant views of the group we wish to join. We do this as a survival mechanism; no one wants to be an outcast. If you don't believe me, just think about the times when you've been found yourself surrounded by people with significantly different viewpoints than you. What was your reaction? Did you express your true views and risk being an outcast, or did you soften your stance to try and fit in?

This desire to "fit in" isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it helps us to empathize with others and understand their position. If, however, we limit ourselves to cliques that share our own points of view, our views will inevitably become more extreme, as each group member suppresses their individuality and prove their membership through a voracious defense of the group's position.

The best example of this, I think, is the worthless vitriol spewed by both liberal and conservative pundits. As de facto leaders of their respective groups, their views are always the most extreme because they constantly have to solidify their position as group leader. As a result, we see the loudmouths of each party become louder and more obnoxious as time goes on.

Given enough time, our desire to fit it can result in an unwillingness to consider alternate views, making conservatives more conservative and liberals more liberal. We have to break this cycle and realize that just because you understand how one group arrives at a particular position doesn't mean that you'll end up agreeing with them. Similarly, it needs to be okay to change their mind on an issue without being labeled as weak.

Interestingly enough, I would have voted for McCain in 2000. He seemed like a moderate voice in increasingly partisan times. Unfortunately, his primary loss to Bush took all the moderate out of him. This time around, he played the party games to secure the nomination, but then tried desperately to define himself as a maverick without alienating the party base. Who knows how things might have turned out if he had been brave enough to run as a true moderate.

What I really want to see in American politics is the candidate who is brave enough to be a true moderate, to think on his or her feet, and acknowledge all points of view. Ultimately, I'm ready for pragmatism instead of platforms.