Op-Ed: Centrism, the politics of insufferability

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Anatomy of a 1911’, courtesy of C&RSenal

The ongoing presidential election in the United States continuously leads me to one question: With a gun to the head and given two respectively blasphemous, toxic non-solutions to choose from — with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on one side and Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the other — how many people would take the bullet? 

It’s a dark and grotesque metaphor that antagonizes me. I wonder if it’s me screaming into a void, because I am heartbroken at the thought of compromising my morals in an election that provides no avenue of safe haven for anyone that has ever been a victim of sexual violence and abuse, for anyone that has suffered systematically, or for anyone who’s had to grieve due to the legislation that both the GOP and Biden have backed, if not co-authored. The entanglement of our political sphere with systematic racial and sexual misconduct and exploitation leaves me yelling into Nietzche’s abyss: just give me the fucking bullet.

Writing against centrism — the steadfast belief that moral is greater than capital in a for-profit market and country — and the failures of the Democratic Party in its alignment with centrism as a whole in this particular moment so close to Election Day on Nov. 3, is tricky. I want to be sure I’m not implying support for Trump or the Republican Party in the process. What I’m here to point out is something that’s become excruciatingly obvious: the American political party system is trash and very obviously failing its population. Further, what we’ve come to identify as centrism is a dangerous repercussion of this. Before politicians are their political party identity, they are part of the rich elite that exist to preserve the sanctity of capitalist exploitation and maintain the overwhelming wealth disparity in the U.S. and abroad.

It appears the number one priority of the Democrats is to coddle conservatives, rather than to fight back. The two parties work in a sort of two-fold, like a “good cop, bad cop” dynamic. But ultimately, they’re on the same team; they’re the ones holding the gun. And with a gun to the head with our current options, centrism is the proverbial attempt to bite the bullet so these options can continue to violently coexist.

Centrism is as colorblind as it is fencewalking. It is befuddled with contradiction and naive, selfish conceptualizations of peace. It does not properly acknowledge struggle, oppression, nor disparity. It is a pacifier, and an ineffective one at that. Centrism in the U.S. is still right-leaning and largely a tool of conservative parties to quell the polarization of the left. Centrism, in and of itself, is a conservative tactic. Tactically, centrism favors the conservatives, because historically, we are a conservative country.

The current landscape that serves as the backdrop of the current presidential election is overwhelming. In a culture of instant gratification, Americans are hashtagging their way through a pandemic while an embarrassing amount of people still can’t bother to wear a facemask to protect themselves and others. People are being forced to work despite symptoms of illness or having test results to prove their health status, often for long hours with little access to PPE and serving clientele who quite frankly seem to have zero regard for the health and safety of the workers.

Meanwhile, we have police and racist citizen cops murdering Black people in cold blood, and the property damage from mass uprising is mourned more than the loss of actual human life. Gov. Brian Kemp recently renewed his Executive Order through September 21, giving him the power to call in National Guard troops to apprehend individuals. On the night of Sat., Aug. 29, APD, Georgia State Patrol, and National Guard vehicles heavily patrolled Little Five Points, crawling on Moreland Avenue down to I-20, with seemingly no protest activity in the area. As I stated in previous coverage reporting about the Department of Homeland Security:

“That is what Trump is setting into high gear: the complete and total cohesion of military and police with ICE and Homeland Security acting as liaisons. Just as ICE detention centers are indeed concentration camps, the U.S. is presently evolving into a police state … this necessitates ultimate cohesion and reorganization of local and state police and military task forces.”

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The Arab Spring, courtesy of LibGuides at the University of Illinois 

Societies with extreme disparities similar to those of the U.S. either succumb to overthrow, revolt, or solidify into a police state. Take, for instance, the Arab Spring or the rise of Nazi Germany as examples of overthrow, revolution, and police state solidification. Currently, with the Democratic party’s infighting yet overall opposition to the swiftly ossified and dominating Republican agenda, the U.S. is teetering on the cusp of what feels like the political unknown. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is watching us and wondering when we will ever make up our minds about what it is we actually want, and our carelessness has turned us into a legitimate health risk to the rest of the world. Our political climate overall is reactionary and full of contradictions.

I blame this on centrism.

When what is identified as leftist strategies surface in America’s political world, such as universal health care or defunding police, the right responds with criticism via hysteria, false facts, and strawmanning. Then, centrist beliefs form in reaction, saying, “Hey! Not all of us want proposition X. That’s asking a lot. We will settle for Y.” And boom, apologist strategy masked as compromise surmounts as a little pacifying bullet point on a nonexistent binary and we label it centrism. Because it’s definitely not left or right; so on a binary, that means it must be somewhere in the middle. But it’s not; it’s just a closer move to the right, which has been clearly demonstrated over the years.

