Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moderate: That's Me!

It's easy to forget, when covering mostly American politics, that what a politically moderate person is varies tremendously by country and by culture. Take me, for instance. I once asked my mother where she'd put me in terms of the political dimension. Her answer: moderately to the right.

That is a true story, though naturally applicable only inside the political system of a different country. Now contrast that with my reputation here (small as it may be) of being firmly in the rabid base of the Democratic party, possibly even more to the left, possibly a full-blown extremist!

I'm not writing about this just so that you can laugh at me, but because of the recent use of the term 'moderate' in all sorts of places. We all hear it as meaning a balanced person, someone who isn't going to yell and scream in your face all the time, someone who is 'in the middle.' But a moderate is always a relative term. It only makes sense when we know what the corresponding extremist points of view are and when we also know how close to one of those points a moderate might be.

The American use of the term 'politically moderate' to cover the Independents is even trickier. People who are not registered Republicans or Democrats are not necessarily in some vacant land between the two parties. They may have more extreme views than either party or they may simply not have many political views at all.

Neither are 'the moderates' in any particular political system necessarily the most in numbers, despite my own tendency to view them that way.

This is the piece which provoked these ultimately unrelated musings.