I recently offered my thoughts – succinct, I would say, though snarky might also be true – on the vices of conservatives and liberals. An anonymous respondent asked, quite reasonably, what the vice of centrists might be.
I have been puzzling over this. I don't think I have really nailed it, as I do about naming the vices of others. That may be the perennial problem of self-crit. Here is my first cut.
The vice of centrists is complacency.
Liberal and conservative activists seem to enjoy feeling righteously indignant so much that I think that is half the appeal of having an ideology in the first place. But to feel really righteous in our outrage, we have to grossly simplify the issues and options, to eliminate the middle positions and proclaim culture war.
However, sometimes a revolution really is called for. Very rarely, but sometimes. In my lifetime, legal racial exclusion was one such moment. The civil rights movement was the response, and for the most part it was conducted with great justice and forbearance. Centrists are inclined to be gradualists. But the culture of racism really needed to be removed root and branch.
So it is a good thing in the ecology of politics to have the wings as well as the great middle.
On the whole, though, it is best to have the center rule.