“Moderation in all things.” My favorite Mormon aphorism. Not a very sexy saying to be sure. “Hard-core” and “extreme” characterized the style of my youth. In politics we reward those who we find to be uncompromising. From the amount of derision exhibited in the media an outsider might conclude that the gravest crime a US public official can commit is a change of mind – infamously known as the “flip-flop.” Even while criticizing the opposition for being stubborn we find ourselves settling into our comfortable spaces of ideological purity. Setting up camp in the wings is comfortable. There is a clear boundary between what is thinkable and what is not. This does not suggest that political moderates are the heroes of the American political system. If anything the “moderation” of the American public is excessive and primarily exhibits. Otherwise, claiming to be a political moderate is usually merely a form of political cowardice. I doubt anyone really thinks that Glen Beck and Michael Moore are actually independents. There is no challenge to what should be thought if you are already outside – of course you think differently – nothing revolutionary about that. For instance, Slavoj Zizek believes that that only a conservative Nixon could have established talks with China. Zizek calls this a true political act – in which the “unthinkable is rendered thinkable.” A true political act, a true movement, a true shift in collective expectations of what is and is not done, requires transgression and there is no transgression if you already on the outside.
Unless we are willing to consign moderation to a place of simplistic unimportance, then moderation cannot be just boring un-effective apathetic nihilism. Especially if it’s really just a façade behind which one hides a particularly immoderate ideology. Moderation is the middle path, the prudent path, but this does not mean that it is the easy path. The true moderate should be ideologically schizophrenic – but ever practical. This is an uneasy balance to find, because you can’t rely on the same set of rules for every situation. This can be a great disadvantage to the person who seeks the middle path. Instead, a great deal of specificity is required in arriving at well thought out moderate decisions. This of course requires hard work and patience and only rare moments where one can feel sure about their choice in a given political situation. This is the road I want to follow: constant careful analysis of each new problem without giving priority to any one ideological lens – looking at lots of relevant information (and probably some irrelevant) from several perspectives and orientations.