Centrism is a privilege

Guest column by Matthew Q. Joy, sophomore political science major

Matthew Q. Joy, sophomore political science major

Many progressives acknowledge the existence of privileges that counterbalance oppression. The most commonly referenced and recognizable is white privilege, which describes the benefits that white people, often unknowingly, receive from a society that can be discriminatory against racial minorities. Liberals and progressives can be quick to call attention to many privileges, but one that often goes unrecognized is centrist privilege.

In a political environment that receives criticism for polarization, it has become almost honorable to self-describe as a “moderate” or a “centrist.” While there is value in recognizing opposing viewpoints and reaching compromises, the Republican Party has become too conservative for this to be possible. This has created a situation in which liberals who follow the moderate, compromising path – as opposed to holding steadfast progressive values – quietly benefit from the struggles of countless Americans. 

Consider Obamacare, the foremost achievement of the Obama administration. Championed by the Democratic Party and fiercely defended by liberals during recent repeal efforts, it is often forgotten how the law came to be. Before it became the individual-mandate system precursed by Mitt Romney’s reforms as governor, candidate Barack Obama promised that his health care reform would be a “universal health care bill.”

Instead, Obama chose to compromise with congressional Republicans, who unanimously rejected the bill anyway. Obama could have been the president who implemented universal health care coverage. Instead, he left millions of people in the same disadvantaged position they already were. He never faced significant backlash for this, however. Instead, centrist privilege was put on full display as society lauded him a liberal icon.

Raising the minimum wage is another progressive cause to which centrists have hitched themselves. During the 2016 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders famously rallied supporters around efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Pressured by her progressive competitor, Hillary Clinton announced in 2015 that she favors a $12-an-hour minimum wage. While this would be an improvement, it still wouldn’t allow any minimum wage worker to afford rent, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Still, Clinton was celebrated as a Democratic hero during the general election, despite these flawed policy positions. She was allowed to mask herself as a progressive, making her appear sensible compared to her opponent, but ultimately, she did little for the many people who needed the most from her.

Many heavy centrists seem averse to the idea of tuition-free public colleges and universities, but the U.S. doesn’t lack the means, as it has the world’s most bloated military budget. Still, centrists use tepid language and emphasize a need to be “realistic” when discussing the student debt crisis. Imagining a world in which public high school graduates are saddled with as much debt as public college graduates displays how much economic discrimination indebted students face for pursuing an education. The same figures who are applauded for their views on gay marriage and women’s rights are allowed to hold an anti-student position. This is just as horrendous as if they had reversed their stance on the aforementioned issues, with no consequence.

If it is socially unacceptable to be against abortion rights for women, civil rights for racial minorities and equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community, it should be just as unacceptable to oppose providing healthcare to the uninsured, a living wage for the working poor and education for those subjected to the student loan crisis. In many cases, the minorities who are discriminated against by conservatives are the same people who suffer most from an economic system that isn’t being questioned by centrists.

Centrism is as vile as right-wing conservatism, but it contains the additional atrocity of having no social consequences for holding views that leave fellow Americans at a disadvantage. This creates a type of privilege. Centrist ideas must only garner electoral support when they are the final option standing between the public and a conservative disaster, and even then must be met with reluctance. Just as progressives denounce white privilege, it is time to denounce centrist privilege.


  • Your manichaean ideology is adorable, and like manichaeism, maybe it’s results will one day receive extensive coverage in a few footnotes or, if you’re lucky, kindle x-ray!

  • I feel targeted! But for real you can have nuanced point of views and have it not be considered a “privilege”. A lot of people who can barely afford tuition also recognize the dangers of making it entirely free. I understand the need to call for radical systemic change but that’s not going to happen by ostracizing those who have similar policy positions as you and putting them on the same plane as those “vile right-wing conservatives”.

