Where have all the centrists gone and how to we get them back? False accusations, outrage, shaming and moral grandstanding are playing out on all of today’s stages: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian. Conservatives and liberals alike are ruthlessly vying for the microphone and the spotlight on center stage. And these grandstanders share a singular goal; they are all seeking the moral high ground for elevated status through righteousness and elevated moral talk. They are grandstanding and dangerously eliminating the framework for an actual constructive exchange of ideas and perspectives to take place. Enforcing a position of political correctness on both sides of the aisle to maintain in-group status is stifling authentic opinion and resulting in explosive tirades and condemnation of any alternative view.
Grandstanding has gotten dangerously out of control, reaching an unprecedented level on social media and beyond. So much so, that a substantial, and frightening, percent of the population think the country would be better off if a large number of people on the other side of their convictions just died. This is not democracy at its best.
Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke tackle this ballooning phenomena of grandstanding in their new book, Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk and discuss the urgency to recognize it for what it is and pay attention to its abuse, who benefits and who loses from its abuse. This book is dedicated to the centrists among us with the hope that centrists will take heart at this diagnosis of what’s gone wrong and check back into valuable moral discussions. Those who have been pushed out of public discourse by grandstanders and been attacked when they’ve express any doubt about what the grandstanders see as the morally pure position are enthusiastically invited to rejoin the conversation. Tosi and Warmke hope to refocus the spotlight on those individuals who understand the value of moral talk for its own purposes rather than those speakers whose singular goal is to raise their personal status.
We need to recognize grandstanding for what it is and then simply turn away rather than reward the speaker with our lingering attention. Centrists unite, re-engage and retake the stage, the hallways and the kitchen tables.