Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 27, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CENTRISM....Yes, centrism can be a tic. Yes, it's often favored by DC pundits who automatically assume that bipartisanship is an inherent good regardless of its outcome. Yes, it can sometimes be a substitute for real thought.

That said, I hope the liberal blogosphere doesn't get into the habit of automatically trashing centrist positions simply out of pique against some of centrism's more annoying practitioners. After all, trying to govern solely via populist intuition won't work any better than relying on a bunch of blue ribbon commissions.

On this score, it's worth keeping in mind that the biggest problem with the Bush administration was never its doctrinaire conservatism, which wasn't all that doctrinaire in the first place, but its insistence that it could govern by gut instinct without recourse to serious policy analysis. John DiIulio figured this out after only a few months in the White House, and later told Ron Suskind that "the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking."

Gut instinct won't get the job done for liberals, either. Your mileage will vary depending on the issue, but I'd argue, for example, that good analysis supports a fairly extreme view on Social Security (just leave it alone for now) but a centrist position on trade. The populist impulse on trade points us in the right direction, but a Lou Dobbsian solution (stop making trade deals, shut down the border) is nuts. Trade really does improve the economy after all, and the right answer for its ill effects on the working class is going to be found by agreeing on the populist goal and then letting the technocrats figure out smart policies to get us there. That's technocratic populism (an apparent oxymoron that confused a bunch of you when I first used it a couple of weeks ago).

The problem is not that smart policies aren't out there, the problem is that we've never built up the political will to insist that they be implemented. So let's work on that. And let's judge those policies on their merits. If a lefty solution works, that's great. But sometimes it doesn't, and if a wonky centrist solution works better, then that's what we should rally around. Whatever else we do, let's be sure to keep our eyes firmly planted in reality. The era of gut instinct is, hopefully, drawing mercifully to a close.

Kevin Drum 6:27 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (67)

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Comments

Thank god you'll be there to referee the whole thing. Without your leadership on these matters it's probably the case that the liberal blogosphere would be proposing all kinds of crazy ideas that you haven't been able to actually name.

Posted by: Snoopy on November 27, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Idea: let's have the party's centrists stop accusing more liberal members of the party of communism, hippieism, bestiality, and being responsible for all defeats.

Posted by: jerry on November 27, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

If you disagree with staying in Iraq, then you are just a dirty hippy. And if we don't leave a beautiful democracy behind that loves to give us their oil, it will all be the fault of you dirty hippies!

Posted by: Al's Mommy on November 27, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Aside from people thinking that for a variety of reasons Jane Harman may not actually be entitled to a job she isn't actually entitled to I've missed that whole blackball thing. Maybe I missed the meeting where the crazy liberals got together and voted on that. Still, kevin's smelled a whiff so I suppose it happened. And I do hope Nancy Pelosi starts conducting her business on Kevin's schedule, rather than her own.

Is it leadershihp for her to make her own decisions, or leadership to let others make them for her? Discuss.

Posted by: Snoopy on November 27, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, glad to see you don't inherently perceive "populism" to be a dirty word. That said, while I appreciate some of the issues Lou Dobbs has brought up, I'm no fan of his simplistic solutions.

Posted by: Vincent on November 27, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Let's face it, what is called "Centrism" in D.C. is really nothing more than political posturing.

Most Americans are moderates, and want a policy based on weighing the pros and cons of a particular matter. But that's not what Centrism is.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on November 27, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

The whole problem, not soluble in the short run, is that the noise machineabetted by the "liberal" mediahas effectively moved the centre so far right that the most tepid social democrats (in the European sense) now look like an army of Ch Guevaras. Compromise in this climate, I'm afraid, is almost automatically surrender.

Posted by: Kenji on November 27, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's a weakness of Bush that he's more interested in getting a bill passed than in fighting for the precise provisions that he ought to want. E.g., to his credit he got an education bill passed in cooperation with Teddy K,. but the final bill wasn't at all what conservative thinkers wanted.

If the liberals can do a better job of getting precise policies enacted, and if those policies work, then they will get my congratulations.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 27, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Well, unfortunately centrism has been hijacked by the Broder-Lieberman-Russert-"it's only a little bit unConstitutional"-Beltway glee club. I welcome the day it is rescued from extremists of the Party of Self-Regard.

