The short answer is no – whether or not a person is a centrist is determined by where on the political spectrum that person’s views place them, not whether they are willing to compromise with others or not.

As much as some dishonest people and organizations pretend otherwise, being a centrist is not about some personality trait or behavior. As the word itself implies – and the definition makes even more clear, being a centrist is about where you stand on political issues, and whether those views match up with what the center range of what the American political spectrum believes, specifically between the ranges on the left and right.

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While most centrists are willing to compromise, and this is a mindset that should be encouraged (regardless of where you happen to land on the political spectrum) – a person isn’t any more or less of a centrist is they do or don’t compromise. Similarly, compromising doesn’t make someone any more or less of a conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, communist, anarchist, or any other political label – it just means you’re reasonable.

This is what centrist means:

Banner showing the centrist definition according to four authoritative English dictionaries.
The Definition of Centrist – from four authoritative dictionaries, where the meaning of words in our language are found – no opinion involved.

As peculiar as it may sound, there are indeed inflexible centrist zealot types (I’ve met a number of them over the years -SK). Tribalistic behavior is something all people are capable of, with a certain combination of mindset and circumstances. This is part of the human condition, not a manifestation of any specific ideology.

While it may seem otherwise at times, given that most of the professional major party pundits that dominate the media landscape are of the inflexible partisan and/or ideological zealot varieties, most people – left, right and centrist – are willing to compromise. This is also a byproduct of self-selection bubbles – more and more people are separating themselves from those in different subcultural and ideological groups.

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If we are lucky enough to see a centrist movement, and especially if we build a new party in the center, we would do well to try and be more honest with ourselves than hyper-partisan ideologues are and admit that the majority of centrists and moderates that have no more of a right to call themselves that than those who behave in blindly tribalistic ways.

Instead of ignoring them, pretending they’re not centrists or moderates (as well as pretending that those who aren’t centrists are, just because they compromise or fit some other centrist stereotype) or – like the left and right so often do – give them a pass and judge them far more generously than people elsewhere on the spectrum, we can – and should – do better, take ownership of the darker elements of the political centrist tent and try to engage with them and pull them away from these bad behaviors.

 

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