David Brooks, of the New York Times, clearly and forcefully makes a case for what a “moderate” is in this great article. With the election coming up this week, and with months of campaigning by both candidates, the one word that has been used, and more often than not misused and abused, is moderate. Candidates are known for campaigning to their bases during primaries and then campaigning towards the political center during general elections. That common notion is that of as candidates become “moderates” for the general population. However, moderate is NOT someone in the middle, when referring to a moderate, a true moderate, which most pragmatic people and Americans really are.
Brooks defines a moderate:
First, let me describe what moderation is not. It is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Only people who know nothing about moderation think it means that. Moderates start with a political vision, but they get it from history books, not philosophy books. That is, a moderate isn’t ultimately committed to an abstract idea.
Regarding political economic, and cultural issues;
The moderate doesn’t try to solve those arguments. There are no ultimate solutions. The moderate tries to preserve the tradition of conflict, keeping the opposing sides balanced. She understands that most public issues involve trade-offs. In most great arguments, there are two partially true points of view, which sit in tension. The moderate tries to maintain a rough proportion between them, to keep her country along its historic trajectory.The moderate creates her policy agenda by looking to her specific circumstances and seeing which things are being driven out of proportion at the current moment. This idea — that you base your agenda on your specific situation — may seem obvious, but immoderate people often know what their solutions are before they define the problems.
Moderation is also a distinct ethical disposition. Just as the moderate suspects imbalance in the country, so she suspects it in herself. She distrusts passionate intensity and bold simplicity and admires self-restraint, intellectual openness and equipoise.