Posted by: Jim on November 27, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: a Lou Dobbsian solution (stop making trade deals, shut down the border) is nuts

From Chile to Singapore to Mexico, the history of our FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] is that bilateral trade surpluses of our trading partners go up.
U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Karan Bhatia, October 24, 2006

So tell me again why we should make more trade deals. More to the point, why have you never addressed the trade (current account) deficit?

Even Robert J. Samuelson (the economist, not the columnist), one of the great gurus of "free" trade, is saying that desperate problems call for desperate measures. See his A Trade Tightrope With China column in Newsweek.

BTW, while I hardly track his every word, I don't think that Dobbs wants to eliminate foreign trade. He wants balanced trade.

Posted by: alex on November 27, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Let me rephrase what I said. Moderation is voting for a bill you don't like, because it moves in your general policy direction.

Centrism is advocating that same bill, heaping praise on the people that advanced it, and wringing your hands at anyone that raises questions about it.

Moderation is about policy, Centrism is about politicians.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on November 27, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

I always considered Populism to be a political movement whose goal was to encourage the greatest number of citizens to be involved in the political decision making process. The goal was to take politics out of the smoke filled back room, put it in the light of day and let citizens decide by vote for the policy or candidate, whether within the politics of the party or in the general elections.

Creating policy that best serves the most people was usually considered Utilitarianism.

Creating policy that best serves limited corporate interests of society was usually considered Fascism.

Creating policy that appeals to the emotions of the mob for an individual's political gain was usually considered Demagoguery.

Put me down for finding policy that best serves the most people. I like free trade. I think it enriches the entire society, but it does not enrich equally, creating some losers. Demagogues try to appeal to the losers, stifling free trade to win election, and Fascists encourage barriers to free trade for some and reduce barriers for others based on the strength of their 'corporations,' which are either seen as allies or too strong of opponents requiring appeasment.

Here is my policy input: tax the winners a small percentage and transfer that wealth to the losers of the policy. Limited wealth transfers from those benefitting the most to ease the losers' pain.

I put Lou Dobbs in the combined Demagogue/Fascist category.

Centrism means very little from a political point of view. To Stalin, Kruschev was a centrist. To Hitler, Hess was a centrist. To Bush, Leiberman is a centrist. If Richard Perle had not besmirched the word pragmatist, I would offer it as a better expression.


Posted by: Hostile on November 27, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

but a Lou Dobbsian solution (stop making trade deals, shut down the border) is nuts.

Who are the liberals - I mean, apart from Dobbs, of course (rolls eyes) - who advocate this?

Is Kevin's new gambit to just annoy his own side, out of boredom?

Posted by: craigie on November 27, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you accuse those who oppose "centrists" of operating out of "populist intuition", but it seems to me that the outsiders have a better track record that this would indicate.

It is the "centrists", for example, who seem eager to reject the experience of every other industrialized country in the world when they talk about how to reform health care, because their concept of the "practical" is what they think their fellow Washingtonians are willing to enact into law. And that's just one example.

Yes, politics is the art of the possible, but it is the centrist crowd that makes the right thing impossible in many cases. Step one has to be to demonstrate to everyone, loudly and clearly, that the mini-emperors have no clothes.

Posted by: Joe Buck on November 27, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Er, okay. I promise I won't reflexively bash centrism.

Is there a reason for this little manifesto?

Posted by: Nick on November 27, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

When one side is completly off-the-wall bonkers, the concept of the 'center' as being not entirely removed from either side is just as bonkers. Sorry, but it'll be a political generation until you can use the word 'centrist' again. Best to start thinking of another one.

Posted by: neil on November 27, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

But the question is--which technocrats?

It's not like all wonks and technocrats will give you the same set of policy prescriptions for a given goal. They disagree widely based upon any number of things (the economic theory implicit in their policy, the agencies and mechanisms that they prefer to use, etc.)

Some of those technocrats are moderates. Some of them are progressives. It simply is not the case that populists have good goals, but centrists are the only ones who know how to make it happen.

Posted by: rufus t. fyrfly on November 27, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with Centrism, is that it all too often falls prey to the False Dilemma (you know, Kevin, like the one YOU make in this post - between "Lou Dobbs" and "Trade").

Because of this - Centrism has been re-defined to be so far to the right, such that it has lost all meaning.

Centrism is the proposition that America can embrace progressive taxation (and the benefits of public investment that come with it) without succumbing to hard-core Stalinism.

