Half-breed interference

Sean Gleeson searches for a word that fits people who don’t identify as either liberal or conservative, and neither “centrist” nor “moderate” will do:

A true centrist would be one whose opinions fell in the middle on every issue. For instance, he would want a half-victory in the war; he would half-abort and half-euthanize innocent lives; and he would half-ban firearms and prayer. True centrists are a little weird, and more than a little scarce.

By contrast, an X21’s policy preferences do fall on one or the other side of the spectrum, just not on the same side for each issue. He is Right on some, and Left on others. He might want legal abortion, but also victory in the current war. Or, he might be against abortion, but also advocate our abject surrender. In other words, the typical X21 is not in the middle; he’s in a muddle.

The label we seek is obviously not ‘moderate,’ ‘fence-sitter,’ or any other word with a ‘centrist’ meaning.

“Moderate” never did impress Chris Lawrence much:

[N]obody with a well-developed political ideology is a moderate. By definition, if you are liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, communist, Enviro-wacko, batshit neocon, or whatever the hell Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak are (paleo-pseudo-con?), you cannot be moderate. George Bush isn’t moderate. Nor is Colin Powell, Janet Reno, Howard Dean, Glenn Reynolds, Megan McArdle, or Kevin Drum. Nor am I.

Most Americans — and most people the world over, in fact — don’t have consistent, ideological belief systems. The absence of those belief systems makes them moderate, because they just react to whatever’s going on in the political ether; if you’re lucky, you might be able to pin their beliefs to some overarching fundamental value (“hard work”, “equality”, “liberty”).

I noted at that time that I was “definitely for liberty and equality, and violently opposed to hard work.”

But this doesn’t make the lexicographer’s task any easier. Once again, Sean Gleeson shoulders the burden:

Any apposite label will be based on the notion that these folks have custom-mixed their own ideologies with selections from both sides.

I fired up the old thesaurus, and found some interesting synonyms for ‘mixture,’ including alloy, composite, fusion, goulash, hodgepodge, jumble, mash, medley, miscellany, mishmash, mosaic, mélange, pastiche, patchwork, potpourri, quilt, salmagundi, and union.

But since some of these seem to lack quantifiability or seriousness or curb appeal, here’s the term of choice: Hybrid.

It reeks of scientific precision. It conveys the impression that we’ve borrowed material from two species to create a third one, that’s better than either of its parents, an impression I think would flatter the X21s. ‘Hybrid’ may not be perfect, but it’s as close as we’ll get, so it must be the right answer.

Me, I think I like “goulash,” but this may be because I skipped breakfast.


  1. Dwayne "the canoe guy" »

    15 September 2006 · 12:38 pm

    Personally I think the best term would be “Brumblefly”.
    Please excuse me while I search for my ear

  2. Chase »

    15 September 2006 · 1:23 pm

    I appreciate Sean’s wit, but it’s a strange turn of events when moderation, centrism, even-handedness and the like are deemed “bad” things. I guess by even defining a “centrist” as someone who falls in the middle “on all issues,” you’re pretty much rejecting an understanding of what being a centrist is.

    That’s what tickles me about self-described arch-conservatives and arch-liberals: A refusal to acknowledge that this great, big, convoluted world is more complicated than a comic book.

  3. Francis W. Porretto »

    15 September 2006 · 3:40 pm

    “Moderate” is an inadequate description of a political philosophy for a simple reason: it doesn’t describe a philosophy of any sort, much less a political one.

    “Moderation in all things,” said Epictetus. “Balderdash,” says your Curmudgeon. How would you like a moderate number of murders per year? And what figure would that be? Would you endorse a moderate degree of governmental corruption? How about a moderate amount of Human Immunodeficiency Virus in your next blood transfusion? Or a moderate number of child molestations in the government-run schools? Just makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, don’t it?

    A coherent political posture must be based on a set of coherent (i.e., mutually non-contradicting) principles of right and wrong. “Moderation” prescribes no such thing.

    Quod erat demonstrandum.

  4. Dwight »

    15 September 2006 · 3:54 pm

    My gripe is when these labels (moderate, centrist, independent) are meant to suggest that the person is somehow free from influence and above it all (or has some sort of enhanced perspective on the political landscape). Please.

  5. Sean Gleeson »

    15 September 2006 · 7:47 pm

    Pace Chase, I didn’t call centrism or moderation bad; I think I called it rare.

    And I’ve never encountered a ‘self-described’ arch-conservative or arch-liberal. I’ve only seen the arch- prefixed by their detractors. I think it’s meant to make them sound extreme in their views, or even simplistic, as though they had no grasp of the world’s complexity.

  6. CGHill »

    15 September 2006 · 8:02 pm

    Can I call myself an arch-centrist? My opinions range all over the map, and let’s face it, I’m pretty darn arch.

  7. Sean Gleeson »

    15 September 2006 · 8:16 pm

    Extreme centrism? That’s an idea whose time has come. According to Google, there are only about 20 arch-centrists extant, none of them self-described.

  8. McGehee »

    16 September 2006 · 11:19 am

    I’m voting for mélange. It just seems to capture how holders of such views — wait, they don’t actually “hold” views, do they?

    Well anyway, it sounds kind of like “malaise,” so I think it fits.

  9. Chase »

    17 September 2006 · 10:14 am

    Point taken on the “arch” bit, Sean. I prefer the golden arches, myself.

  10. Mister Snitch! »

    17 September 2006 · 10:58 pm

    Hmm. There’s lukewarm, but that sounds kinda bad. Biblical types will tell you God hates the lukewarm. Tepid too.

    ‘Gray’ is neither one or the other. We talk about gray areas when we’re not ready to commit. Although I guess if you wanted an in-between political color you might go with purple.

    How about semi-committed? It has a nice ironic tang.

    Middlin’ sounds mediocre. See also ‘lukewarm’.

    Tolerant? Means you put up with assholes on both sides of the issue.

    Perhaps a hybrid of two extremes: ‘Liberal’ or ‘left’ and ‘conservative’ or ‘Republican’. Like ‘leftican’ or ‘liberative’ or, uh, Lieberman.

  11. Chase »

    18 September 2006 · 3:21 pm

    Or Schwarzenegger or Giuliani.

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