Where are the centrists?

That question was asked by a guy touting his book.


My reply is so good I reproduce it here :):

Neither Obama nor McCain is a centrist. Each, in his own way, is a radical.

And none of our strong presidents were centrists. Washington, Lincoln, TR, Wilson, FDR, LBJ and Reagan were all radicals who found ways to win elections and implement their radical strategies.

So called centrist presidents were mediocre and only those who read biographies of the presidents and other books on American history know their names, much less their legacies.

What we all miss, I think, is that most people have strongly held, radical views, on some issues, and so called centrist views on other issues. And some of us are radical on both the left and right as well as centrist on other issues. That’s me.

It’s a lot easier to get behind a radical candidate if you wear blinders 24/7. Many people, indeed, it seems to me, the majority, are most comfortable wearing their blinders. They don’t like to be spooked by new ideas nor opinions that don’t fit their narrow views of the world and themselves.

Living without blinders is stimulating and sometimes bewildering. Bill Clinton is famous for looking at every side of an issue and arguing with himself and others. Bush is fixated on a theme and theory of the world and doesn’t deal with ambiguity very well. Obama is more Clinton and McCain and Hillary more Bush.

Most reporters live with their blinders, but their work sometimes forces them to at least sit still for a speech or interview that exposes them to others’ worldly views. They deal with this by trying to cover up their narrow views of the world until, like George Stephanopoulos and Tom Brokaw this morning, they simply can’t contain themselves and let it all hang out.

So how do centrists decide how they will vote? I think they all have priorities, and they vote whatever is most important to them when they enter the voting booth or mail in their ballots. They look at the candidates, the issues and the world and decide.

The candidates’ challenges are to convince voters that they are the best man for the job at hand, and they pander on the issues as they see fit.

Are Obama and McCain centrists or radicals?

Are Obama and McCain radicals or centrists?

View Results

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10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Barron X says:


    “flawed poll ?”


  2. What is a “centrist”?  If you go by 1960-70’s Democrats vs. today’s Republicans – probably the furthest swings most of us remember – both candidates are somewhere in the middle between the extremes.  That’s not hard.

    Barack is the 88th most liberal of the 288 Democrats in the 110th Congress; because of the distribution curve of the Democratic Party, this is only slightly to the left of the center of the party.  On a scale of negative 1 to 1 (Liberal to Conservative), he’s about -0.4.

    McCain is considered a moderate Republican – to the left of the center of his party, however it is hard to place McCain in a specific slot; he has tended toward social libertarianism, but has otherwise been a mainstream conservative Republican.  This makes him a sort of poor man’s Ron Paul.  And he has been abandoning his social libertarianism during his run for the Presidency.  Further, the Republican Party has moved significantly to the Right over the last 40 years, while the Democrats have maintained and consolidated their center-Left position.  McCain is probably only an 0.3 on the Liberal-Conservative scale – right of the GOP center back in the late ’60s, mainstream through the first half of his political career, but left of its center now.

    Neither are radicals compared to the extremes of their own parties.  On an absolute scale worldwide, however, Obama is still right of “center” according to PoliticalCompass.org.

    (Source for much of this analysis: VoteView Political Rank Orderings.)

    • Another skeptic says:

      Your point of view is showing, which is ok.

      • He’s by no means off the deep end of the Democratic chart.  He’s not a Feingold, or a Wellstone, or a Kucinich.  He’s significantly to the right of Pelosi and Kennedy, who are themselves respectably flanked by the Feingolds and Bernie Sanderses of the Congress.

        And I credit McCain for currently being given the position of relative moderate on the Republican side, though his moderation is mostly due to the rest of the party rushing off to la-la-land while he remained behind.

        If you asked worldwide opinions, or compared him to worldwide politicians, Obama would be just right of center – we’re a comparatively conservative country.

        Like the “Liberal Fascist” diary you wrote, the true political scale is complicated and the answer is not necessarily what you believe.

    • Barron X says:


      and Ron Paul is a rich man’s Ron Paul ?

      Ow.  That injured this poor man’s brain.  


  3. Barron X says:


    and I’m sure they really are.

    But their posts aren’t.  


    The term is nearly meaningless.


    • Danny the Red (hair) says:

      does being conservative on social issues and liberal on foriegn policy issues make you a centrist?

      Many of us hold ideas that hit a different spot in the left right range dependant on the specific issues.

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