Broadly speaking, I think there are three different kinds of centrists:
(1) people who hold right-wing positions on some issues, and left-wing positions on others, and who thus don’t identify easily with either party: hard-core abortion opponents who also want a social safety net and environmental protection, or your stereotypical blue-collar Reagan Democrat.
(2) politicians who actively seek compromise and bipartisanship, out of some combination of non-ideological pragmatism, a general commitment to comity, or simply because deal-making is where the fun of being a Congressman is: Daniel Moynihan, or Evan Bayh, or many of the old Rockefeller Republicans
(3) members of a weak or beaten-down opposition party who have convinced themselves of the need to go along for political expediency — if I vote for some horrible piece of Republican legislation, I’ll have some political coverage to vote against some other bill that’s even more horrible.
Ben wrote a piece trying to resurrect Truman, one that I largely agreed with. It is often his foreign policy that folks highlight, but his leadership on domestic issues is where his legacy lies. That of course transformed into a discussion of centrism, the most evil of ideologies.
Ben does a good job of defining what Sirota would call Washington’s center. There of course is another center, the center outside of Washington and New York city. A center not dominated by the money party, lobbyists and out of touch politicians. A center who is sick and tired of decent jobs leaving. A center who is sick and tired that we still do not have universal health care.
Ben is speaking of a different kind of center. One that is rooted in a money party ideology. Leaving the Reagan centrists aside, Ben’s centrism can be summed up as compromise and excuses. Ben sees this form of centrist as an example of good governance when in reality it is the opposite. As Sirota points out what motivates these so called centrists is not good governance but K-Street, money, and lobbyists. What Ben sees as the centrist coverning his bases is more likely just the flow of money.
Why is it the the Dems gutted the reforms they put in the first 100 days. Was it the good governance of bipartisanship and compromise. Hardly, it was the sugar daddies waving their money and the Demowhores showing them a trick or two.
Oh yes, it must have been that good governance the centrists had in mind when they voted to escalate the war in Iraq with no benchmarks. For some frickin reason you can’t take a crap at a school without it being accounted for, but its perfectly fine to give Bush a blank check.
Centrism is the most wicked ideology of them all. Hitler came to power with a vision of centrism, or a third way. Stalin had his own version of centrism. Centrism makes respectable, or at least tries, what at one time was seen deplorable.