Posted by: impeach.remove.convict.punish.justice on November 27, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

I will say this, at the risk of being redundant, that centrism is an empty, contentless label that by its very nature is without substance or ideology. What is the centrist position on heathcare reform, half way between the left and right? What is its position on defense spending, ditto?

Someone, please, tell me what centrism is?

Posted by: dmh on November 27, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK
That said, I hope the liberal blogosphere doesn't get into the habit of automatically trashing centrist positions simply out of pique against some of centrism's more annoying practitioners.

"Centrism", as such, is vacuous compromise-for-the-sake-of-compromise. Can we get in the habit of trashing it because its an empty-headed position from square one, so long as we don't trash the ideology because of the quirks of certain of its practitioners?

On this score, it's worth keeping in mind that the biggest problem with the Bush administration was never its doctrinaire conservatism,

Yes it was, and still is.

which was never all the doctrinaire in the first place,

Yes it was, and still is. Admittedly, its hasn't featured much of the lip-service libertarianism that modern conservatism usually adopts to soften its genuinely authoritarian, elitist character, and which rhetorical veneer is often confused with "conservatism". But then conservatism both traditionally and in modern practice, whatever the rhetoric, has never been particularly libertarian.

but its insistence that it could govern by gut instinct without recourse to serious policy analysis.

Which is intrinsically connected to the kind of religious or quasi-religious elitism that has always been the center of aristocratic conservatism. The two are inseparable.

Gut instinct won't get the job done for liberals, either. Your mileage will vary depending on the issue, but I'd argue, for example, that good analysis supports a fairly extreme view on Social Security (just leave it alone for now) but a centrist position on trade.

If good analysis suggest that the best way to acheive the results liberals value is by a certain position, that position is, ipso facto, the proper liberal position, and not "centrist".

Good analysis doesn't support any position independent of ideology: good analysis tells you what you are likely to get if you do something, ideology is about what you want.

The populist impulse on trade points us in the right direction, but a Lou Dobbsian solution (stop making trade deals, shut down the border) is nuts.

A "Lou Dobbsian" (as you describe it) solution is clearly not functional, I would agree, but its not "liberal" as compared to some more moderate "centrist" position, so liberals rejecting centrism categorically doesn't mean adopting "Lou Dobbsism" on trade, that's a ridiculous strawman.

Trade really does improve the economy after all,

"Free trade", as practiced, improves the condition of the capital class in both the richer and poorer partners in trade (particularly the richer) at the expense of the laboring class in both the richer and poorer partners in trade, and is particularly linked to increases in ethnic strife and violence where there is a strong ethnic-identity component to the identity of the economic elite in developing nations.

It may also improve aggregate economic performance, but if we are going to worship the aggregate economic figures without consideration of distribution as the be-all, end-all of the "quality" of the economy such that improving the aggregate output is seen as unambiguously "improving" the economy, then, well, we might as well be conservatives.

and the right answer for its ill effects on the working class is going to be found by agreeing on the populist goal and then letting the technocrats figure out smart policies to get us there.

Um, no. First of all, there are no technocrats. There may be would-be technocrats, but they are the enemies, not the allies, of democracy. Of course, skilled policy entrepreneurs and analysts are needed to develope and sell the policies to get us where we want to go, but they are not "technocrats", nor should the attitude of the average activist toward them be hands-off, but rather their work should be sharply examined, questioned, and challenged every step of the way.


That's technocratic populism (an apparent oxymoron that confused a bunch of you when I first used it a couple of weeks ago).

"Technocratic populism" is an actual oxymoron, not an apparent one.

The problem is not that those policies aren't out there, the problem is that we've never built up the political will get them passed into law. So let's work on that. And let's judge those policies on their merits. If a lefty solution works, that's great.

If a policy does not acheive the liberal (or "lefty" as you pejoratively put it) ideals it was designed to address, it is not a liberal (or "lefty") solution. Conversely, any policy that does acheive those goals is, ipso facto, a liberal solution.

But sometimes it doesn't, and if a wonky centrist solution works better, then that's what we should rally around.

If a "wonky" policy is, to all available evidence, the best way to acheive liberal ends, it is the liberal policy to be rationally preferred, and there is nothing "centrist" about it. Ideology is about values, policy is a means to put values into effect.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 27, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

So "just leave it alone for now" is a "fairly extreme view on Social Security"? Pardon me, but says who?

Posted by: penalcolony on November 27, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

I not so sure that Lou Dobbsian solution (stop making trade deals, shut down the border) is nuts.

