Skip to comments.Defining a Moderate Part I: What a Moderate Isn't
Posted on 06/04/2009 9:50:46 AM PDT by Nils Bergeson
I just cant help being fascinated by government and politics. Despite the many flaws inherent to any political system, I love observing how people choose their leaders, and how those leaders in turn design and promote policies and programs which, in theory, exist to promote the general welfare.
It is also intriguing to watch how people react to these policies. We are all aware that public reaction to political issues is seldom pretty. No matter the policy, there is some group which takes offense. Every issue has an extreme application, and to adapt the words of Sir Isaac Newton: for every extreme political viewpoint there is an equal and opposite extreme political viewpoint. While we all can think of those we might label as extreme in their political views, it is my sincere belief that the vast majority of us, at heart, are political moderates.
So what then, exactly, is a moderate? Over the next few weeks, I will define what I see as the most important characteristics of a moderate. I will begin by defining what a moderate is not: A moderate is not an extremist. This, I believe, is the most fundamental concept to understand when defining a moderate.
What is an extremist then? There are many different definitions, but for the sake of this viewpoint, a political extremist is one who believes that there is only one acceptable method or outcome pertaining to any given policy or issue. To an extremist, it is my way or the highway, and any viewpoint other than their own is without merit. The more extreme one becomes on a particular issue, the more black and white the issue becomes to them.
It should be noted that one doesnt automatically fall into one of these two categories (moderate or extremist). To say so would be an extreme notion itself. An individual can be anywhere along the continuum between moderate and extremist. Moreover, a person might be more moderate on one issue, while being more extreme on another. A true moderate seeks to be as close as possible to the moderate midpoint on this continuum.
Due to the nature of government, some of the worlds best and the brightest emerge as leaders. At the same time, political power and influence draws many with very specific and narrow agendas. As stated already, these groups or individuals will often base their narrow agendas on extreme ideologies. Extremism, the opposite of moderation, is the greatest impediment to effective government.
Because a moderate is not extreme, their vantage point is much broader. They have the ability to see big-picture, viewing society holistically and giving all ideas equal consideration. They see things in terms of both short- and long-term effect.
Extremists, on the other hand, view society through a much narrower lens. An extremist assumes that their viewpoint is superior, and seeks to assert their will on others. In terms of social progress, an extremist approach to policy is unsustainable for one major reason: Extremism begets extremism. Any group becoming more extreme on a particular issue results in more credibility gained by extremists on the other end of the continuum. This cycle has an ever-polarizing effect. This polarization destroys unity, promotes discord and contention, and is the primary obstacle to progress and the promotion of our welfare.
Moderation has the opposite effect of extremism. Moderates seek solutions which equally represent all segments of society. Moderates seek sustainability and the mutual promotion of our well-being. The use of the principles of moderation when designing policies promotes unity, cooperation, and ultimately results in progress. It sees that all are properly represented.
I feel that the promotion of moderate principles is essential to generating successful government. In addition, I believe becoming more moderate is beneficial in all areas of life, not only in politics. I desire to become more moderate, and hope that discussing political issues based on moderation will help me to do so. If you feel the same way, I hope youll continue to read and contribute.
Next Edition Defining a Moderate Part II: Isnt Moderate Just a Fancy Name for Sissy?
Mr. Bergeson gives them way too much credit. A moderate is socialist who has not yet found a way to get consistent payment from the people's treasury.
A moderate is one who would attempt to negotiate Hitler down to only murdering 3-4 million Jews.
Not very good so far.
Trying to give form to the formless when addressing both moderate and extremist.
An interesting definition, can’t say I have heard this one yet. Perhaps you could explain what you mean exactly by “a socialist who has not yet found a way to get consistent payment from the people’s treasury.” I find it is useful to be a stickler on definitions when engaging in such discussion, in order to insure that both parties are actually referring to the same thing.
The word “moderate” is slung around with way too much abandon. I’ve been accused of being a moderate several times. Not because of any political views mind you, but because I’m not prone to hot-headed statements or bellicose rants. I actually know some so-called conservatives who believe if you aren’t calling Obama four letter words, that you must be a liberal or moderate, no matter how divergent your politics may be from Obama’s.
