View Full Version : Confusing Political Terms

04-09-05, 05:48 AM
Confusing Political Terms
April 7, 2005

by Edward Daley

Can someone please explain to me what a moderate is, in political terms? Most Americans are able to agree on the general attributes of liberals and conservatives, but what constitutes a moderate?

Is a moderate someone who espouses, in relatively equal proportions, both liberal and conservative views, or is the term more indicative of a general attitude than a set of ideological principles?

It just so happens that I know several people who call themselves moderates, and I wouldn't consider any of them to be evenly split ideologically. They are either mostly liberal or mostly conservative, so I can only assume that the term is meant to apply to their demeanors... that is, I WOULD assume such if they weren't just as confrontational and unyielding in their opinions as I am.

Could it be that I too am a moderate, and I just never realized it before?

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

To be honest with you, I've yet to figure out what's so moderate about these folks, but if they say they're moderates, who am I to tell them they're not? After all, I'm lucky if I can make it through the week without someone calling me a radical, right-wing lunatic... and that's just among my immediate family members.

I often hear leftists decry the "extremist" views of right-wingers like myself, and frankly, it irritates the hell out of me, yet I must admit that there's just as many people on the right who have no problem responding in kind. The fundamental differences in ideology which separate the left and the right, tend to breed that sort of rhetoric. So be it.

Of course liberals and conservatives often consider each other to be extreme. That's only natural, because to many people, an extremist is someone who's views are so contrary to their own core beliefs that they cannot even begin to understand the rationale behind them.

Many other people think of extremists as those individuals who's opinions are only held by a small percentage of the population. To them, if a person doesn't agree with the contentions of the overwhelming majority, their views must be extreme.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines an extremist as "one who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm." That's all well and good, I suppose, but in this day and age, I can think of few tactics which are not widely accepted by people on both sides of the political fence.

Sure, most people would agree that resorting to violent acts in order to further a political agenda is extreme behavior, but aside from assassination attempts, terrorist acts, riotous demonstrations or open revolution, there is very little that's "beyond the norm" in today's political world.

So how should we define extremism in the year 2005, once the aspect of violent behavior has been removed from the equation? To tell you the truth, I have no idea, and I've been following politics for most of my adult life.

One of my moderate friends once told me that she considered lying about one's political opponents to be an extreme measure, until I asserted that lying is to politics, as crying is to a maternity ward. And while I do not condone intentionally misleading people, the practice certainly isn't out of the ordinary in political circles.

She also wasn't able to clarify for me what a moderate is. To this day I still don't know, although the same dictionary I used to look up the word extremist, relates that moderates are "opposed to radical or extreme views or measures".

Heck, that's not a very helpful, is it? I mean, if you can't even nail down what extremism is, how are you supposed to know who's opposed to it?

Still, if you think about the word moderate in it's most generic sense, there are few Americans who couldn't reasonably refer to themselves as moderates, since the majority of us don't go around killing government officials, or advocating violence against our political opponents. Yet, at the same time, any one of us could just as easily be considered an extremist by someone who's definition of that word happens to differ from our own.

When you get right down to it, what mostly separates the moderate from the extremist is individual perspective. Practically everyone has an ethical or moral line that they refuse to cross, and when somebody else steps over your line, you're likely to think of their behavior as extreme. Keep in mind, however, that no matter where yours may lie, you've probably stepped over someone else's line on your way there.

Edward Daley