All posts filed under: Centrism

Are Centrists Really Most Hostile to Democracy?

Last week, David Adler published an article in the New York Times, in which he summarized his research on the relationship between political ideology and hostility to democracy. The recent rise of various populist movements in the West has caused many to fret that democratic norms and institutions may be at risk. The conventional wisdom is that extremists on the far-Left or far-Right are most threatening to these norms and institutions. But the conventional wisdom, Adler argues, is wrong. In the working paper he presents in the New York Times, he contends that, despite what pundits would have us believe, it’s actually centrists who are the most hostile to democracy and most supportive of authoritarian alternatives. As soon as the New York Times published his op-ed, Adler’s findings were promoted and circulated on social media by those on the Left and Right weary of being held responsible for democracy’s predicted demise. If—like me—you are not a centrist, then you may have found this gloating understandable. Centrists routinely accuse their political rivals of undermining democracy, and now here was evidence purportedly demonstrating that they are the …

Seeking Refuge in the Embattled Centre

A few days ago, Lindsay Shepherd, the Canadian free speech Joan of Arc, bloodied but unbowed by her brush with the grand inquisitors of Laurier University’s virtue squad, announced that she was no longer left-wing, and was taking up a position in the political centre. For months she had been courted and wooed by right-wing provocateurs and held up as an exemplar of courage in the face of her university’s nosey-parker thought police. She had been interviewed by Mark Stein, Jordan Peterson, and Dave Rubin among many other older and more sophisticated interlocutors in the wake of her dressing down, and vilified by some of the louder, more insistent puritans on the Left. This 23-year-old Master’s student quickly became a sensation on Twitter and YouTube, the newly made-up face on the prow of a ship slicing through choppy ideological seas. At once defiant and confessional, Shepherd declared that she had grown to distrust the motives and aspirations of left-wing “social justice warriors.” She explained that actions and attitudes like bike-riding and worrying about the environment …

We Are Living in Parallel Societies

Yesterday’s Italian election saw mainstream parties rejected, and anti-establishment parties such as the 5 Star Movement and anti-immigration League make big gains. Even Silvio Berlusconi did well relative to the centre-Left’s humiliating defeat. The map of election results shows a deeply divided country. As we have seen since 2016, such divisions are becoming the norm around the world. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re university-educated, agnostic or atheist, no longer live in your hometown, have traveled to different countries, are relaxed about cultural and demographic changes, binge-watch drama series on Netflix, speak a second language and perhaps even supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. Now imagine a person who is opposite in every one of those ways — and you have your typical Donald Trump supporter. “Identity politics” is becoming a pleonasm. Identity is politics and politics is identity. In the United States, Republicans have become the party of the left behind: predominantly white voters who sense the country is changing in ways that deprive them of power and status. Democrats, a coalition of minorities, millennials and …

Our Tribes and Tribulations

Disagreement has made disagreeable individuals of us all. News channels are littered with platitudes masquerading as thoughtful discussions. Individuals, convinced that the volume of their speech corresponds to the correctness of their arguments, contribute to the cacophony of tirades. The print media publish headlines assassinating opponents’ characters rather than their ideas. Swipes and scrolls lead us to trivial online quarrels which bleed into our personal conversations. Research from the Pew Research Centre suggests that 91 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats hold unfavourable views of the other. It would be unfair but tempting to lay the blame at the feet of politicians, public intellectuals, and journalists. But we, the people, are also complicit in this potentially slippery slope. Gathering by the campfire in our ideological tribes, we bask in the warm glow of unchallenged beliefs. We caricature arguments that do not fit neatly into our canonical jigsaw. Foregoing uncomfortable rumination in favour of rhetoric, we have helped to create and perpetuate a climate in which dissent is tolerated only for as long as it …