My theory is that centrism is a powerful psychological and social temptation, even in the absence of d-bag pundits pushing No Labels. Like I’ve often said, I think of centrism not so much as an ideology — how could it be ideology when it’s defined in relation to two moving targets? — as a temperament, a cultural identity. It springs from the (not entirely unreasonable) sense that partisanship is a kind of psycho-cognitive impairment that causes the sufferer to see only one side of an issue, to seek out only pleasing facts, to engage in motivated reasoning. It renders partisans unable to draw fair conclusions based on evidence. By transcending tribalism, centrists see more clearly.

Or so they like to think. And it’s not hard to see why: It’s a flattering and noble story to tell about oneself. Identity centrists are, nonetheless, human beings, and as such they are as subject to human foibles as the rest of us. Centrists can be as clubby and tribal as anyone. And they are just as prone to motivated reasoning. If you approach every question as a binary to be transcended, you can always find two “sides” to serve the purpose. This frequently manifests in unintentionally hilarious ways around climate change: One side says the Earth is flat, the other side occasionally exaggerates or insufficiently hedges, and the internet is choked with people claiming to be in the “reasonable middle” of that debate, despite sharing 95 percent of the substantive commitments of the latter side. They bend themselves into pretzels to avoid the obvious conclusion that all the reasonable debate is within one side — and they’re in it. Not above. In.