Say no to centrism

As its name states, centrists sit in the middle of the political spectrum mostly accepting the status quo as is, throwing up their hands to this whole process of using their voice for any real cause (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Wikipedia Commons)

This semester, I have delved deeply into the relationship between the public and private institutions that we hold near and dear. This has put me in close proximity with some of the most contentious arguments of our time: Healthcare, schooling, business and development. I have maintained this single lens of public-private relations as a way to examine the motives behind these politics.

This is intentional. It’s important to follow the axioms of your viewpoint to their ends. Culture and politics are not set in stone; with the power of argument, we have the ability to change them. And so by arguing from a purely theoretical standpoint, I hope to force readers to examine their values and perhaps question their beliefs.

And yet, at the end of the day, everyone keeps wanting to talk about the “practicality” or “economics” of it all.

It can be frustrating to see people so stuck at this basic level of the conversation. I understand implementation is important, but planning is just as important. We cannot act based solely on whether things feel right or wrong because what “feels” right changes from person to person.

More than anything, though, I hate the centrists. The neoliberals. Those with enough privilege or ignorance to believe blindly keeping course is the best route for society. What feels right to them is not rocking the boat.

I understand where those on the right are coming from: Perhaps they think people are not born equal, or perhaps they believe in the efficiency of big business. I disagree with them wholeheartedly, but I understand it. I cannot endorse those who have no strong beliefs.

Everything about our lives is political, from the food we eat to the things we do for work. Everyone has different priorities, but self-reflection shows that these priorities come from some belief or perspective. This is what is truly detestable about centrists though: They believe their position in life puts them above this inherent quality. No effort is put into improvement or judgment.

There is an idea in political science called the Overton window. Basically, there is a certain range of views that are acceptable in the mainstream. This interval can change over time — for example, slavery used to be in the Overton window of American politics. Now there will always be people pulling at both sides of this range trying to mainstream their ideas, but the overall movement of culture is slow.

However, this is why strong beliefs and ideals are important! In order to push ideas to the public and promote societal change, we must all share our desires to their fullest extent and then meet somewhere in the middle. Then over time, we change what exactly this middle is. By just accepting the status quo as is, centrists throw up their hands to this whole process. It’s worse than just marinating in your own privilege — it’s actively revoking your voice.

Do I think America should push for socialism in a day? No, this would be infeasible and probably cause the economic collapse of the whole planet. However, we should be pushing for something. In order to make the world a better place, people and especially politicians need to know what a better place is. Accepting the system as is tacitly admits that there is no way to improve our society. It should be obvious that this is dumb. It should be equally obvious that neoliberal and other centrist arguments are also dumb.

Disagreement and subsequent collaboration are core to discourse. While that term is mostly just a buzzword today, the values it represents are still to be celebrated and realized. This is why I joined the Opinion section — to promote discussion and improvement. With that in mind, I encourage all to think, act and most importantly talk. Put in work towards what you want to see improve in our world and never fall into the trap of centrism.


Peter Fenteany is a weekly columnist  for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.fenteany@uconn.edu.