Politics: Same Wood, Different Tree

If you are a long time political observer, you will be a centrist.

“And I thought elections in India were bad” is the one phrase that I have repeated to myself atleast ten times in the last one week alone, seeing my news feeds filled with reactions on the Pence-Harris-Fly episode.

Anyone who has taken an interest in politics for long enough, with deep research into the backgrounds, history, conspiracy theories, not-conspiracy theories and data around prominent political figures, will eventually become a centrist. This is my own extension (and reverse corollary) of the age old Median Voter Theorem. As per the Median Voter Theorem, political candidates will eventually frame policies that appeal to the median voter (mathematically, the voter whose policy preferences lie in the middle of the distribution of voters). Similarly, if any voter observes politicians across the spectrum, s/he will become a Centrist, sitting in the middle of the distribution of preferences towards politicians. Let’s call this the Centrist Theorem.

PANTONE in Bluffing

If you think politicians exist in primary or even secondary colors, you might be in for a fell surprise. Pick up any issue—religious, economic, traditional vs modern, environment, health. You can randomly pick any political issue from the array of issues that find a mention in the manifestos of political candidates. If you study them keenly for a long time, in different countries, you see patterns—patterns of bluffing. The political stand of the candidates themselves changes multiple times as they inch nearer to the voting day (to more closely align with the median voter). The patterns of bluffing and lies may be different across parties, but they are there, like the tire tracks of an SUV. You know the road they took. And when they keep changing stands, you know that they are doing it for swinging votes. It’s all staged. They are all different shades of the same old trope.

Politicians vary in personalities. That is what makes them win or lose elections. But as far as policy and integrity go, they are like onions—they have layers of vested interests.

For example, as of now, both Republicans and Democrats profess to do something about climate change and environment. Yet, neither has any solid plan to do anything. Both sides are only interested in pointing out how flawed the other is. One wants to pull down buildings and put up new ones, the other wants to talk about California fires only. While the rest of the world looks on and wonders for how much longer we need to share the planet with the countries who pass on their emissions to damage the Earth for the rest of the world. Nobody wants to talk about the externalities of hurting the environment. But both sides have plenty of room to profit from what they suggest to do.

Let’s move to a different country, for variety. In India, near election time, every politician leader wears the proper make up to woo certain communities. The costume is pre-fixed and is irrespective of political parties. The act is performed without much skill, as the audience know it is an act. They only look at their own incentives. Policies for different communities continue unabated irrespective of who is the ruling party. Only terms and conditions undergo modification. Rest is recycled and repackaged for ease.

In brief, politicians do whatever they need to, to win elections. To win elections, they need to be acceptable to the median voter. To be acceptable to the median voter, they bluff, lie, hide their true inclinations, views and stand. Because that is how the game works, any politician who eventually does get elected, is not vastly different from any other politician.

Minus Broad Generalizations & Cynicism

In all of the above, there are many assumptions and broad generalizations (and some might say cynicism). Any theorem has its limitations and it is the exceptions that make any politician stand out. The overall idea is not to say that all politicians are bad or are exactly the same, but that anyone who has insight into the mechanics of politics will, over a period of time, become a centrist rather than being obsessively for or against any party or candidate. We know nobody is perfect and nobody does what they say they are going to do and they are going to mess up in some predictable and many unpredictable ways anyway. Those are the rules of the game. It’s a matter of time.

It means that we (centrists) are concerned that the arguments which are worth having are never brought up or never seriously discussed or even considered at length. Most of what is worth talking about is swept under the carpet and a few issues blown out of proportion by vested interest groups like media houses, sharks of the world, huge corporations etc are made to look like they are important, playing with the minds, mental health and lives of millions of people. Even these issues, though brought up, are only a smoke screen. Nothing is ever really done about them, save outrage.

You Don’t Choose to Be a Centrist. You Start Somewhere & Then End up Being One.

Centrists are usually the disillusioned, disenchanted folks. They are not unaware of uninformed. They are acutely aware and over-informed. They are well read and regularly exercise their brains. They are just tired of the games and tricks. No rabbits are hidden in that hat. Everybody knows the trick here.

Most centrists started off somewhere, on the Left or Right of the political spectrum, and eventually ended up being centrists after facing reality and truth. Many such people were excessively politically active or passionate. But one fine day they woke up to the reality that the world is not as they thought it to be. The road from that day to a well rounded centrist is a short one, like marbles rolling to a lower point on the ground.

It does not mean that centrists do not have political opinions. They have a lot of opinions. They still do lean towards one side or the other on core issues. They just also use a lot of caveats. They also know, that many times, things are not even worth commenting upon.

Being a centrist is also better for health. You have fewer arguments, more peace of mind and you choose your battles. If you can get to the point of fewer battles, already it is a better way of existing.

PS: Just like the Median Voter Theorem is not always true, the Centrist Theorem is also not always true. If you are an exception to whatever I have shared (as in, you consider yourself to be a centrist but think differently from what I shared), leave a comment! This is an open ended discussion :)