Moderate Thinking and the Modern Whig Party

At Moderate Thinking, Nils Bergeson thinks through the differences between three terms that are often bandied about in both the corporate and independent media as if they were simply synonymous – namely 'independent,' 'centrist' and 'moderate' –, and makes a persuasive case for their rigorous distinction. Some short excerpts:
Independent. I start with this term because it is the easiest. When one identifies themselves as an “Independent,” they are referring to their party affiliation, or in this case, lack thereof . . .

Now let's look at the Centrists. This term refers to one's political viewpoints or ideology. It refers to where they stand on the issues. Describing one as “being in the center” is the equivalent of describing another as being to the left or to the right . . .

What exactly, then, is a Moderate? How is a Moderate different than a Centrist? When one invokes the use of the word “Moderate,” they are referring to a methodology, or in other words, the methods one uses when they approach politics and/or policy making. Being a Moderate refers to HOW an individual deals with politics.
Read the whole thing, the nuances are indeed the heart of the matter here. Perusing the post, I couldn't help but be reminded of the political and discursive strategy being crafted by the Modern Whig Party, which explicitly stresses "methodology over ideology." And the Modern Whigs, of course, emphasize the virtues of moderation in politics. Back in March, Liberal Arts Dude interviewed Drew Scholtens, Chairman of the Georgia Modern Whig Party and member of the Modern Whigs National Executive Committee. Scholtens stressed "methodology over ideology":
The Modern Whig Party is a methodology party. What that means is rather than control a base using ideology, we build structures, tools, and rules around methodologies that add value to both the common member and the candidate. However it is up to the individuals to interact with the methodology systems. As a result we care little for someone’s ideological beliefs, we focus on problems and solutions, cause and effect, without preconceived notions of right and wrong . . .

We are a methodology party so we provide tools, structures, and rules around methodologies that help individuals develop, but are not controlled mindlessly by ideology. Two Whigs might totally disagree with one another but the rules dictate how they have to interact with each other. Thus they have to be able to communicate, even if they can’t agree. There is a lot of complexity I can’t go into, but that’s the gist.
Is the moderate-methodology connection in these two instances a coincidence? an example of moderate minds thinking alike? or is there some background material with which I am not familiar that draws the connection?


Shawn said...

I think the problem I have with the modern Whig Party is I'm convinced the major parties do exactly what they claim already. Both are more concerned with perpetuating their power (and using the status they get with it) then what they actually *do* with it.

Clinton would triangulate himself into the mainstream whenever possible to keep people happy with him. Edging to the left here and there as he could. We've seen the Republicans introduce bill after bill that have nothing to do with "conservative" ideology.

I'm also amused at the term 'mindless ideology.' To have ideas and a worldview to construct a framework to install them in, one must, by definition, think.

I think there *is* a moderate-methodology connection, however. That is 'pragmatism.' "Do what works." The problem with that is it assumes that every situation is like the one before it, and you can do the same thing over in different circumstances and get the same result. The only criteria is 'what works.' Not what's the best solution, or the most beneficial to the country.

It also frequently breaks down into utilitarianism. "We do this because it works." And that is a very dangerous slope.

That's why I believe third parties *should* be ideologically based to form the framework of ideas the larger parties are afraid to form.

d.eris said...

One of the things that I find attractive about the Modern Whigs is precisely their flexibility on a whole host of issues, allowing for decentralized differences of opinion on the basis of an overarching agreement on core values/positions. You might actually find the Florida Whig Party more to your liking, Shawn, as they separated themselves from the Modern Whig Party for reasons that seem similar to yours.

One interesting point about privileging "methodology over ideology" is that this act itself is not non-ideological. Arguably, privileging methodology in this way is a core ideological plank of the Modern Whig Party's self-organization, -presentation and political practice. I've got a couple Whig readers out there, maybe they'll chime in.

Septimus said...

The methodology approach was developed to prevent an all-too-common problem found in attempting to develop a new political party, that of avoiding disputes over direction and policy issues.

First, we want to develop a method of allowing members to participate and decide. We didn't want a situation where a small group issues a list of policy solutions, shutting down debate among new members.

Second, we want to welcome members of varying opinion. We welcome former members of other parties as well as people previously alienated from politics.

A political party does not have to be based on a single idea, or personality. Narrowly based new parties have an even harder time getting started.

That being said, the Modern Whigs do stand for and against a great many things -- thus we agreed on a statement of basic principles, which can be found at our website.

So whether you consider yourself a pragmatist, a moderate, a centrist, or just fed up, we will be able to welcome you, and give you your say.

d.eris said...

Thanks for the comment Septimus!