Opinion | An Open Letter to Centrists, Moderates, & “Pragmatists”

At the core of centrism is the belief that compromise of ideology and action will gradually lead to justice and equity, but this means compromising with those who already have a seat at the table, rather than listening to outside voices. Following this principle, the marginalized are left unrepresented in the legislative discourse.

With few exceptions, the individuals you will encounter in American politics are among the most privileged of citizens. It is only with incredible privilege that someone is able to invest their time, energy, and money in political organizing. It is only through extreme, circumstantial luck that those with the most pressing need for institutional change are able to reach the necessary level of personal influence to speak directly to these institutions and governing bodies. In these rare moments, when members of vulnerable, disenfranchised groups have managed to rise above their circumstances, they have more than earned their time at the microphone.

I won’t list every last one of my credentials for “spokesperson of the marginalized”. In many ways, I possess a level of privilege that is foreign to many in the US. For instance, it is privilege that allows me to sit on the floor of my comfortable, if sparsely furnished, apartment while I type these words instead of say, clocking in to a second job. Nevertheless, I am a young woman of color, a member of the LGBTQ community, and a liker of pineapple on pizza, among other things. I do not intend to say that you won’t find members of marginalized groups among centrists but it is important to note that there are far fewer and I hope this letter will help to clarify why that may be.

At this moment in time, there are Midwestern cities that are entirely underwater, black and brown people live in what is essentially a police state, people are watching their loved ones die because they cannot afford the treatment they need, there are for-profit internment camps on US soil. The notion that we need “gradual change” comes as a slap in the face to everyone but the most privileged of Americans.

The tragedy of privilege is that it possesses a blinding quality. As a cis-woman, it is my privilege to be ignorant of transgender specific issues, as an able-bodied person I could live my life ignorant of the unique challenges of being disabled in America. I may sympathize, and educate myself but I would be foolish not to defer to those who have known the struggle their entire life. Take a minute to think of the issues you are blind to, because you have the privilege to live without their challenges. Do you believe you are capable of understanding the level of urgency felt by people struggling with a problem you will never have to face yourself? The idea that someone from the outside looking in to a problem could accurately assess the need for change is as arrogant as it is farfetched. Centrism at this stage in American politics dismisses people who are genuinely fighting for their lives as “radical” as “unrealistic” and serves only to further alienate disenfranchised groups from political organizing and the democratic process as a whole.

I want to believe that all who have chosen to be involved with the DFL  have done so because they believe in fighting for justice. I have found, however, that many self-proclaimed centrists lack awareness of the fact that a fight for justice will look different for people outside of one’s own circle, outside of one’s own social class, race, or gender identity. Other fights may look angrier, they may appear to lack “civility”, but it must be respected that others have far more at stake in their fight. It is from this point of understanding that centrists must make a decision, will you help or hinder those fighting for their own piece of justice in a broken nation?