What is centrism in American politics today?

I am familiar with posters on this board that I would consider Conservative and some that are from hardline Progressive to fairly firmly Liberal. (My own imagining of myself as a slightly Left of Center Centrist has to come to grips with the fact that on Political Compass testing I am fairly harcore Liberal and Libertarian to boot. Who knew?)

Who among you consider yourselves Centrist whatever the flavor? If you do, please take the Political Compass test and report back how your score there compares to your self-assessment.

Whatever your own lean what would you put forth as centrist positions?

Are there any politicians that you would consider as being centrist in today’s political world?

Of course you are relying on someone else’s definition of where the center is. And it is not a simple thing, because most issues are nuanced enough that a person’s gut feeling about their political compass may not accurately inform how that person feels about specific issues. One particularly important issue may make a given person feel that they identify with Attila’s camp when in fact they tend to side with Caesar on a lot of other things.

How, in fact, should we define Center? Should it be on a flat, linear scale of wacko-left to crazy-right and where you land on that scale defines you? Or should the scale be graduated based on the societal prevalence of opinions (how abundant the right and the left are in general and/or on specific issues: i.e., democratically)? Or should it be further weighted, regressively, by the prevalence and popularity of influential individuals who land here or there on the scale in general and/or topically?

Call yourself a centrist/moderate and be satisfied with that, bearing in mind that President Carter was and is genuinely a Conservative (“neo-con” is not “conservative”; eventually we might be able to drag the neo-cons into the twentieth century).

“There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”
-From progressive commentator Jim Hightower.* :slight_smile:

  • Hightower explained where that came from:


My score:
Economic Left/Right: 0.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.85

That makes me (almost perfectly) a centrist on the economics scale, and quite anti-authoritarian. Although I think the compass test is pretty bogus in general, I agree with both assessments. As a matter of US politics, it puts me firmly in the middle of the Democrats. I would not be able to get away with calling myself a centrist.

So, no one up for actually attempting to answer any of the questions of the op?

On preview. Ah thanks RP.

Pretty close.

Economic Left/Right: -1.5
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.67

My self-assessment as a moderate is based on thinking that incremental social improvements are more likely to have deep and lasting benefits than radical ones. Of course, what I just said is a big over-simplification. There are some evils so great that radical change is justified. But on actual, likely on-the-table issues, the word “revolution” raises my hackles. And yet, I don’t see myself as a hidebound reactionary either :smiley:

Senator Susan Collins?

Lots of politicians probably are moderate in temperament but feel a need to hide this from their base of support.

Well, don’t thank me too much, as I don’t think I actually answered the questions.

Here’s some things I consider centrist positions:
[li]free trade, even imperfect free trade like NAFTA, is overall good for both sides[/li][li]we should have a relatively low federal minimum wage[/li][li]government-funded medical care is important, but it should be lower quality than first-rate private care[/li][li]the federal government should neither ban nor fund abortion[/li][li]public sector unions should be legally protected, but ought to have fewer rights than private sector unions[/li][li]campaign financing isn’t that important, but corporations do have too much influence over policy[/li][li]regulations should be subject to cost-benefit analysis and automatically sunset if not renewed[/li][li]carbon taxes are a great idea[/li][li]we should make it far easier for historically marginalized communities to start small businesses[/li][li]intellectual property protections are important, but right now we’re slightly overprotective[/li][li]hate crime laws are unwise, and hate speech restrictions are even worse[/li][li]we should spend more money on solving crimes (rape kits, ballistics, detective overtime, etc.)[/li][li]we incarcerate too many Americans on low-level crimes[/li][/ul]

I think it’s fair to say the left half of the Democrats and the right half of the Republicans would mostly disagree with those.

I am a centrist by European standards. This puts me on the far left fringe of the American political spectrum. For example, I think those who don’t accept the scientific consensus on evolution and global warming are crackpots. Also, I think foreign policy chin-scratchers who lead us into pointless multi-trillion dollar wars are have shamed themselves and should be treated with skepticism. Unexceptional in Europe, shrill in the US. Indeed, to be taken seriously as a foreign policy expert on US Sunday talk shows, you have to have a long history of demonstrably bad calls like smilin’ Bill Kristol, scowlin’ Dick Cheney or John McCain.
My alleged Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: -3.13
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.77
The Democratic Party would be center-right in Europe.

Do you have a suggestion for a better tool than Political Compass?

(I came out a crazy:
Economic Left/Right: -6.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.23)

ETA to add that on the ISideWith Quiz I am 100% with Clinton.

Square that circle.

I’d say that the very question implies that something’s awry with the way things are going.

I’d figure that political views in the population, like so many other things, probably follow a normal distribution. So with something like say… vegetarianism, there’s probably a tiny number of people a couple of standard deviations to the left who think eating meat should be a capital offense. Similarly, there’s probably a position equally far right that says that we should be able to eat animals that are still alive. But the vast majority of people likely cluster around the idea that eating meat is acceptable within certain guidelines about humane killing and what-not. T

That, by definition, is the centrist position, and the mean, median and mode should all be pretty close together as well. meaning that even on your linear scale, your peak should be somewhere near the middle.

The big problem isn’t the question of where the center is, it’s that by drawing that line down the middle and saying that the left HALF is Democratic, and the right HALF is Republican, it means that in order to differentiate themselves from their opponents, both parties tend to gravitate outward away from the center. So you get very far from the center things on the Republican side like the Tea Party and other loons, and you get equally far removed from the center stuff on the Democratic side like fervent anti-capitalism and die-hard socialists.

Neither represents the center, not because they don’t want those votes, but because if both sides gravitated to the center, there wouldn’t be that much to distinguish them, and they can’t have that- it’s not effective marketing.