When we view U.S. politics as a Republican/Democratic binary, it’s unfair and historically inaccurate to place centrism exactly in the middle of them. Rather, centrism is a bipartisan tool used in bargaining. Like we saw with Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign when Democrats became a “tough on crime” party to match the Republicans, it usually lands in favor of conservatism or the political right. Clinton’s administration led to the militarized police force we know today and laid down the current blueprint of mass incarceration through the 1994 Crime Bill, policies such as three strikes and mandatory minimums, and the rise of private prisons.

In my head it looks like a pulley system, making a machine out of this whole binary concept. Centrism is like the truck bed of a Ford F-150 that shuttles back and forth between the polarized parties with people hopping on the proverbial bandwagon and riding it down party lines. We saw this blatantly executed more recently in the most recent Democratic primaries beginning when Mike Bloomberg bought his way into the races — which might not seem relevant now, but he and other candidates served as further examples of where centrism has taken us.

Bloomberg has notoriously flip-flopped his political identity in order to suit his campaign interests, going from Democratic to Republican to Independent to Democratic again. Shortly after 9/11, he began running under the Republican ballot to help set the stage for a successful mayoral bid. We saw this move again after he switched back to the Democratic Party after a hint of a presidential run in October 2019. He was cunning in these movements, making the Democratic and Republican parties pawns he could manipulate. He’s a billionaire, and money is a bipartisan tool. Either party is happy to have him and his assets.



Although it’s glaring in the case of Bloomberg, we saw the same distraction strategy used to destabilize voters in other examples during the Democratic primaries. Like Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren utilized party identity as nothing more than a convenient means of self-advancement to higher stakes of power. Warren was also once a Republican.

The problems that arose with these primary candidates are more critical than which party they happen to run their campaigns with. With Bloomberg, we saw his stop-and-frisk policy he commandeered while he was mayor of New York City, which had long-lasting effects on countless Black and brown people in the city; it wasn’t until he decided to run for president that he turned against the policy. Warren suddenly accepted super PAC money in the name of feminism, furthering the corroding corruption of campaign financing in politics and media. Pete Buttigieg flip-flopped on universal health care in exchange for endorsements from health insurance companies. And to circle back to Bill Clinton, it wasn’t until after Hillary Clinton announced she would run for president that he came forward and admitted that his crime bill made mass incarceration “worse.”

The Democratic Party now holds Biden as their carry; someone who started out in the periphery of the Democratic spotlight since he’s already well known as Obama’s vice president. He remained in everyone’s recent memory and stayed low on the back burner during the primaries until Bloomberg, Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigeig, and Amy Klobuchar burned bright and dropped off. As a result, centrists find themselves stuck in the voids of their own indecision where all these candidates used to be. 

Now, Biden is the only hope Americans think they have of taking down Trump. Biden: a man whom the media quickly deemed “electable” (before sole contender Sanders had even suspended his campaign), but who can’t seem to tell his wife and sister apart, called Super Tuesday “Super Thursday,” and apparently needed multiple candidates to drop out the day before Super Tuesday before making a “comeback.” Lacking the ability to weigh the risks at stake, they fall for facades of security and stability, forgetting that it’s not only about defeating Trump in a presidential election. The long term battle is the undoing of Trump’s administration and the things that allowed him there, the redistribution of justice and equality, and the prioritizing of health over wealth. 

Such things are not Biden’s agenda, although the man purports good intention (which we all know paves the road to hell). This is Team Biden, brought to you by centrism.

Calling out Biden isn’t an attempt to attack or analyze his “successes and failures.” Rather, it’s about highlighting fundamental, ethical flaws that are masked by his flatlined, Democratic identity. To call racist pragmatism a mere political failure severely undermines how dangerous and toxic it actually is. Americans are literally dying in need of change, and many fear that all Biden would do is solidify the fortresses Trump constructed. Since he’s become the presumed Democratic nominee, he has already dropped the demand to end fossil fuel subsidies from his platform, leaving voters wary of his follow through with the Green New Deal. And we can’t forget that he has continuously argued against Medicare For All, is the Godfather of the Patriot Act, and helped pave the way for the harsh immigration tactics we see employed by the Trump Administration today.

To progressives, this makes him an enemy. And enemies are often charismatic and excellent at convincing us they’re otherwise. Ultimately, what Biden says on the pedestals of his campaign are beside the point. When the Democratic Party quietly co-signed a budget in the billions for expansion of ICE, the construction of the border wall, and the military, all while failing to impeach our president — then it’s raining red flags. It’s no longer time to play it safe.

