How Centrism Works

Fascist: Let’s kill all the foreigners, because they’re the reason everything’s bad
Actual Liberal: Let’s get rid of the foreigner/”native” distinction altogether. It’s arbitrary, divisive, and beneath us.
Centrist: Now, now, we believe in compromise and consensus politics. Let’s just impose some immigration restrictions.

Fascist: Let’s kill all the foreigners, because they’re the reason everything’s bad
Actual Liberal: We’re already being cruel to foreigners, and if anything that made everything worse.
Centrist: We have to listen to people’s legitimate concerns. Let’s just impose further immigration restrictions and maybe ban hijab.
Actual Liberal: But we already compromised once! They’ve not budged and now you want to “compromise” again?
Centrist: Stop being divisive and get behind the leader.

Fascist: Let’s kill all the foreigners, because they’re the reason everything’s bad
Actual Liberal: Look, we keep making things worse for foreigners, and so far that’s only made things much, much worse.
Centrist: Your kind of extremism is electoral suicide. Let’s ban foreigners from having an interpreter at their driving test.
Actual Liberal: What?!
Centrist: How dare you call me racist?!
Actual Liberal: But I didn’…
Centrist: Shut up and deliver leaflets.

Fascist: Let’s kill all the foreigners, because they’re the reason everything’s bad
Actual Liberal: This is getting absurd. Not only is current immigration policy cruel, heartless, and frankly racist, but it’s also just from a purely pragmatic point of view causing immense economic damage.
Centrist: No-one is more pro-immigration than me, but I’m afraid the public simply won’t tolerate immigration. I’m afraid we’ll have to put some more restrictions into place.
Actual Liberal: You do realise that every time you do this, fewer of the public vote for you?
Centrist: That’s because we’ve not compromised enough! How do you expect to get anything you want if you won’t concede anything to the other side?
Actual Liberal: As far as I can see the fascist is getting loads of what he wants, and he’s got it by not conceding anything.
Centrist: We’re the radical centre!

Fascist: Let’s kill all the foreigners, because they’re the reason everything’s bad
Actual Liberal: This is getting a little repetitive.
Centrist: I agree. You really need to stop with your doom and gloom nonsense and just get behind the leader.
Actual Liberal: The anti-immigration old white man you imposed on us without consultation?
Centrist: He may be old, but he’ll tap into the radical anti-establishment spirit of the young!
Actual Liberal: He’s got a knighthood!
Centrist: How dare you call me racist?

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15 Responses to How Centrism Works

  1. This is so accurate it hurts.

  2. Tony Harms says:

    Dear fellow Liberal Democrats,

    The resignation of Tim Farron as leader left a bad taste. I voted for Tim as leader and I would have liked to have a say in whether he stayed or not.

    When there was an attempt to force Nick Clegg to resign before the 2015 election I thought it was futile and I spoke against it at my local party meeting. Yet I never thought the attempt itself was illegitimate. There have undoubtedly been problems with Tim’s leadership and a formal leadership contest as provided for by the constitution would have been acceptable. But when the leader is pressurised to resign after a campaign on social media and a prominent resignation from a (unelected) member of the House of Lords, let alone by the actions of alleged anonymous delegations, that is not legitimate and is, frankly, a smack in the face for the membership. That is not my understanding of how the party should operate.

    That is why I have written this open letter to Tim, asking him to reconsider his resignation and stand in the leadership contest. We have also initiated a petition and invite anyone, members or sympathisers to join with us. Please share this to your Liberal democrat friends.

    Dear Tim,

    We, the undersigned, wish to thank you for your hard work and inspiration as leader.

    We admire your enthusiasm, sense of humour and positive spirit and the tens of thousands of people that you have inspired to join the party. You have led from the front in standing up for refugees, tackling inequality and opposing Brexit and we were proud to be Liberal Democrats contesting the last general election.

    No leader can be perfect and doubtless many members will disagree with aspects of your leadership. It is perfectly appropriate for them to call for an election as happened with Nick.

    However, we find it disturbing that a leader of the Liberal Democrats would resign as a consequence of a campaign of criticism from a minority of the party: this is against the tradition of our party, which believes in the involvement and participation of all of its members. We feel that your resignation is unfair to the large body of members who have not been given the opportunity to express their views.

    We therefore call on you to reconsider your resignation and to stand in a leadership election.

  3. I’d post a reply detailing my centrism, but it’d just be dismissed as an apology for fascism. Instead; please stop beating up on moderates. In an age where moderation is being dismissed as the worst evil of all, the last thing we need to do is decide that that position is correct, and we should instead seek to focus entirely on that which divides us. It’s the politics of Trump, Corbyn, and their crowd – and it needs to be stopped. Silly posts like this feed it, instead.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      I *am* divided from people who want to keep foreigners out of this country, from people who want to destroy the economy in order to pander to racists, and from the people in my own party who want to ensure we never, ever, ever take a principled stand on anything.
      As for “stop beating up on moderates”… moderates are the people who think it’s reasonable that when I lost my job I couldn’t claim benefits because I married someone foreign. Moderates are the people who think it’s reasonable to force disabled people through humiliating and painful tests to “prove” they’re disabled. Those things are *actual violence* against real people, yet *I’m* the one “beating up” people for saying “don’t do that”?
      Your comment is precisely an example of what I’m complaining about here. The mere fact of taking a position at all, on anything, is being framed as an act of violence. Somehow, in your worldview, taking a side *against* Trump is really supporting him, while conceding to his demands is really opposing them.
      Differences in politics are real, and about things that actually matter. Centrism works when the difference is something like “should the top rate of income tax be forty percent or fifty percent?” — then you can say “let’s split the difference, try forty-five percent, see what happens, maybe increase it or cut it later if we don’t get the results we’d like”. When it’s “are immigrants entitled to basic human rights?” then taking a “moderate”, “centrist” position on that is conceding everything.

