I explain my unexpected and strange transformation from a right-wing ideologue to a passionate centrist. Please join us—you have nothing to lose but your dogma.
I’ve followed politics for years, but for most of them, I was a dogmatic right-winger. This was not the product of deep thinking; it was probably the natural result of growing up in a conservative household. My parents hated liberals and leftists; they sincerely thought these people were out to destroy America. For most of my life I took a right-wing party line, going as far to join the John Birch Society! I never seriously examined my ideology. I knew that the people on the other side were ignorant and had the worst intentions; there was no point in talking to them.
Incredibly, a baseball (really) book radically changed my thinking. I had been a fan of a writer named Bill James since I was in high school, many years ago. He wrote a book in 1994 called What Happened to the Hall of Fame, and I decided to check it out. Unexpectedly, he discusses his political beliefs on page 28. After reading this page, my thinking changed forever (really). He explained eloquently why he was a moderate. These are the five sentences that changed my ideology forver:
It is my observation, listening to political partisans, that there is some truth in what everybody says, but that they will all distort the truth to defend their position.(emphasis added). In my judgment, everyone on the political landscape,from Rush Limbaugh to Howard Metzenbaum (former liberal Senator from Ohio) is right about some things; I will listen to any of them and think that there is some truth in what he or she is saying. But at the same time, they all B.S. They all wear blinders. They say things they know or should know are not true, but which they feel they must say to defend the extreme positions they have taken. (emphasis added).
I thought about this for a few moments and realized he was exactly right. My thinking had been shallow and dogmatic. I had been certain about things I could not be certain about. I started reading books and magazines that I would never have looked at before— leftist magazines like Mother Jones, The Nation, and The Progressive., among others. After reading these magazines, I realized James was 100% correct. The leftist writing I suddenly followed had some legitimate points that I had never before considered. To my family’s horror, I embraced (and still do) many items on the leftist agenda. National health insurance was no longer evil “socialized medicine,” it was the moral and sensible thing to do. The pro-choice side of the abortion debate really did have some merit, and campaign finance reform was absolutely necessary to control corporate power.
At the same time, I also realized much of the leftist ideology was wrong. I could not justify racial preferences, abortion on demand, and very high tax rates, among other things. When I talked to liberals, I saw the same hostility and closed-mindedness I had seen on the right. I noticed many leftists didn’t even attempt to address conservative arguments —they simply impugned the motives of the other side: opponents of affirmative action or open immigration were racists, pro-lifers were making “war on women,” etc..
It’s been almost ten years since I read James’ argument and I am as firmly centrist today as ever. The phrase “radical centrist,” a term coined by a centrist pundit named Matt Miller, is the perfect label for me. I passionately oppose rigid ideology. It’s very hard for me to understand how anyone can be an ideologue, whether right or left. Every time I hear a right wing ideologue, e.g. Ann Coultertrade insults with a leftist ideologue, e.g. Keith Olbermann, the same thought comes to my head: You’re both right. Your opponent is ignorant, tendentious, and misguided—and so are you.
Article category: USA
Article tags: centrist, ideologues, centrism