You don't have to be lukewarm to be moderate

Growing up, I considered myself a conservative, but the starch finally washed out of my views in high school after repeated cycles of internet libertarian propaganda. I still love libertarianism — the non-aggression principle is a beautiful basis for an ideology — but I want more flexibility. 

If libertarianism is khakis and a polo to conservatism’s business suit, I want a t-shirt and running shorts. 

I know you’re thinking: Will, of course we’ll support you, but of all things, a moderate? (And also: wait, who are you, again?)

I owe you an explanation. 

No, I don’t love purgatory or want to spend it with the Mensheviks, Three/Fifths Compromisers and Bob Saget’s character from Full House.   

Yes, I know God spits lukewarm believers out. 

No, I don’t think I’m overdoing the religious metaphors.

OK, maybe a little. 

In any case, the bipartisan rhetorical beating Glenn Beck received after his moderate pivot last year toward empathy for Black Lives Matter activists was pretty frightening for people like me even without the threat of divine wrath. 

A Daily Beast headline accused him of “Sucking Up to the Mainstream Media,” and a column from Death and Taxes’s Maggie Serota questioned whether Beck’s new views weren’t just “a shrewd and craven move to position himself as a tempered voice of reason...”

Not all responses were so antagonistic, of course. The DTH editorial board acclaimed Beck's changes last year, for one. The two former examples represent a common reaction, though, and are telling for their character. Neither take Beck at face value, and both suspect louche motivations for his move to the middle. 

Which is understandable. If I say to you, “I’m a liberal,” then you can take a pretty good guess at what my vision for society is. You know where I stand. 

The same is true if I label myself a conservative. But where liberals have Canada and conservatives have Mayberry to point to as their respective ideals, moderates have nothing. And people without a clear vision are naturally unattractive and suspect. It’s easy to see them as lost and liable to fall prey to the visions of the other side. 

Moderates, then, could improve their social standing by developing a vision of the good society. Just saying, “we moderates want a world where traffic lights are always yellow, images of Nelson Mandela shaking hands with F.W. de Klerk sell t-shirts and toast is all butter-drenched middle,” would do wonders for them, I think.

But they could never agree on a unified vision in that mold. Put New Glenn Beck, the ghost of Arlen Specter and DTH columnist Kirk Kovach in a room, for example, and I’d wager they couldn’t find common ground on much beyond the importance of ideological flexibility. 

That’s something, though. Flexibility has value in that it allows moderates to look out into ideological no man’s land and see glints of peace and glimmers of truth, while others remain ducked in their trenches. 

Call those sights mirages of bad compromises, call them hallucinations of the cliches like “the truth lies somewhere in between,” call them what you want, but — in a pitted landscape of ideological total war — those glints and glimmers seem like a compelling vision to me.

See you not quite on the other side.

Thanks for reading.

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