The Centrist Toolkit

Part One – Critical Consensus

  1. Consensus, above all else
    1. This, the center, is our ultimate goal. It is empty by design.
    2. It is not a tenet or principle. It is an orientation.
    3. A working coalition, a working consensus — these are our objectives.
    4. Partisans stand in the way of consensus, but can be recruited with time and effort.
  2. Do not get trapped by being ‘right’
    1. Being right is not enough.
    2. You must also do the work — the hard work — of building consensus.
    3. In other words, correcting a partisan can be a mistake if it takes you farther from center.
  3. Build from the center, not the fringe
    1. This is the only way to establish works that endure.
    2. A stable foundation is essential for any durable undertaking, whether it is to form policy, institutions, laws, public opinion, cultural trends, etc.
    3. It can be possible to build from the partisan fringes, but such works are unlikely to endure, since they become targets that the center and other fringes will mobilize to tear down.
  4. Embrace the partisan, but only from the center
    1. Consider any position, opinion, policy, or proposal that could potentially bring a working coalition closer to a working consensus.
    2. The centrist does not seek to eradicate partisanship, since we need principled partisans to help us build consensus.
    3. After all, if centrism provides the tools that we will build with, then partisans provide the raw materials.
    4. Our goal is not to convert partisans, but to recruit them.
  5. Centrism is not moderation
    1. Centrists are often confused for moderates, but we are not the same. Centrism can be radical under the right set of circumstances.
    2. Partisan moderates have principles that happen to place them near the center. The centrist’s only proposition is the center.
    3. Moderates are our allies, key players in forming any durable coalition. But we must not be confused about who is who.
  6. It’s easy to criticize, harder to build
    1. Criticism that serves only to tear down ‘opponents’ — that is anathema to a centrist.
    2. Offer criticism that opens space in the center, that builds toward a consensus which can itself withstand criticism.
    3. You may sometimes offer good-faith criticism that is rejected. Try to always admit your mistake, regroup, and prepare another attempt at building consensus.
  7. Judge not, lest ye be judged
    1. We must respect the taboos of society in order to build a working consensus, but we should be careful not to slide into enforcing these taboos ourselves.
    2. Whether the “PC” culture of the left or the “outrage” culture of the right, policing taboos serves only to close off the center.
  8. Avoid the promoters of partisan vitriol
    1. From the point of view of these hyperpartisans, the only points are political points.
    2. It is often impossible to build consensus with hyper partisans, since they are not interested in solving problems and will not participate in good-faith debate.
    3. In certain coalitions, hyper partisans may be a necessary building block. Under these circumstances, consider alternatives and proceed with caution. Extreme caution.

Part Two – Pragmatic Amendments

  1. Beware the law of unintended consequences
    1. In other words, be a pragmatist.
    2. Seek to build consensus around minimalist solutions: the smallest possible change that will have the largest positive impact.
  2. Respect the complexity of the problem
    1. Solving problems is hard. Building consensus to solve problems is even harder.
    2. Work to open a space for good-faith debate. This is the only way to create room for dispassionate, nuanced problem solving.
  3. Make no assumptions about the nature of the problem
    1. Problems can be institutional, societal, economic, administrative, cultural, technological, infrastructural, or any combination thereof.
    2. Use public opinion to build consensus solutions where possible, but be aware that public opinion can itself be the obstacle to the solution, the problem to solve.
  4. Work within the scope of possible change
    1. In a dysfunctional partisan system, opportunities for consensus can be very limited.
    2. Look for low hanging fruit, systemic improvements that can have widespread benefits, however small.
    3. Incremental change may frustrate our patience, but by looking for simple fixes we will suffer less from unintended consequences – and benefit from them more.
  5. Allow for nuanced problem solving
    1. It helps to have nuanced solutions for complicated problems. This may seem obvious, but it is often forgotten or ignored.
    2. Nuance is necessary, but often allowed only within the confines of a given coalition. Partisan opponents are not afforded the luxury of nuance, so be respectful of these boundaries.
    3. The need for nuance makes it even more critical to form coalitions from the center, since otherwise you will be left with no choice but to build from the partisan fringe.

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