  • Maybe spend more time developing ideas to help Americans instead of making up new privileges, genders, and phobias.
    Also, LGBTQIA+? Why does it keep changing? Pretty soon you’re gonna run out of letters in the alphabet.

    • Has anybody ever considered that the “B” in LGBTQIA+ stands for bisexual, implying there is, in fact, two sexes???

      • Don’t confuse SJWs with the implications of their own idiotic jargon. That’s not fair.

      • *Please note i’m not one of these feminist psychos

        “There are only two sexes, however feminists believe that there are more than 40 genders”

        sex and gender are different good try tho A for effort.

  • Are conservatives more conservative than ever just because of the NPR opinion article you cited? Also do you believe in simple economics of minimum wage and the trade offs involved? And do you understand that Bernie Sanders opposed the values of American freedom and was destined to fail? Do you understand that free tuition would have a negative side? Do you understand that there are positive and negative effects of universal healthcare? Have you stepped into the real world where not all conservatives are KKK members or do you enjoy complaining more than creating personal success? Do you think people should pretend to have radical views even though they don’t believe in them? Do you really think you understand, cut and dry, what is best for a political system that is infinitely complex and cannot possibly be understood completely by a college student like you or me? Do you understand that there will always be countless struggling Americans and progress is not made by playing the blame game? In my opinion this is the most hateful, biased article I’ve ever read in the Panther.

    • Your condescension is is disrespectful, and your leading rhetorical questions show that you hardly understand the issues in our political system, either, even if you pretend to admit by throwing in “a college student like you or me.”

      The author makes plenty of valid points of the privilege of centrism, and though he could stand to acknowledge the need for compromise and nuance a bit better, his overall thesis is valid, based on plenty of evidence I would be happy to share with you.
      However, I would like to ask a simple question: this is really the most hateful and biased article you’ve ever read in The Panther? Besides the fact that this isn’t an article, but an Op-Ed column that allows for bias, I would ask if this is the only piece you’ve read? There have been plenty of columns dutifully defending Trump and criticizing Black Lives Matter – one student called Black people “thugs.”

      Is this really the most hateful in arguing that there is hateful conservative rhetoric and calling centrism privileged? This is hateful for arguing that minority groups and the socioeconomically underprivileged deserve better and that some well-intentioned people don’t realize that they aren’t helping the situation?

      Look, I would genuinely love to have a conversation with you on the subject if you’re interested. I would only hope you don’t talk like that the entire time and seriously believe that this column was so hateful.

      • The bottom line is that the author is a leftist who is not the least bit interested in any sort of compromise with moderates or those “vile” Republicans who are too conservative. As far as condescending and hatred this “op-ed” is loaded with it against both moderates and conservatives. Speaking of you are condescending too for calling out the commentor’s reference to this piece as an article instead of an op-ed. That is just your way of making yourself feel superior. I doubt your really interested in having a conversation or you would have offered some opinions to the commentor about his questions other than why he thinks the piece is hateful. Hateful and violent rhetoric and abusing women is largely the province of the left. Deal with it before you come to the table to espouse your “solutions” to the social problems of this country.

      • What evidence could you possibly provide that “centrists” are “privileged”. Sorry for the scare quotes but they are entirely appropriate in my opinion. The opposite is more easily proved, that those who tend towards the center get guff from both sides for not being appropriately faithful to the orthodoxy of whatever ideology/politics the most tribal and zealous of said sides adhere to. I would say this is beyond self-evident! “Privilege” in the way it is used by the left is an intentionally vague and amorphous phantom of a phrase. It is among the worst kind of stereotyping one can use; it is impossible to refute, yet strangely and axiomatically accepted by those who accuse by assertion, the guilt of others. It is in effect and practice, nothing more than a slur.

  • I’m sorry but what? The right has gone further right… have you examined the left? Democrats are literally turning their backs on the things their party stands for. You suppress freedom of speech because ideas that don’t coincide with yours are clearly dangerous. You riot, incite violence and threaten others, all while deeming anybody with white skin a white supremacist. I’d argue that the Democratic party has gone too far to the left, by establishing groups such as ANTIFA which are categorized as terrorist organizations. I can tell you are only a sophomore, as this writing is shallow in both content and research.