The faith in the Democratic Party that many voters currently have is out of desperation and brainwashed loyalty, not because they actually see legitimacy in the Biden/Harris agenda. Pragmatically, there’s more proof of Biden and Harris reinforcing Trumpian policy than dismantling it, and we see this behavior over and over with the Democratic Party’s constant compromise scheming in their tone deaf approaches to social injustice. Specific to Harris, she has a pretty impressive track record with LGBTQ+ rights, yet fails trans women prisoners in their rights to gender affirming medical treatment and placement in the prison system. Here, she cited that it was her office pushing a transphobic agenda and that it was her responsibility to back the demands of her office, rather than the demands of the prisoners. We see this pattern of behavior with her again with ample documentation of how Harris fights to keep prisoners (youth and nonviolent, “low risk” offenders, specifically) incarcerated because the state of California is so dependent on prison labor for all of their statewide maintenance. She literally has kids out there fighting forest fires; again, another situation in which she blames solely on her office in an attempt to distance herself from the backlash.

In another means of serving as a conservative tactic, centrism stands to depolarize the left through internal strife and leave them settling for less than what they initially sought. It’s not a solution to black-and-white thinking like so many think, but is a by-product of black-and-white thinking and a failure to challenge black-and-white thinking, itself. Centrism is pretty much Reddit trolling, arguing against other people not to prove a crucial point, but only to tear them apart and gaslight them. We’ve seen this so many times, notably in the queer/gay assimilation split in the 1990s, the anti-war movement in the early 2000s, and currently with the U.S. healthcare crisis that’s been further exacerbated by COVID-19. To clarify, I call health care in this country a crisis because when 27.5 million Americans are uninsured along with 43.8 million who are underinsured, it is one.

The ability to look at the current state of affairs and say “this is wrong and it makes me mad” is instinctual and is the basis of some of the most vital components centrists appear to possess: anger and discomfort. The real question is what is it that centrists find wrong and why does it make them mad? Centrists are a group of lost souls who don’t even necessarily agree with each other; it’s like they ended up in a political purgatory to be upset and bond on the commonality of their emotional state. Thus, centrism is an alignment of discontent, and that’s about it. Centrism is a highly emotional point of view, possessing the most vague political framework. The system isn’t working. Poverty sucks. Education is important. Be active in your community. We have rights. Blah. We know

Expand on any of these topics and it’ll be really difficult for any centrist to have set core values. Their porousness leaves them vulnerable to disinformation, making them easy targets of manipulation. They’re one clickbait article away from reiterating something fascist or believing that something that could be done for the betterment of humanity would actually be done maliciously by Them, whoever they are. Or, in worst cases, centrism wins through fear and sweeping reductionism, like in regards to the current presidential election, because Biden and Harris are the only options we’ve got.

Once leftists see the Democratic Party for the malignant, centrist reformism it actually is, emotional divestment is essential, and alienation is inevitable. But as it stands today, the political left is in a toxic, codependent relationship with the Democratic Party — they need our votes and we think we need them in order to fight some greater evil — but it’s about time we kill all our demons once and for all. 

It’s important, especially right now, to address the construction of our political climate being entirely suffocated by the binary so commonly used to illustrate it. As we’ve seen through recent history, centrism ultimately fails because it acknowledges and reinforces a binary political system in and of itself while fabricating some non-existent “middle ground” between two parties. To be able to live in a delusion where there is a middle ground as presented by centrism is a privilege in and of itself, as it aims to never offend and strives impractically for this greater good that can only exist at the expense of someone, somewhere else. Here, we see the inability of this paradigm to connect the small and large and see the tragic relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Up until now, maybe we could claim lack of self-awareness, but if this year has revealed anything, it’s that paradise for some is born from the sufferings of many.

We need to stop thinking of politics under umbrella terms such as “left” and “right” and realize that conservative and progressive modules aren’t diametrically opposed; they’re just different schools of thought. Once we disband this idea of black-and-white thinking, centrism suddenly becomes useless, because it’s seen for what it is: the constant mixing of oil and water, with us just watching them fight to separate again.

We don’t have to succumb to such insufferability. When the vows between the Democratic and Republican parties are unveiled, and centrism is revealed as a manipulation tactic rather than an identity politic, it’s as if we’ve swiveled around in our chairs and the gun is now pressed against our foreheads. We’re no longer looking to “vote or die” because we can’t afford to keep falling for an illusion of choice anymore. Don’t bite the bullet. Grab the fuckin’ gun and disarm the hands attached to the bodies which oppress and exploit ours.

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