This clip describes what it would be like if both parties gravitated toward the center (or at least how they perceive it would be).

In the thread that spawned this one I said there are few issues that are centrist in today’s world. I need to clarify what I meant by that.

I am emphatically not saying that positions with majority approval can’t be found. It’s that these positions no longer form a coherent block of voters who have a set of politicians that advocate for them. Republicans start at far right and go right from there. Democrats are almost entirely to their right. Both parties almost always vote as blocs. A few in Congress occasionally act as “mavericks.” That epithet alone is enough to show that neither party has a consistent middle that works with the other.

What would a potential middle look like? Take Richard Parker’s suggestions and assume for argument that they are in fact centrist. Could a party be built around them? Are there majorities of people who would support politicians that ran on these issues? Do they imply how people would react to other issues, like foreign policy, defense, or social programs? I’d answer no.

If we’ve learned anything from this election cycle is that the voters are saying that one side is wonderfully extreme and the other side needs to get far more extreme. Nobody is saying they need to meet in the middle. There is no center.

Yet perhaps like some other things, like say secondary sexual characteristics, the characteristics are not normally distributed at all. The number of adult humans who have half a penis or one fully developed breast is fairly small.

I may consider myself centrist because my social circle similar to me is further left than I am on several items (or less nuanced to my POV) and the gulf between me and those I am aware of to the right is very huge. One question is if there actually is a sizable but less vocal group occupying the vast area between me and those so-called “moderate” conservative positions. And how do those positions get defined and labelled?

Exapno, yes what would it look like?

Bloomberg if he ran would have tried to claim he was in that space yet to progressives he’d be a strong fiscal conservative and to conservatives unacceptably socially liberal … but in some ways authoritarian. His average might be in the center but not in the middle any axis.

Economic .25
Social -4.1

I note that this places me well to the left of Obama, and thusly do I declare the quiz seriously flawed.

Economic -1.63
Social -2.97

I don’t agree that nobody is calling for a middle ground. We just don’t hear about it. This year is just the perfect storm of social media & modern journalism being fully devolped and genuine anger about the state of the country which leads to extremism. Some are expressing it from a leftiah view and some a right.

I wish there could be a centerist party but I don’t see it happening. I would settle for pragmatic compromises in the halls of government.

By international standards the US has a right wing party and a more right wing party. There already is so much common ground but that’s not the part we talk about.

So I don’t think you’ll ever get your centrist party because if, say, the Dems moved somewhat to the right on some issues, then that becomes the new left wing and people will ask why the Dems are so left wing and can’t be more centrist.

I came out -5.38, -7.18. Guess I am a damn commie pinko.:stuck_out_tongue:

I’m -4.5, -2.7, slightly to the right of Gandhi. Here’s where the 2016 candidates fit. Compare that chart with the 2004 candidates. 2004 Bush is very close to 2016 Hillary, but his brother and the rest of the 2016 Goppers are all pushed into the Right-Right corner.

I didn’t like the test questions. Many were of the form “Do you agree with [some idiotically insane generalization]?” Am I supposed to check “Agree … with the underlying sentiment” or “Disagree … with such a childish black-and-white viewpoint”?

The big issue here, as has been made clear, is defining just where “the center” is. It’s tough to pin that little sucker down; it keeps on moving. I don’t even see much of a continuum where centrists would exist.

Using myself (the only person I’m the best authority on), I am independent in more than just voter registration; I like to think that I make decisions based on the best available information, and I couldn’t give a fig whether my thought on a particular issue matches with Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, or one-eyed Episcopalian kangaroos if that happens to be your kinky inclination.

As it happens, my thought tends toward Democratic and/or liberal beliefs, with important exceptions. For example, I am foursquare in favor of the 2nd Amendment. I think that regardless of whether law-abiding citizens are able to get guns or not, criminals will still find ways to do so, and the prospect of the bad guys being armed while (mostly) no one else can be is, shall we say, unappealing to me. That doesn’t, however, mean that I think every Tom, Dick, or Harry should be able to go out and buy a howitzer, assault rifle, or machine gun, or that there shouldn’t be realistic and reasonable registration laws for buying firearms. (There’s also the somewhat antiquated notion that if the revolution happens I don’t want to be without a gun. :D)

So in some ways I guess you could call that particular view centrist, because I am neither in the camp of total banning nor of everyone being armed to the teeth. But that’s only one issue among a plethora.

To accurately call oneself a centrist, I’d guess you’d have to have a majority of views that are somewhere in between liberal and conservative thought on issues. (That may sound simplistic, but it really isn’t.) Seems to me you’d have to know exactly what the liberal and conservative views on each issue were, and there would have to be a third option which is somehow between those two poles…for each issue.

Perhaps you could group moderates from both sides and call them centrists, in a loose way. Otherwise I’m not even sure of the value of the label.

Oh, yeah. Economic -4.38, Social -3.79.

No, not a pinko, you are a Libertarian Communist. It should be enough to make your head asplode.

The people who built that test are the ones who decide where they think the center belongs, which may or may not be a legitimate placement. And, as septimus pointed out, many of the questions are kind of difficult to make a choice on because they have a certain monochromatic inanity to them. Parts of it feel a bit like a Scientology personality test.

The bad part of this is the opportunity to find the box you belong in so you can get comfortable in there. That way, we can all be in our boxes and not have to step out of them to consider the possible merits of that other guy’s view that we oppose. Creating these ideological boundaries across which we can shout “You’re an idiot,” and “You don’t know what you’re talking about” is one of the more serious shortcomings of our political environment. We should not be trying to encourage that.