Just the uncommitted.
They were thrown out of heaven that it be not tainted
But the depths of hell refused to receive them
Lest their presence incite the contempt of those there.
— Dante, “Inferno” Canto 3, tr. Vincent Di Stefano.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Revelations 3:16, KJV
Munr Kazmir’s recent Medium post “Biden and Bloomberg On Boris Johnson Victory” (discussing whether politicians should pursue a direction that moderate voters would consider too extreme) got me thinking.
Recently a boatload of pundits and candidates have been claiming that the extreme left of the the Democratic Party may be sabotaging the Democrats’ chance of winning a 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump.
“Shouldn’t we seek the support of moderates rather than extremist liberals?” these pundits argue. But here’s the problem: there are no moderates.
I don’t mean what other pundits are proclaiming, i.e. that we’re living in an unusually fractious era, in which there is no middle ground because everyone has been driven to the extreme left or right.
I grew up politically in the 60’s (Hey Boomers!). On major issues, like civil rights or the war in Vietnam or gender equality, there were few people in the middle. You wanted civil rights now, or you didn’t. You wanted us to stay in Vietnam until we won, or you wanted us to withdraw immediately. You thought women should have the same opportunities as men, or you didn’t. But it wasn’t just the 60's — conflict has always dominated American political engagement. If you think we have never lived in a fractious age, you slept through American History (okay, we all had a nap during the Cotton Mather lesson).
Moderation is the illusion of the absence of conflict. If liberals want to move forward to a better future and conservatives want to return to a better past, then moderates want to remain in a frozen present. The “moderate” Episcopal bishops whom Martin Luther King Jr. rebuked in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” claimed that they were for civil rights but that progress must be made gradually to avoid disrupting the civil order. Dr. King saw that this “moderate” stance was not a compromise…