Radical center (politics)

The terms radical center or radical middle describe a third way philosophy as well as an associated political movement. Followers of this philosophy claim to improve understanding by simultaneously affirming both sides, whether that be disagreement amongst left-right politics or other disagreement or dilemmas.


Various groups have adopted "radical center" as a term to describe a third way philosophy which includes their belief that, in affirming the core principles involved on both sides of a dilemma, the dilemma or disagreement can be rendered moot.

The terms "Radical Center" and "Radical Middle" are often used interchangeably, although the former more often refers to a political movement or current and the latter to a political philosophy. The latter use reflects an emphasis on epistemic virtue, by resolving false dilemmas -- i.e., finding the "excluded middle".


The political application of radical center philosophy is represented by a cluster of loosely related terms and movements: radical middle, radical centrist, responsive communitarian, third-way, etc. As a relatively grass-roots movement, especially in the United States, there is no definitive statement of radical middle politics. A primary recurring theme, however, might be the idea of "sustainably improving choices." This is reflected in the goals of various radical centrist groups, which they describe using language such as:

*Maximize citizen choice, individual empowerment, and overall human potential
*Facilitate greater involvement in the political process (e.g., through referenda)
*Being of concrete help to those in the developing world
*Emphasize epistemic virtue, so that politics are grounded in objective reality
*Build character by promoting conscious moral choices
*Expand community by people creating value for each other in reciprocal relationships
*Possess a foundation of traditional values and common sense
*Enlibra, which presents itself as the productive middle approach to environmentalism

History of the terms

While the term radical center has been used in various ways since at least the 1970s, it first had a major influence in the Sages due to the Reform Party and Ross Perot, who were frequently described as representing the radical middle due to their attempts to partisanize those portions of the American electorate. Despite a strong showing in the 1996 U.S. presidential election, today the Reform Party is not generally perceived as a major player in national politics, though they have impacted state elections -- notably with their Jesse Ventura becoming Governor of Minnesota.

Today, the term radical center is most commonly associated with a movement that does not explicitly claim descent from the Reform Party or its ideas, but rather draws its inspiration from the book "The Third Way" by Anthony Giddens (1998) and Giddens' highly-regarded follow-up book "The Third Way and Its Critics" (2000). In the U.S. third way politics is most actively represented by the New America Foundation and its book by Ted Halstead and Michael Lind, "The Radical Center" (2001). Subsequent introductions to radical centrist politics include, most notably, Matthew Miller's book "The Two Percent Solution" (2003) and Mark Satin's book "Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now" (2004). (Interestingly, Lind was once a conservative, Miller was once an aide in President Bill Clinton's White House, and Satin was a co-author of the U.S. Green Party's founding document from the 1980s, "Ten Key Values.") The definitive history of "Centrism" in America, and probably the best-selling radical centrist book to date, is John Avlon's "Independent Nation" (2004, pbk. 2005).

In 1955, Geoffrey Crowther, then editor of the UK publication "The Economist", declared, "It is to the Radicals that "The Economist" still likes to think of itself as belonging. The extreme centre is the paper's historical position." [ [http://www.economist.com/help/DisplayHelp.cfm?folder=663377#About_The_Economist About us | Help | Economist.com ] ]

The alternative term radical middle appears to have been spontaneously invented by several different communities around the turn of the millennium, apparently in response to frustration with both extremism and moderation. An early use appears to be from Gordon Fee's kingdom theology course at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the 1970s, which helped inspire the Vineyard Movement. He used the term "radical middle" to contrast the evangelical focus on the future kingdom of God with the Pentecostal emphasis on the present kingdom of God. But the first known use of the term "radical middle" was by Jules Feiffer in a comic strip that appears in "Hold Me!", a collection published by Random House in 1962.


Radical centrists are related to what is sometimes called the Vital Center in American politics, and similarly claim to be drawing on the best of both sides. However, they differ significantly from traditional centrism, which prides itself on moderation and seeking political consensus amongst the parties; radical centrists, for example, can be quite radical and populist in their stated policies. Radical centrists also can be divisive, as opposed to the non-partisan approach of traditional centrism. Radical centrists are quick to dissociate themselves from traditional moderates, whom they often contrast as the "sensible center", or deride as the "squishy center."

Radical centrists can be found in both left-wing and right-wing political parties, and often form what might be called "separatist" factions and run as independents.

