Column: A revolution of mediocrity

By John Bambenek

The current love-fest over moderates and moderate political thought is as absurd and harmful as it is devoid of an intelligent basis and philosophy. The politics of moderates is that of high school student council elections which are better known as popularity contests. Moderate thought is the idea that one should always go wherever the wind blows. The problem with that is that you end up never getting anywhere.

Let us take a moment to see what contributions the moderates have had in the past. During our nation’s founding, there was a problem over slavery and how to count slaves in terms of the census. The South, fearing that counting them as people would lead to their freedom, vehemently opposed counting slaves in a census. The North thought that not counting slaves gave the South an unfair financial advantage. The moderate compromise? Blacks are three-fifths of a person.

Moderates brought you campaign finance reform that did nothing but increase the amount of big money in politics and reduce the ability of the common individual to participate. That law has gone to such ridiculous extremes that have led to the push by the Federal Election Commission to try to regulate blogs to make sure they don’t engage in political speech at the wrong time. Moderates have brought you free speech restrictions on private citizens.

Another great icon of the moderate compromise was segregation. The anti-slavery movement wanted segregation eliminated. The pro-slavery crowd basically wanted to minimize the impact of emancipation. The moderate compromise? Separate but equal. The problem with moderates is that pragmatism trumps principle, and on some things there can be, and should be, no compromise.

If you reject ideology for pragmatism you get shortsighted solutions. When you choose style over substance you get plenty of good-looking, but nevertheless, empty shirts. This can be seen very clearly on the state pension issue.

The state has under funded the pension system for years. Instead of funding it appropriately in the last budget, they only made the under-funding worse. Despite claims from the College Democrats, you don’t make a pension system more secure by cutting the funding that is required by the state constitution and contractual obligation. This decision was made by moderates who looked at the short-term gain and wrote off the long-term cost on someone else. This indiscretion is largely lost on an organization whose indiscretions include glorifying sexual abuse with their club’s t-shirts.

The current political environment looks down on “ideologues.” If it weren’t for ideologues we’d still have slavery, and for that matter, would still be under crown rule. The alternative to ideologues is politicians who are bought and sold to the highest bidder. Most people would prefer dealing with a known quantity, not someone who flip-flops depending on who they are talking to at a given moment. Being moderate on ideas like fiscal conservativism (and this current Congress and president are more moderate than conservative) has led to rampant pork-spending and vote-buying. The result is a sprawling and wasteful government that threatens the great economic prosperity we’ve seen in recent years due to the Bush tax cut.

Compromise has its place, and that place is not in every time and every situation. There are some things that cannot be compromised with: slavery, racism, tyranny and terrorism. People who believe it is acceptable to express political grievances by indiscriminate killing should not be negotiated with; they should be stopped. Slavery, segregation, voting rights and many of the other major advances in freedom in our country were pioneered by extremists (namely Republicans).

Behind every great man is a group of moderates shouting, “Let’s be reasonable.” The moderate is not the politics of a statesman; it is the politics of a coward and more often than not, the scoundrel.

John Bambenek is a graduate student and academic professional at the University. His column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at opinions @daily

illini.com.