Already we see that Wall Street fell after showing that the dollar dropped to a 20 year low.
US exporting is still down, while the US is importing more and more. Job outsourcing does indeed have serious side effects. Illegal immigrations causes immense problems, whereby taxpayers are made to pick up the bill for companies that simply want cheap labor minus the cost to the American taxpayers.

And this bit where Kevin is acting like Lou Dobbs is a lefty liberal - Dobbs certainly is no lefty liberal.

Posted by: Cheryl on November 27, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

If Richard Perle had not besmirched the word pragmatist, I would offer it as a better expression. Posted by: Hostile on November 27, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Besmirched?" - he pretty much filmed a scat-video with it.

Posted by: impeach.remove.convict.punish.justice on November 27, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh G*d, Kevin! Your post is the *perfect* example of why "centrism" deserves all the ridicule aimed at it. It's just another word for blatantly misrepresenting both sides to be remotely equal, just so you can look superior.

I mean, "Gut instinct won't get the job done for liberals, either"? What-The-Fuck?!! Who are these "liberals" you're talking about that are relying on their gut instinct? Where's the groundswell of support for Lou Dobbs' position? And go right ahead and point to any liberal site (or commenter!) that says liberals should shut Republicans out of the political process, modify laws in secret Democratic comittees, not allow lobbying firms with Republican voters to get contracts, run government programs solely for the purpose of enriching Dem donors and keeping Dems in power. Oh, and don't forget accusing anyone who questions the Democrats as being an America-hating, cowardly, unserious traitor.

I mean, come on! Why don't you just go all out and sternly lecture liberals on how they, too, shouldn't lead the country into a preemptive war based on false pretenses. I'd say seeing as how none of these things have actually happened, maybe you should forgo imaginary Democratic abuses, and concentrate on the real problems in this country that have been caused almost exclusively by one side of the political divide!

-L-

Posted by: a1 on November 27, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

I hope the liberal blogosphere doesn't get into the habit of automatically trashing centrist positions simply out of pique against some of centrism's more annoying practitioners.

That statement sounds alot like what I've heard from the right many, many times. The "you oppose Bush on everything because you hate him" garbage.

Posted by: AkaDad on November 27, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Someone, please, tell me what centrism is?
Posted by: dmh on November 27, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Strong American Middle Class.

The antithesis of cheap-labor-conservativism, tax-abolitionism, war-profiteering, and theocracy.

Posted by: impeach.remove.convict.punish.justice on November 27, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

That all sounds pretty liberal to me.

Posted by: craigie on November 27, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kwazy Kevin Drum says: a Lou Dobbsian solution (stop making trade deals, shut down the border) is nuts.

I rarely watch Dobbs, but it should be obvious to everyone that Kevin Drum - once again - shows that he has no clue about immigration issues. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be interested in learning about the issue either.

Me to the rescue!

There's cross-border trade, there's shoppers coming from MX, there's legal immigration coming from various countries, and then there's illegal immigration. Dobbs - and about 3/4 of Americans - oppose the latter, and the most that every other mainstream source wants is a moratorium on legal immigration. (Kevin, are you following so far?) All of those are separate issues and shouldn't be confused.

As for the trade deals, I think I'll turn this one over to Rep. Ron Paul; more links here. And, here's more on the North American Union for those, unlike Kevin, who want to understand where all this is leading.

Posted by: TLB on November 27, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

More research, this one from the New York Times: Nafta Tribunals Stir U.S. Worries: Tribunals like the one that ruled on the Massachusetts case were created by the North American Free Trade Agreement, and they have heard two challenges to American court judgments. In the other, the tribunal declared a Mississippi court's judgment at odds with international law, leaving the United States government potentially liable for hundreds of millions of dollars... "This is the biggest threat to United States judicial independence that no one has heard of and even fewer people understand," said John D. Echeverria, a law professor at Georgetown University.

Posted by: TLB on November 27, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

There are at least two distinct forms of populism. But plutocracy is all of one piece. It is very important to distinguish between right-wing nationalistic populism and the popular pluralism of non-authoritarians. Right-wing nationalists want to close borders and keep out all immigrants and affirm an exclusive national identity. Pluralists want no such thing. They simply want policies to be fair and inclusive. They will rank the needs of Americans over others but with a mildly patriotic tone. They want to address the needs of the American people in a changing world, not defend some kind of identity or national property. The Republicans bait their base with culture war and they deflect the populist animus brought on by social and economic decline. The DLC Democrats embrace a less savage incarnation of social darwinism (elite family meritocracy) against socialist populism. They would prefer to be baseless.