  • “Each man must choose between joining our side or the other side. Any attempt to avoid taking sides in this issue must end in fiasco.” – Vladimir Lenin

    This is where the american left is heading.

  • The author is a holder of an unearned privilege: “ignorance privilege”. He is so incredibly (and seemingly wittingly) ignorant about economics, anthropology and politics in general, that he occupies his space in a blissful state of unawareness, which is indeed a privilege, and by definition, unearned. And in this culture, his ignorance has no resistance against it, nothing to indicate to him that his stasic mind is devoid of understanding. How freeing it must be, how unburdened he must feel to utterly lack any understanding of important intellectual disciplines, yet be free to opine about any subject he wishes with no fear of repercussions. THAT is privilege.

  • Mate, opinions don’t make you privileged. You’re doing us Republicans a favor by allowing your side to show the far left for what it is, intolerant of others opinions and can only argue by spouting nonsense.

  • “those subjected to the student loan crisis.”

    Notice the passive voice. In Mr. Joy’s world, no one knowingly and willingly requests a loan and agrees to repay it of their own volition. No, students are “subjected” to student loans and made to sit the loan document with a gun held to their head. In Mr. Joy’s world, everyone is a victim and can’t and shouldn’t take self-responsibility.

    In all seriousness though, this article is a sly attempt at saying “if you aren’t extreme in your progressive views then you are evil.”

  • Just come out and say it, you’re a communist. Open a history book and you’ll see communism has never worked.

  • You need to read John Stuart Mill. It will help with your current tendency toward fascism.

  • Matthew has liberal privilege. That means he can feel free to say wildly ridiculous things without any consequence.

  • I am unsurprised at the author’s ignorance and shallow understanding of how real life works. Academia has been working harder on permeating a student’s brain with identity politics, than it has been on actually teaching useful, practical, and important knowledge.

    People such as the author most probably never served their nation, or their community. If the author had, you would see more humility in their words. As it is, the author obviously holds extremist views and childishly demands that only the far far left of the political spectrum has any moral authority.

    Words such as the authors are upsetting, primarily because they are totalitarian in nature. Words spoke in such a way, and with such sneering, patronizing, “look down my nose at you” attitude, are precisely how the Nationalist Socialist Democrats spoke. Precisely. This is NOT a spurious or facetious comment. This is a fact.

    Entire branches of my family were slaughtered by people who spoke in the way the Author is speaking. I find this article entirely reprehensible.

  • I have to say, I am at least encouraged by the push-back by the comments here. Very reassuring that young people at University still have common sense and an ability to see through this type of divisive, biased, hate-filled, and utterly detached from reality garbage. Bravo my friends at Chapman and elsewhere!

  • “Obama could have been the president who implemented universal health care coverage.”

    No, he could not have. That’s an absurd suggestion. Single payer polled horribly, much worse than ACA’s deep unpopularity which required pushing through with unprecedented abuse of process and pure unilateral partisan vote unseen in US history for any such significant national policy initiative.

    “Hillary Clinton announced in 2015 that she favors a $12-an-hour minimum wage. While this would be an improvement, it still wouldn’t allow any minimum wage worker to afford rent, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.”

    A ludicrous claim based on utter quantitative ineptitude. If the claim doesn’t strike you as ridiculous on its face, you might want to take a look at their calculations. The “fair market rent” they use in their study is very close to market median. Back in the real world, low income Americans that NLIHC suggests are all homeless somehow are able to rent homes.

    “Centrism is as vile as right-wing conservatism, but it contains the additional atrocity of having no social consequences for holding views that leave fellow Americans at a disadvantage. This creates a type of privilege. Centrist ideas must only garner electoral support when they are the final option standing between the public and a conservative disaster, and even then must be met with reluctance. Just as progressives denounce white privilege, it is time to denounce centrist privilege.”

