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Because the first position is “left” and the second position is “right,” the pollsters split the difference and label such a person a “moderate.” But he isn’t actually a moderate, so much as bipartisanly extreme. In practice, most “moderates” boil down to that: They hold some leftie and some rightie positions. The most familiar type of “moderate” in American politics are the so-called “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” red governors of blue states. […] As Trump’s detractors see it, he’s just a reality-show buffoon with a portfolio of incoherent attitudes that display no coherent worldview. But very few people go around with a philosophically consistent attitude to life: Your approach to, say, health insurance is determined less by abstract principles than by whether you can afford it. Likewise, your attitude to the DREAMers may owe more to whether your local school district is collapsing under the weight of all this heartwarming diversity.
The policy preferences of most voters are rarely grounded in careful reflection of philosophical principle, which commonly results in voters holding ideologically contradictory positions. It is, furthermore, probably true that most “moderate” voters hold at least one or two positions that could easily be considered “extreme” or “severe” by their opponents.
It is often claimed that most voters want Republicans and Democrats to work together, but I think they want acquiescence, not compromise. What makes a person “independent” or “non-partisan” is that he or she doesn’t always demand acquiescence from the same side of the political aisle and fears a system in which any one party gains a monopoly on acquiescence. Thus, the “moderate” government most voters desire is one that reflects their own individual combinations of partisan interests — e.g., global warming initiatives + tax cuts, loose immigration standards + hawkish foreign policy, etc. — rather than promotion of only those few issues with bipartisan support.
In politics, moderates don’t represent a middle ground between ideologies. Instead, they are typical of human beings in spending more time living than thinking about living. They are not consistently ideological.