The problem is with a government run by an overclass that seems entirely disconnected from the needs of ordinary people. An overclass that is keen on telling everyone America is not a Commonwealth but a winner-take-all society. In this situation all the populists end up in the same boat trying to get the needs of working people addressed in a new Gilded Age.

Posted by: bellumregio on November 27, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

That said, I hope the liberal blogosphere doesn't get into the habit of automatically trashing centrist positions simply out of pique against some of centrism's more annoying practitioners.

We're not piqued at you, Mr. Drum. We're telling you why you're wrong...again.

Whatever else we do, let's be sure to keep our eyes firmly planted in reality.

Agggggghhhhhhhhhh!

Posted by: shortstop on November 27, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of blather here- so let me just add a question- where were all the so called centrists while Bush proceeded to trash Iraq, the constitution, the budget, the environment, politics, science, (need I go on?)?

Posted by: raoul on November 27, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Please stop talking about a "center" as if it actually exists. Or, at least, stop using the term without defining it. I think if you tried, you would find the geometric analogy of a "center" to be difficult to apply to any of the major issues currently bubbling in the country.

There is no "center" in American politics. There is the right-wing of the Republican Party, which totally controls that party's campaigns and policy-making, and there is everyone and everything that is not the right-wing of the Republican Party. The right-wing of the Republican Party does not compromise. It is not just their habit to reject compromise, it is one of their defining characteristics.

Posted by: James E. Powell on November 27, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

to be specific, consider Henry Waxman:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1562974,00.html

He is a good guy, and he has the opportunity to do good service. If he addresses the concerns of the "center", he has a good opportunity to help the Democrats retain the majority of the center in 2008. The Republicans did their worst work out in the open. If Waxman conducts his investigations like a left-wing vendetta, then he'll have no more good lasting influence than the folks who impeached Clinton (referred to in the article.)

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 27, 2006 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Packer support the war in the first place? Why the hell didn't he think about this then?

Posted by: David in NY on November 27, 2006 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Centrists lie. They lie in their analysis. They lie in their theories. They lie in the way they describe their policies. They lie in reporting the results of their polices. Centrists lie.

Posted by: NealB on November 27, 2006 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sigh. While Kevin has (for the moment) some interesting things to say at times, this post illustrates my theory that he is just one well paying offer away from becoming David Broder.

Posted by: Marlowe on November 27, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Who could say that self styled liberals and "progressives" have a gut reactionary sentiment as well as a snobby outlook towards "Centrism"? You certainly couldn't tell such a thing from this thread.

Posted by: DRR on November 27, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

It IS difficult being right about so many fucking things in the past 6 years, DRR.

Posted by: Nads on November 27, 2006 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Centrism is the proposition that America can embrace progressive taxation (and the benefits of public investment that come with it) without succumbing to hard-core Stalinism.

I could be a centrist, depending on the point of view.

Posted by: Hostile on November 28, 2006 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

To Leiberman, Bush is a centrist.

Centrists think corporations' profits have to be factored into policy. It is what prevents the US from having universal healthcare as good as the French.

My major concern about embracing centrism is that centrists seem unable to come to a critical conclusion quickly for bad ideas. Invading Iraq was extremely stupid, yet obvious in its costs and suffering. Centrists discussed it endlessly and seriously considered it from a national security stand point. Centrists are unable to say no and reject bad ideas. They seem concerned about the opposition's feelings and want to include their input in policy even if it is wrong.

Posted by: Hostile on November 28, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

Centrism means never having to say you're sorry.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 28, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

For an administration that prides themselves as operating on gut instinct, especially that of the top two, must have had a slew of stomach flu and constipation problems for the past 6 years.


An aside - Kudos to June Jones and good luck against Corvalis this weekend.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on November 28, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin has a good point but are there any practitioners of centrism that are recognized as such by the punditocracy?

No Howard Dean does not count.

I thought as much. What the punditocracy considers centrism is not. I feel safe in rejecting whatever the hell they and Peretz espouse out of hand because it has never ever been centrist.

Posted by: MNPundit on November 28, 2006 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that trashing the centerists makes little sense. At the same time, I think new blood running the House Intelligence Committee is appealing. I don't dislike Harmon, but her support of incresed domestic intelligence gathering of the kind Bush proposed troubles me greatly.