Sorry, but “extremist” is a label applied by one’s political enemies on the basis of opposition on one or more issues. To use “extremist” as an opposite of “moderate” is bass-ackwards. The correct pairing might be “extremist” and “milquetoast”, or perhaps “idiot”.
Moderates are the wishy-washy middle between the two major political viewpoints: Liberalism and Conservatism. Moderates do not govern their thoughts or themselves on any specific principle or ideal, but are rather “for sale” to any persuasive viewpoint (whether through logical argument or other inducement).
Anyone who seeks to use “extremist” as a legitimate antithesis to “moderate” seeks to stigmatize principle as a basis for reason. In other words, they seek to stigmatize reason itself.
Just an off-the-cuff comment (I didn’t realize this was intended as a discussion thread). It’s based on my limited experience with those who called themselves moderate. Inevitably, these acquaintances boiled down to “what’s in it for me?” voters.
I would disagree. Extremists are actually fairly easy to spot on both sides, as they share a common trait. Extremists are invariably loathe to stop at a political disagreement. Instead, you can count on them without any evidence or proof to attribute often wildly imaginative motives to anyone who disagrees with them.
Interesting viewpoint, one I have heard multiple times before.
I should point out now that this article is the first of several which attempt to define what a Moderate truly is. Most people are accustomed to looking at politics in terms of viewpoints, but my analysis looks at methods, rather than simply viewpoints.
A Moderate is focused on making progress on any policy issue at hand. They can hold any viewpoint, from the most conservative to the most liberal. The difference is, that a Moderate seeks to understand and constructively work with the opposing viewpoint(s), while the Extremist holds fast to their position, refusing to move, and thus going nowhere.
Thanks for your input!
In terms of social progress, ....
This polarization destroys unity, promotes discord and contention, and is the primary obstacle to progress and the promotion of our welfare.
Moderates seek solutions which equally represent all segments of society. Moderates seek sustainability and the mutual promotion of our well-being. The use of the principles of moderation when designing policies promotes unity, cooperation, and ultimately results in progress.
I desire to become more moderate, and hope that discussing political issues based on moderation will help me to do so.
Welcome to FR. I see you signed up today to bring us your views, which seem so ..... ummmm, Progressive!
Had a bit of free time in your Peace Corp work over there in Romania, I guess.
Extremists exist at both ends of the spectrum, naturally. However, any statistical analysis that focused on the 3rd or 4th standard deviation out from the mean (especially without regard to direction from the mean) is inherently flawed.
That is my issue with pairing “moderate” and “extremist” as legitimate opposites - that we are comparing the “mean” with the “outlier”, instead of focusing on the single standard deviation radius - which encompasses 67% of the entire population. The word “extremist” itself is pejorative, IMO.
False. A moderate cannot define "progress" because they do not have a principled compass to guide their selection of direction.
Your definition of the labels "moderate" and "extremist" as legitimate opposites is offensive, and is patently wrong. You cannot in any sense defend this mathematically insane definition, and any resultant conclusions drawn are inherently flawed.
Welcome to FR. I doubt you will last long here, with this pejorative view of principle.
I don't know about you, but I smell something Trollish wafting from under the bridge (a Troll who says he is in Romania, representing the USA, instead of under the bridge).
World’s Shortest Book: “Great Moderates in History.”
Ah, got it thanks. Sorry, don’t feel obligated to discuss if you don’t want to, I was sincerely interested.
Are there voters who aren’t interested in “what’s in it for them?” Even if it for the sake of a good government and a healthy and strong nation, isn’t that still in their best interest?
Thanks for your welcome, you’re right, there is a bit of free time over here, at least in the evenings. I had posted on “Daily Kos” as well, and since moderation is my theme, it didn’t feel right to give the liberal side all the attention. Not sure about the etiquette of FP, so I hope I am not breaking any cardinal rules.
I’ve found these people to be firmly in a specific ideological camp.
Rachel Maddow and her cohorts at MSNBC are moderates, right?
Honestly, I have never watched Rachel Maddow, so I don’t know for sure, but judging by the fact that she is a pundit on MSNBC, I highly doubt I would call her a Moderate.