      • If you look at the world as is, and decide that the people who are the problem here are the ones trying to produce compromises and consensuses, and not the people clawing at the fabric of the country and demanding we move ever further away from each other, then why on Earth haven’t you signed up for the Corbynite Labour Party? There it is all the fashion to attack and dismiss centrists as no more than the Bad People in thin disguises, and demand that politics become ever purer, ever closer to a refined paradigm of virtue, free from any messy compromise, any hint of negotiation, any inclination towards conversation. If politics is destined to become two tribes screaming at each other, then we deserve every misery and hell that inflicts on all of us.

        But I suspect you’ll screen this comment, and continue to loudly pretend that the problem are the people who try and bring people together, rather than the people who drive them apart and demand that they remain as such.

        ~ A Fascist.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          ” the ones trying to produce compromises and consensuses, and not the people clawing at the fabric of the country and demanding we move ever further away from each other,”
          My problem is with people seeing compromise as being *a good in itself*, no matter what it’s compromise *with*. When one side is arguing against other people’s very humanity, and the other side isn’t, compromising by saying “those people are just a *bit* less human” is conceding the entirety of the argument.

          “why on Earth haven’t you signed up for the Corbynite Labour Party?”
          Because they agree with the fascists and the centrists that immigrants are less than human.

          “But I suspect you’ll screen this comment,”
          It’s amazing how often trolls say that, always in comments that aren’t screened. I’m sure the lurkers support you in email as well. You’re being silenced! No-platformed!

          Compromise on matters of basic principle may sometimes be necessary, but it’s never desirable.

          But tell you what, You think compromise is good in and of itself, no matter what you’re compromising with. I don’t. You compromise with me then.

          • Your whole argument is premised on compromise being a bad thing – the entire set up is that moderates are bad people (worse, in fact, than those driving the problems). Apparently wanting to compromise with, say, Ken Clarke or Dominic Grieve or even David Cameron turns me into the Literal Lackey Of Fascism. Where on Earth do you expect moderation to creep in, if all you do is push against moderation? It seems to me you expect people to draw the line of compromise just beyond your personal comfort zone, and leave it there.

            That is why I suggested Corbyn’s Labour – because their emphasis on purity matches your emphasis on purity very well. Perhaps, also, the speeches of George W Bush – either with us, or against us – would sit well with your ears? Your argument fits perfectly within the paradigm of easy, simple politics that we’re now experiencing.

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              You haven’t compromised with me yet. Hypocrite.

              • You don’t want me to compromise with extremists, so here I am, not extending compromise to extremists. Unless you’ve now decided that I can compromise with people who you don’t agree with, in which case I leave it to you to decide how wide the horizons of reasonability are being set for us to operate within.

                • Andrew Hickey says:

                  If your argument is correct and compromise is in and of itself a good thing, you should compromise with me, or else you’re “clawing at the fabric of the country” and “deserve every misery and hell”.
                  If my argument is correct, you should *agree* with me.

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              But to explain again, for the hard of thinking (i.e. you).
              Anti-immigration side: We want to keep 100% of foreigners out.
              Moderate: Let’s compromise, and keep 50% of foreigners out

              Anti-immigration side: We want to keep 100% of foreigners out
              Moderate: Well, the current position is to keep 50% of foreigners out. Let’s compromise and keep 75% of foreigners out.

              Anti-immigration side: We want to keep 100% of foreigners out
              Moderate: Well, the current position is to keep 75% of foreigners out. Let’s compromise and keep 87.5% of foreigners out.

              When “compromise” always means acceding to the demands of one side, and pretending that the other side’s arguments don’t exist, the side that refuse to compromise always eventually get everything they want.

              In this case, the fascists have repeatedly refused to compromise, and centrists have repeatedly given them more and more of what they want. A tweet went round earlier:
              UK naturalisation fees from 2005-2017:
              2005: £200
              2007: £575
              2010: £700
              2013: £874
              2014: £906
              2015: £1,005
              2016: £1,236
              2017: £1,282

              Similar points could be made about every other area of immigration policy. Now would you say that anti-immigration feeling has got worse or better in that time, after these repeated attempts to appease it?
              And can you point to *any* compromises made in that time towards those of us who want completely open borders?

  4. gavinburrows says:

    I’ve never been a member of the Lib Dems. But I have often read Andrew’s posts about them. Previously I’ve used them to try and get an insight into his thinking. But I gather that was actually clawing at the fabric of the country. So in this newfound adherence to the central importance of compromise, how about this? Andrew has to half quit, and I half join. Otherwise it’s the politics of Trump. Or something. Anyway, it sounds bad.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Yep. Apparently if you want fewer restrictions on immigration, a more democratic electoral system, more international co-operation, and less power in the hands of billionaires, you’re on the same side as Trump, whereas if you want more restrictions on immigration, a less democratic system, less international co-operation, and more power in the hands of billionaires, you’re opposing Trump.
      Now personally I always thought that it was the other way round, but then I also thought that posting slightly condensed but largely accurate versions of real conversations I’ve had with people isn’t the same thing as beating people up, so what do I know?

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