Consequently, I would like to see more attention given to Rep. Holt from NJ. The notion of a PhD in Physics and experience within the intelligence community strikes me as very positive. Voting against going into Iraq also appeals to me.

Posted by: David on November 28, 2006 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

And now for the bleeding obvious:

On most policy issues, the American people are to the left of their representatives in Washington, to the left of the punditocracy, and waaaay to the left of the paid opinions of Washington lobbyists and the opinions of big corporate donors.

Funny, that.

As a result of the above, "centrist" solutions are invariably to the right of public opinion (solutions, after all, get proposed by either pundits, politicians, lobbyists, or under Bush, directly by corporate donors).

They get away with it because on political identification, less Americans label themselves as liberal than you would presume based on their on policy views. You get that when conservatives have constantly branded the term pejoratively for the last 25 years.

Now, a particular "centrist" solution for a problem may very well be correct, but it also will be right of center instead of in the center. The "centrist" pundit/politician/lobbyist will automatically be lying about that. And it's almost never wise to put your trust in known liars. And that's why "centrist" proposals are distrusted upon arrival. They should be.

Posted by: jasper emmering on November 28, 2006 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

Drum writes: "That said, I hope the liberal blogosphere doesn't get into the habit of automatically trashing centrist positions simply out of pique against some of centrism's more annoying practitioners."

What about trashing positions that are DEAD WRONG?

Posted by: Enoch Root on November 28, 2006 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 手机图片 on November 28, 2006 at 5:04 AM | PERMALINK

Someone, please, tell me what centrism is?
Posted by: dmh on November 27, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

This is the best and most concise definition I've run across.

"A government's proper role is to mediate between conflicting interests, not to represent one particular interest against all others." Andrew Leonard

Posted by: CFShep on November 28, 2006 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Someone, please, tell me what centrism is?

Hedging your bet that the Republicans will take the White House in 2008.

Posted by: Captain Sensible on November 28, 2006 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

I hope the liberal blogosphere doesn't get into the habit of automatically trashing centrist positions simply out of pique against some of centrism's more annoying practitioners.

Golly, that is a concern. Could you please name someone in the liberal blogosphere you suspect would be likely to "get into the habit of automatically trashing centrist positions simply out of pique against some of centrism's more annoying practitioners"? Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Gregory on November 28, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

One more time. Go here.

http://www.politicalcompass.org/

If your result puts you at or near at the axis you're a centrist (without the asinine "") whether you like it or not.

Sincerely yours, a somewhat left (eco and environment)/slightly libertarian (as in not an authoritarian of any stripe) centrist.

Posted by: CFShep on November 28, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK
A lot of blather here- so let me just add a question- where were all the so called centrists while Bush proceeded to trash Iraq, the constitution, the budget, the environment, politics, science, (need I go on?)?

Reluctantly supporting him almost every step of the way, undermining his opponents by supporting the broad outline of Bush policy even while acknowledging some problems with what they described as minor details, or even when they disagreed with the policy, falling over themselves to point out how difficult the issue was and how legitimate the concerns are that the policy addressed and how the criticisms of the policy went too far.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 28, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

All due respect, sir, but that's the so-called 'moderates' (aka fence-straddling opportunists).

Posted by: CFShep on November 28, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

CFShep:

If, by whatever measure, you are at the center of a hypothetical political axis, then that simply means you are at the point that bisects the axis.

Centrism isn't a political position, it's a made-up word to give phony legitimacy to what amounts to a geometric position.

Posted by: bob on November 28, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Centrism isn't a political position, it's a made-up word to give phony legitimacy to what amounts to a geometric position.
Posted by: bob

The US Constitution is the consummate centrist document which by means of divided powers and checks and balances seeks to mitigate against extremism.

Posted by: CFShep on November 28, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Constitution is not centrist. The system of checks and balances is not centrist. The system of checks and balances and division of power exist to prevent or ameliorate the kind of excess and radicalism we've seen from the Bush administration and the outgoing Republican Congress. That doesn't make the system centrist; it makes the system worthwhile.

Republicans have been arguing that their extremism is good for the country, but they are wrong. Anyone who doesn't seem to have a direct vested interest in Republican power, but apologizes for that excess is not a centrist. They are people who DON'T GET IT YET.