Radical centrists assert that their principles represent the fusion of the best aspects of conservatism and liberalism, and thus interpolate at the level of philosophy rather than policy. They claim these ideological moorings ("radix", the 'root' behind their sociological use of the term 'radical') provide the basis for their critique of society, government and other political movements.

Michael Lind, in his 1996 publication "Up From Conservatism", writes that, though American radical centrism is today a minority political philosophy, it was, in fact, the dominant political philosophy within the United States from the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt through Lyndon Johnson — a philosophy that was shared both by the presidents of that era and the majority of the American people. Therefore, Lind argues, the American "radical" centrism of today is simply the adamant pursuit for a return to the once-mainstream political principle of New Deal economic progressivism coupled with a moderate cultural conservatism. This modest cultural conservatism would be exemplified on the political stage simply by the "radical centrist" politician's refusal to politicize or advocate socially-liberal issues like abortion or gay rights. However, the radical centrist politician might spurn any influence or pressure coming from the Religious Right and other socially conservative groups (i.e. pro-life advocates, school prayer advocates, etc.)


*Reform Party USA, founded by Ross Perot, was said to have appealed to the radical center, because it found that both the Democrats and Republicans were unable to address real issues because of both left-right partisanship and corruption. The platform compromised on traditional issues of both parties, ignores social issues, pushes an agenda of government reform, and calls for some referendums. Pat Buchanan entered the party for his 2000 presidential bid, adding a harder stance on immigration.

*Independence Party of Minnesota, the Radical Centrist third party in Minnesota

* [http://www.americancentristparty.net American Centrist Party] , a centrist political party established in 2004

* [http://www.uscentrist.org The Centrist Party] , The Centrist Party of the United States of America

* [http://centrerion.blogspot.com/2006/04/about-us.html Centrerion: Canadian Politics] , a centrist group blog discussing Canadian federal politics, foreign affairs, and economics

* [http://centristcoalition.com Centrist Coalition] , an active online group with a blog and forum

* [http://www.centrists.org Centrists.org] , public policy think tank

* [http://www.independentnation.org Independent Nation] , home base for John Avlon, author of the book "Independent Nation: How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics" (2004)

*New America Foundation, think tank founded by Ted Halstead and Michael Lind, authors of the book "The Radical Center" (2001)

* [http://www.politicsoftrust.net Politics of Trust Network] , founded by John Vasconcellos

* [http://www.radicalcenter.org Radical Center American Party] , not quite a political party; for now it is a website with some political thoughts and some links to other Radical Center sites and thought. It even has its own [http://www.radicalcenter.org/radicalcenterwiki/ Wiki] for members to contribute to American Radical Center thought and political-party evolution.

* [http://www.radicalmiddle.org Radical Middle Newsletter] , online periodical edited by Mark Satin

* [http://RadicalCentrism.org RadicalCentrism.org] , founded by Ernest Prabhakar

* [http://www.sfcg.org Search for Common Ground] , works to help parties achieve "societal conflict transformation" in hotspots all over the world

* [http://www.radicalmiddleway.co.uk/ The Radical Middle Way] , young British Muslims trying to consolidate a mainstream response to fundamentalist Islam

See also

*Third way (centrism)
*Christian Democracy
*Social Credit
*Centrist Party (United States)
*Yin and yang (Chinese philosophical symbol related to radical centrism/harmony of the opposites)
*Via media


External links


* [http://www.acmecoalition.org/radicalcenter.html Media Literary for a New Millennium: Finding the "radical center"]

* [http://centrerion.blogspot.com/2006/04/about-us.html Centrerion: Canadian Politics] , a centrist blog's About page containing Centrist philosophy

* [http://www.languagemagazine.com/internetedition/so2000/glen.html Choosing The Radical Middle] (minority-language schooling)

* [http://www.vineyardusa.org/about/history/quest.htm Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard]

* [http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/7ta/7ta072.html New Bishop Frank Griswald claims to stand at 'radical center' of Episcopalian church]

* [http://anglicansonline.org/resources/essays/whalon/centrist.html The Centrist Moment] in the Anglican Church

* [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/radical-middle/ Yahoo! Radical Middle discussion group] , a spin-off of [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pomoxian PoMoXian]

* [http://www.catbirdpress.com/bookpages/reader.htm Toward The Radical Center: A Karel Capek Reader]