    Cartoonishly sophomoric vitriol unsurprisingly from a thoroughly indoctrinated leftist sophomore undergrad who has got it all figured out.

  • This article is at once the most poorly reasoned diatribe I have ever witnessed. The writer abandons all logic to make completely nonsensical inferences. As one of many examples, this author posits that thinking students should earn their own tuition is anti-student. The irony is rich coming from someone attending one of the most expensive schools in the state.
    The most insidiously vile aspect of this essay is it’s veiled call for tribal warfare. Once compromise is made impossible, violence will follow. Unfortunately for the author, the right-wing is better armed. One only has to examine the bloodthirsty implementation of Communism worldwide to see the parallel. I hope this author uses his next two years of college reading the works of Solzhenitsyn, seeing the terrible logical conclusions of his misguided ideas.

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, I guess a moderate by today’s standards, advocated integration as the solution to racism and segregation. To integrate means to combine or unify separate components into one component (i.e. an integrated circuit combines multiple circuits into one circuit). One must conclude, presuming one assumes Dr. King to be an intelligent and educated man, that Dr. King was advocating for a mono-cultural solution. He regarded multiculturalism, i.e. separate but equal cultures, to promote racism and segregation.

    “I have a dream, where my four young children will grow up in a nation where they will NOT BE JUDGED BY THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN but by the content of their character. I have a dream…”

    The author has bought into the notion, despite Dr. King’s teaching, that it is acceptable to judge others by the color of their skin. If one promotes an agenda that is the exact opposite of the greatest anti-racist of the last century than how can that person not be promoting a racist agenda? As a progressive the author is advocating rejecting the classical liberalism of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. He is advocating a radical and profoundly racist and sexist political philosophy and he and his kind must be denied political power at all costs.

  • Minimum wage is not supposed to be a living wage. It is a beginning wage for those just entering the work place. It is then up to them to create skills in order to move into a living wage job. You make it so kids just entering the work place can make a life long living flipping hamburgers then they will continue to flip hamburgers for their entire life and the next generation of kids will not have an entry level job.

  • The author is just another Robespierre wannabe:
    “The reign of terror was a time of chaos in France. It is a time of mass imprisonment, show trial and the guillotine. Although it began with the beheading of the royalists and monarch figures, almost eighty percent of the people guillotined during this time were members of the Third Estate. The idea behind the terror became that “the death penalty was mandated not only for those who spoke out against the Revolution but also for those who did not extol it with efficient zeal” (Dunn). This meant that if a person was not adamant enough about the changes taking place and did not want to be an effective part of the revolution they were considered an impediment and executed. There seemed to be no other way to deal with people uninterested or opposed to the revolution than to decapitate them. There was no room for opposition, or apathy. People were arrested in mass quantities and when put on trial were not even permitted to speak in their own defense. The trials in fact were pretty useless other than another chance to state why the guilty party was being executed. “

  • as you are a white man, with your white privilege have no right to express any opinions.

  • I pity any professor who has to teach this totalitarian ideologue. On the other hand, he is most likely a product of faculty members who share his fascist mentality.

  • Just curious. What is the tuition at Chapman? Does the author really think that the US taxpayer should be paying his $65,000 tuition and room and board to attend a private University? Really?
    I can see junior colleges sometimes. Maybe I would agree to some state funding that would be for hard science and business degrees. No more, you name it studies, but real degrees that develop real skills that benefit the greater economy and country.

  • Umm, if Obama had tried to pass Universal healthcare it probably would have been voted down by some of the Democrats in the Senate (not sure about the House)

  • Shorter article:

    My beliefs are manifestly true, and anyone that disagrees with me is vile and privileged.

  • If all mankind minus one, were of the same opinion, and only one person were of the opposite opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

    — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

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