Much like they didn't 'get it' that the Iraq war would turn out horribly wrong, they don't 'get it' that the Republicans have been ruining the country. And why don't they get it? Because they've been apologizing for it. And who wants to admit they were wrong?

Posted by: Enoch Root on November 28, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

"The problem is not that smart policies aren't out there, the problem is that we've never built up the political will to insist that they be implemented."

See for example raising the minimum wage instead of doing better things with EITC.

Is it the unwieldy acronym that causes the problem?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on November 28, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Root.

>>The Constitution is not centrist. The system of checks and balances is not centrist. The system of checks and balances and division of power exist to prevent or ameliorate the kind of excess and radicalism we've seen from the Bush administration and the outgoing Republican Congress. That doesn't make the system centrist; it makes the system worthwhile.

Your argument just doubled back on itself.

Posted by: CFShep on November 28, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

It does not matter how one defines the constitution if it is not followed.

Posted by: raoul on November 28, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Since when is the status quo ante an extreme view?

Posted by: Mellifluous on November 28, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Centrists don't want universal health care.

Centrists supported the Iraq war, and refuse to consider ending the occupation

Centrists support "free" trade which benefits large multinational corporations and few others.

Centrists urged a "compromise" on torture.

Centrists are virtually always more comfortable uttering conservative talking points.

Centrism gets us to the same dreadful place as conservatism, it just proposes to take a little more time.

Sorry. If centrism implied moderation, I'd listen. But in today's climate it does not.

Where have you been living for the past decade?

Posted by: ppp on November 28, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

And another thing. The notion that the positions staked out by those on the "left" are not products of careful thought and empirical observation and more likely than not mere "gut instinct" is patently offensive. The political left is not the mirror image of the political right. Please. The implication that "gut instinct" prevails on both sides is a Beltway-approved way to shut down actual thought and affirm a cozy, "center" that, curiously, never seriously threatens the status quo.

If there is any place that has consistently demonstrated its intellectual, moral, and pragmatic vacuity, it is the current, Beltway-defined "center."

Posted by: ppp on November 28, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that free trade between countries is beneficial to this or any other country in all or even most cases is another belief almost universally held, especially by economists, that is without any empirical evidence, just like your post about green magazine covers. In fact, all evidence points to the opposite. Every one of the world's preeminent economic powers - in chronological order Spain, the Netherlands, Britain, and the U.S. - rose to its preemininent position by practicing protectionism, and began its decline when the monied interests forced the goverment to convert to a policy of free trade. No country has ever prospered in comparison to another by practicing free trade. It is not possible to have a strong economy in the long run without a strong manufacturing sector. And the United States has destroyed, and I mean destroyed, its manufacturing sector with free trade. It will never come back without protectionism.

Posted by: Hugh on November 28, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Hugh, I agree with you that for poor countries that want to rise out of poverty, protectionism has a far better track record than free trade.

But when you just look at "the world's preeminent economic powers" I think you are conflating economic growth with political and military might. A big economy is a precondition for political preeminence, but in this regard economic size only matters relative to the other players, not in any absolute sense. As you say yourself, "no country has ever prospered in comparison to another by practicing free trade".

Keeping India and China poor will help the US keep political preeminence, but it won't make the US richer.

If you focus just on economic growth, it is unclear to me that protectionism helps rich countries get even richer (and does so better than free trade). I think that, at least for rich countries, free trade is probably better than protectionism.

A free trade policy allows your trading partners to catch up on any advantages you may have quicker than a protectionist policy would. This is good news for your trading partners. And, if you don't care about being 2.5 times bigger instead of 3 times bigger, it is good news for you as well: foreign customers are customers as well.

As for the US destroying it's manufacturing sector, I think a whole range of other policies besides free trade have influenced this decline. Employer-based health care (including for retirees). Setting environmental standards on cars so low that lots of types can no longer be exported. Stuff like that.

Besides, protectionism can probably only delay the inevitable. Japanese and German manufacturers have started outsourcing as well.

Posted by: jasper emmering on November 29, 2006 at 4:36 AM | PERMALINK

The whole debate over "centrism" is basically ridiculous anyway - a result of confusing the map with the territory. Inasmuch as the political "Left" and "Right" exist, they aren't positions on a line, they're differing sets of values and beliefs about human nature and politics. Let's frame our arguments in terms of those beliefs and judge policies on their own merits, not their imaginary geometry.

Posted by: K. Signal Eingang on November 29, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: top on November 30, 2006 at 3:41 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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