December 23, 2012

What do Centrists stand for?

Someone asked me the other day what centrists stand for?  The assertion they made was that centrists just make themselves equidistant from the left wing and the right wing and become a kind of bland unprincipled lot.  The truth of course is very different.  

Most centrists have their own, often strongly-held, principles.  However, they do share a common distrust of both extreme State Socialism where government agencies are expected to solve all of a country's problems.  The Soviet Union showed that such a system becomes dysfunctional and will eventually collapse under the weight of its own inefficiencies - as well as its abuse of human rights.  At the same time most centrists abhor the injustices perpetuated by unregulated monopolies and the large gaps between rich and poor that deny many people equal opportunities on the basis of race, class or gender. A healthy and stable society will have a high degree of social cohesion where all citizens can participate.  The institutions of civil society - such as families and religious, sports or cultural organisations help build such belonging and cohesion. 

History has shown that allowing people to trade goods and services freely usually results in innovation, prosperity and improved relations between cultures and nations. But governments have a legitimate role to play in developing effective laws and regulations that protect the environment, help the disadvantaged, protect the security of all citizens and ensure that everyone has access to good quality health, education and welfare. In general centrists believe in a property-owning society under the benign guidance of a fair and just government.  

In many ways centrists act as the glue that holds political processes together.  They can see the effectiveness of the policies they seek to implement and are prepared to work with legislators to improve policy settings. 

In the US context, for example, the need for principled centrist legislators has never been greater.  Whether they be in the Democratic Party -or the Republican Party - centrists need to find common cause and ensure there is progress - particularly on the control of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles.  Dwight Eisenhower, a moderate Republican, showed during the 1950s that Congress and the White House can work effectively for change. President Kennedy showed the same thing during the 1960s. It's time for ideology to be put to one side and the safety of children to be put first. 

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