Centrism is decidedly unfashionable nowadays. It’s the way of the Cuck, the road of the RINO, the well-paved street of the Limousine Liberal. Today the action is all on the fringes. Once the most important tools in a diplomat’s kit, negotiation is now collaboration and compromise weakness. The object is not to understand the opposition but to destroy it: Moderation is a vice and Radicalism a virtue. And, truth be told, most of what passes for Centrism nowadays is really just laziness. “There are two sides to every story” often boils down to “I can’t be bothered to read either.”
But what would a Radical Centrism look like?
Let’s imagine for a moment that you have actually seized power. What are you going to do with it? Millions of people are waiting on your word. Their lives and futures are in your hands: they expended their blood, sweat and tears on your grand vision. Now what are you going to do for them? Chances are good you promised them “freedom.” Everybody wants freedom. “Freedom” sells corporate wars, checking accounts and feminine hygiene products. What sort of freedom are you selling? I’ve clicked on your link: now give me your pitch.
This may take you a while. Many “Radicals” are like dogs chasing cars. Sure, they run fast and snarl loudly. But they have no idea what they would do if they ever caught that Engine of Oppression. Marxist revolutionaries have been conspiring in American coffee houses for generations: White Nationalists have been congregating in chat rooms for decades. Neither are any closer to seizing power now than they were then. And the whole point of fringe politics is, or should be, to move beyond the fringe.
Once you figure out what you want to do with your newfound (if theoretical) power, we can go on to the next question: who am I fighting for? Thanks to the rise of Identity Politics, you probably know whether you are a Genderqueer Asexual, a Fat Latinx Feminist, or a mere Owner of Privilege. Thanks to the decline of old-school Marxism, you likely consider yourself Middle Class if you even consider the subject at all. If you’re on the Dissident Right, you likely stopped at “I’m White and I’m here to save Western Civilization.” You’re fighting on their behalf. What’s in it for them — and for you?
That last one may take you aback. Politicians act in their own interests: Radicals act on behalf of The Cause and The People. But if your Cause doesn’t promise you and your People a brighter future, why waste your time? Activists of all political persuasions exhort their audiences to do better, to fight harder, to give more. Whether they are tugging at your heartstrings or your purse strings, they are still pulling your strings. And when someone asks what you can do for their movement, you should respond “what can your movement do for us?”
Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society and Radical Faeries, was a card-carrying Communist for decades. But Hay eschewed closeted service to the People’s Revolution in favor of organizing gay men. Instead of tailoring his goals to suit his ideology, he used the ideologies which best suited his goals. Rather than herding his comrades towards someone else’s utopia Hay helped them create their own better world. As his 2002 New York Times obituary explained:
Hay’s contribution was to do what no one else had done before: plant the idea among American homosexuals that they formed an oppressed cultural minority of their own, like blacks, and to create a lasting organization in which homosexuals could come together to socialize and to pursue what was, at the beginning, the very radical concept of homosexual rights.
When Hay started the Mattachine Society homosexuality was a mental illness to be “cured” with lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Less than forty years ago pundits and politicians were talking about AIDS quarantine camps. Today gay marriage is a constitutional right and queer kids wind up in fashion magazines, not psychiatric wards. You can call Gay Liberation a human rights triumph or a degenerate Jewish plot: you cannot call it unsuccessful.
Many activists are working not so much to change the world as to cement their place in a small subculture. Extreme positions signal one’s commitment to the cause — and to the cute barista wearing the Death in June pin. Street brawls breed tales of knockout punches and heroic martyrs. “Everyone who is not for us is against us!” they cry as they fight imaginary battles against impossible odds. Radical Centrists would rather face 10,000 opponents than 1,000,000: they would rather have 10,000 allies than 100. And here, alas, is where many “Centrists” stumble by overreach. They seek to be all things to all people and dilute their message until they become unthreatening to their enemies and unappealing to their potential friends.
Radical Centrists have a destination in mind and want to get there by the safest and easiest route. Every alliance and every declaration of war is weighed in light of that goal. While they never lose sight of the world as it could be, Radical Centrists start with the world as it is. They don’t want to rouse the teeming masses from their slumber: they understand that most people don’t give a shit about us, and they are happy to return the favor. Apathy is always preferable to hostility and sometimes preferable to friendship.
Once you figure out where you are going and with whom you are standing in solidarity, you have found your Center. You are not acting out of wishy-washy apathy, but with a passionate focus on what matters and nothing else. Any turns you make toward the Right or the Left are made in service of reaching your destination. This journey will involve a bit more research – thinking for yourself generally does – and will leave many people confused as to where you stand. Some will call you a traitor to causes you never supported: their scorn is as meaningless as their praise. It is fine if your enemies do not understand your goals. It is vital that you never forget them.