That’s what The Skeptical Centrist asks, and I think his frustration frames it perfectly.
What does it mean to be a centrist? I consider myself a centrist because, as noted in another post, I both embrace and reject different ideals from the left and the right; for example, I’m in favor of lesbians marrying and adopting kids while stockpiling guns in the basement of their house. But what about the person who opposes gay marriage and favors gun control? By my definition, that person is a centrist as well.
Socially liberal but fiscally conservative? Sounds like a centrist to me. But so is a person who’s socially conservative but fiscally liberal. I’ve written that being a centrist is not about marching in unison with a group, but about forming one’s own opinions based on one’s interpretation of the evidence. What do you do when you gather a bunch of people who agree on some things and disagree on others? How do you form any sort of a platform? How do you sell this? Part of the mass appeal of the 2 party system is that, for the most part, everyone in the party agrees on things (the current state of the GOP notwithstanding.)
And this passage in particular struck me as true.
Then you run into the issue of campaigning. Say you’re a socially liberal, fiscally conservative person running for office against a Democrat and a Republican. How do you stand a chance of winning? Voters who identify with one party or another are going to love some of your ideas but hate the others. And socially conservative, fiscally liberal centrists are going to dislike you outright. So how does a centrist win an election?
Ask Bill Clinton. He won two Presidential campaigns this way.
The key will always be the hot button issues. If you know how to talk to your base in such a way that isn’t pandering, but still effective, you can get the faithful to follow a moderate agenda. Where that breaks down is when you have the other side shouting so vehemently for pre-emptive war. If you disagree then, you’re not fit to defend the country, which is obviously BS, but that’s how it goes.
So, what do you think a centrist is?
(HT: The Mighty Middle)