* [http://www.quiviracoalition.org/documents/Invitation.asp The Quivira Coalition] for harmony between humans and nature at the Radical Center

* [http://RadicalCentrism.org/manifesto.html Ground Rules of Civil Society: A Radical Centrist Manifesto]

* [http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/13785.htm John Mark Ministries] - evangelical Christian liberals

* [http://www.mediate.com/articles/adlerhoneyman1.cfm?nl=83 Some Radical Thinking on Centrism, Politics, And the Future of Conflict Management]

Media coverage

Media coverage of the 'radical middle' phenomena in (mostly American) politics:

* [http://www.wfs.org/revsatinjf05.htm Environmentalist Robert Olson's article "The Rise of 'Radical Middle' Politics"] from "The Futurist"

* [http://www.utne.com/pub/2004_125/promo/11350-1.html Leif Utne's article The Radical Middle] from The Utne Reader

* [http://centrerion.blogspot.com/2006/01/retraction-candidates-debate-in-todays.html On a candidate's debate during the 2006 Canadian federal election] from Montreal's The Suburban

* [http://www.independentnation.org/articles/revenge_of_radical.htm Revenge of the Radical Centrists] by John Avlon of the Vital Center

* [http://www.prospect.org/print/V12/21/kahlenberg-r.html Richard D. Kahlenberg's analysis of "The Radical Center"]

* [http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/idol_pr.html The New American Idol] Wired on Arnold Schwarzenegger as the start of 'radical' centrism.

* [http://www.pbs.org/thinktank/show_923.html What’s on the Mind of the "Radical Middle"?] Economic Growth and Opportunity in the New Century

* [http://home.iae.nl/users/lightnet/world/awaken/thirdway.htm The Aquarian Conspiracy] - New Age vision of a "common ground/consensus" model of transformational politics

* [http://www.public-cio.com/story.php?id=2004.05.12-90221 Smarter Leadership: Managing Change from the Radical Center] (mentions Roger Douglas, a radical centrist leader in New Zealand).

* [http://www.thesuburban.com/content.jsp?sid=13309969061310554752075586127&ctid=1000029&cnid=1006296 Mount Royal needs debate: activist] , is an article discussing a Canadian centrist's activism

* [http://www.showmenews.com/2006/Jan/20060129Comm007.asp Claim common ground] by Pete Szkolka in the Columbia, MO Tribune

Information from self-described radical middle/radical centrist sources:

* [http://www.radicalcentrism.org/middle Welcome to the Radical Middle] by [http://www.radicalcentrism.org/about.html RadicalCentrism.org]

* [http://www.lse.ac.uk/Giddens/ThirdWayCriticsPR.htm The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy]

* [http://www.gwu.edu/~ccps/platformtext.html The Responsive Communitarian Platform]

* [http://www.newamerica.net/index.cfm?pg=book_Rev&pubID=1011 The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics]

* [http://www.radicalmiddle.com/book.htm Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now]

* [http://masing2004.com/platform.php Hans Masing] , Radical Middle candidate for U.S. Congress, Michigan

* [http://www.thomhartmann.com/radicalmiddle.shtml The Thom Hartmann Program,] a radio commentator calling for a Radical Center

*EarthOps.org's [http://earthops.org/political_plank.html Radical Centrist Party Political Platform?]

* [http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~156~1780422,00.html Colorado Voices: The Radical Center] where "compassionate, common-sense solutions" come from

* [http://www.theradicalcentrist.com/ The Radical Centrist] a political blogger based in California, co-founder of [http://www.bloginators.com Bloginators]

* [http://www.centrustparty.com/ The Centrust Party] , inspired by the novel "The Shift" (ISBN 0-9727034-9-7)

* [http://www.kpbj.com/opinioneditorial/articles/2005-03-03-EDT-01.html Rantings of a “Radical Centrist”]

Centrist Blogs

* [http://www.centristcoalition.com/blog/index.html Centerfield]

* [http://preventionofabortioninearlychildhood.blogspot.com/ Common Ground on Abortion Policy]

* [http://www.donklephant.com/ Donklephant]

* [http://DyrePortents.com/ Dyre Portents]

* [http://themoderatevoice.com/ The Moderate Voice]

* [http://publicpolicynewsandresearch.blogspot.com/ Public Policy News & Research]

* [http://thecentristoc.com/ The Centrist OC]

* [http://www.whatshouldbe.com/blog1/ What Should Be]

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