On Being Politically “Moderate”

In this campaign season, I have been thinking about all of the people I know who describe their views as “moderate.” Democrat, Independent, or Republican, I wonder what “moderate” means.

In this society of ours we over simplify things by envisioning ourselves along some sort of spectrum between opposite extremes. We feel the need to define who we are and what we believe about the way our country should be governed by fitting ourselves into neat little boxes. Yet paradoxically, we resist being pigeonholed or put into what we think are little boxes that limit our true expression.

The truth is that humans are complicated beings. If there’s one thing I know about people, we are not moderate about the opinions we hold. I have very strong opinions about social justice, civil rights, economics, foreign policy, and health policy. I may express my views in moderation, but when engaged I don’t hold back. I am more than happy to speak my mind.

I bet that my “moderate” friends have strong opinions, too, and when pressed would say emphatically what they think is right.

I’m not suggesting that people dig their heels in on one side of any issue and be unwilling to compromise or see the other side of things. But it seems to me in contemporary politics if you’re not strong in your convictions, you stand for nothing. Another definition of the “moderate” is “mediocre” or “fair.” Indeed, the reality of politics these days is that if you occupy a moderate political platform, you end up making compromises on some of the very most important issues. It happens to every politician as they achieve greater power and success.

To my mind, identifying your political views as moderate is akin to staying in the closet. I’ve met a lot of queer people in my life who say things like “I don’t want to be labeled,” saying that they don’t want people making assumptions about who they are because of their sexual identity. Coming out, calling themselves gay or lesbian, would cause others to stereotype and believe things about them that aren’t likely true, thus limiting who their self expression. Indeed people do stereotype, and it sucks.

As difficult as it is, I argue that not expressing who you really are is even more limiting. When you don’t express your true self, people make even more erroneous assumptions about who you are, and then you’re really pigeon-holed into an identity that is not you.

Coming out, whether its about your sexuality or your political views, is hugly important for yourself and your community. It might make some poeple uncomfortable, but we’re going to have world peace, really learn to live together in this world instead of flocking to spearatist communities of the like-minded, we had better learn to be honest about who we are, and we had better learn how to talk to each other respectfully about it.

Being politically moderate is like being in the closet. Perhaps it is true that our politics do exist along a spectrum from left to right, but even if you identify smack dab in the middle I bet you money that you don’t feel your political convictions moderately.