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Opinion: Do we really know what political moderation means?

It’s easy to think we are politically moderate if we exist in a homogenous group of opinions. By diversifying our news sources and listening to the other side, we can reach across divides

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An American flag flies over Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

The American partisan divide grows deeper, but we can each individually choose to avoid extremism and meet in the middle.

Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

I’ve noticed some popular misconceptions about the meaning of political moderation. Many with extreme views (even some violent extremists) think of themselves as moderates simply because they feel their own opinions are reasonable. Others think they’re moderate because their own social circle supports their views. Some don’t want to be moderate because they think moderates are morally weak and don’t stand for anything.

All of the above are dead wrong.

I think the differences between moderation and extremism are at least partially encompassed by the differences between realism vs. idealism, pluralism vs. tribalism, teachability vs. demanding one’s own way, empathy vs. apathy toward outsiders, and efforts to unite vs. tactics to divide.

We can only make choices for ourselves. Each American’s willingness to reflect on his or her own attitudes in coming years is what will either save or destroy our nation. 

To that end, I propose greater public discussion about how to recognize (without shame) signs of extremism in oneself, rather than in one’s opponents, as well as how to diversify one’s news intake without getting angry. Finger-pointing is easy. But ultimately, we’re all responsible.

Lisa Rogers

Meridian, Idaho