Can’t Move to the Center, Shouldn’t Move to the Right

I agree wholeheartedly with this piece over at National Review.

The point of the article (didn’t want to steal its perfect title) is that there is no political center! I think that’s 100% right.  There are issues that resonate with the left, and are opposed by the right; and other issues that resonate with the right and are opposed by the left.

“The center” is usually seen as the compromise between those two poles.

Someone tell me: what’s the ‘centrist’ view on earmarks?  Can someone identify the centrist position on government corruption?  What’s the centrist platform for improving the economy?

How many people are there that have no strong opinion for or against abortion, for or against gay marriage, for or against a strong military, for or against higher taxes, for or against a flat tax, for or against campaign finance reform, for or against stronger gun control, for or against school vouchers, AND no strong opinion for or against Iraq?

Most people have a strong opinion for or against at least a few issues.  And these moderates will vote for the candidate that persuades them to see some important issues the way the candidate sees them.  Obama didn’t win because he was a centrist, he won because he persuaded a majority of the electorate that:

1) We needed a change from having a Republican in the White House,

2) Electing him would resolve many racial issues, and

3) He had a decent plan to help people through the tough economic times*

That’s it.

* that was a deliberate formulation.  Obama never actually explained a policy that would help restore the economy; in fact, many elements of his platform are really, really bad for the economy. But he did promise tax cuts and aid and govt programs to help people survive comfortably through the economic downturn.  That’s an interesting glimpse into Democratic Party intentions and assumptions, isn’t it?



Filed under Politics

8 responses to “Can’t Move to the Center, Shouldn’t Move to the Right

  1. Morgan

    Okay, I’m not sure how I feel about this. I read your (presumed) summary of the article, and found myself nodding. I agree that there is no measurable center, because “moderate” policies that appeal to me might seem terrible to another “centrist” while their “moderate” policies might be deal-breakers for me. In effect, you have stated that there should not be a label for “centrists” or an attempt to move to the center.

    Likewise, your analysis of why Obama was elected seems pretty apt to me. I believe much the same thing.

    Then I read the actual article, and what it had to say about “centrists” and “moderates” — and I found myself getting pissed off. The “money quote” would have to be:

    “What characterizes the centrist voter is not some peculiar set of policy positions, but rather ignorance of policy issues in general, coupled with vague impressions of the “goodness” or “badness” of the times. So-called centrist or moderate voters can’t even be counted on to vote.”

    Unadulterated claptrap. I am a moderate, and so are the bulk of my well-educated, politically-knowledgeable associates. Your summary suggested that lables of centrist were pointless because of the differences in personal issues that appeal or offend an individual voter on either side of the scale. Bravo!

    But the National Review went back and took an elitist position that — you guessed it — lables the moderate as ignorant, uninformed and untrustworthy in regard to participating in the process…

    So in summary, I guess I agree with your analysis, and I suppose that some of your thought process was inspired by Professor Gimpel’s article. But I think the similarity ends there…

    Or at least that’s what I got out of what each of you said.

  2. chiefmuser

    Well, some times I’m full of crap.

    But yeah, I should have made it clear that after the first line, I was vamping on my own thoughts, not his.

    I just thought his idea that you can’t win just moving to the center is exactly right.

    I’ll add to that, though, that one of the reasons I don’t want Republicans to deliberately move in either direction is I don’t want to triangulate just to win. That’s what I think Democrats do: lie to get elected so they can enact policies that don’t enjoy popular support.

    In fact, I really like what Glennstapundit says:
    (at this link: )
    “I’d encourage Republicans and others on the right to look to the future and figure out how to advance the cause of small government and liberty. As a first order of business, I’d suggest focusing on Congress.”
    That’s really the point. We can argue whether the issues of school vouchers and abortion and immigration and gay marriage, etc, advance or hinder the cause of small government and liberty, because there isn’t necessarily a direct, clear relationship in any of those issues (back to my “persuasion” theme). But really, that’s what Conservativism and Republicans should be all about, first and foremost: small government and liberty.

  3. I want to tell you why I voted for Obama, and no I have no idea if any of it will happen. (I guess I have a healthy respect for the idea that politicians won’t do all that they say they will do, regardless of what side of the fence they are on.)

    1. I want health care for myself and my children. (I know very socialist of me, but I am being honest.) I can’t afford the $600 for major medical for only myself, and so I can’t afford a comprehensive coverage at $900 a month. (Oh did I mention I have preexisting conditions, and I have a problem with bleeding that makes it difficult to get put under the knife, or that on top of that I need surgery.) My daughter was diagnosed with AIHA not long ago too. And while I spewed all this about me, I have gone without my entire adult life, but my daughter always has had insurance. However, what will become of her when she has to get her own insurance, with that pre existing condition?

    I don’t think (although I could be wrong) that either Obama or McCain have all the economic stuff right. I don’t think the republican nor the democratic people have all their theories worked out right.

    However, I admit I couldn’t come up with anything better. After all these conservative thoughts that you talk about all sound good to me, but I still want health care covered some how. The only thing I know anything about is my civil rights, and I have a STRONG sense of those rights. However, in the same breath (I am pro-life personally and pro-choice politically) those civil rights for me include abortion, they include due process in its entirety, and so on…

    If I want to get myself angry all I have to do is reread the USA PATRIOT Act, or read some Supreme Court Cases (and the ones I hate from those can be seen on all sides – liberal and conservative have messed them up in my opinion.)

    In regards to marriage in general I think it is stupid that it is something the government has anything to do with in the first place. For immigration I think it should be limited, but we shouldn’t uproot people if we don’t have to, in regards to war I think we should avoid it unless it is unavoidable, in regards to school vouchers I think that is making a private institution a government institution in the long run…

    So what am I?

  4. Morgan

    Chiefmuser — Now *that* makes perfect sense. Again, I agree with you. I think Republicans need to jointly determine our primary platform, and then convince others that the policies we espouse are really for the best. But if we can’t do that, that is *our* fault, not the individual voter’s. One doesn’t do gain converts by labling those who stand on the fringes of our camp, (or even the more conservative fringes of the Democrat’s camp) as uninformed and uninvolved.

    Guess that means I’d be more likely to vote for you than Professor Gimpel. 🙂

    Terra — what you are is an American citizen, concerned about your day-to-day situation. Ultimately, I’d guess that you lean more to the right than the left, based on the fact that many of Chiefmuser’s ideas appeal to you. But ultimately, like the rest of us moderates, you have to associate yourself with the party that most strongly represents youur personal views, even if you disagree strongly with them on particular issues. I voted for McCain, but I also work for a company that provides excellent health coverage for me and my family at very reasonable costs. Clearly not everyone is that lucky, and what resonates with me won’t resonate with a person who’s just trying to pay their medical bills. So I certainly empathize with your position.

    And for what it’s worth, one of my old bosses is a confirmed conservative (with Libertarian leanings), who served as a pilot in Vietnam and has not voted for a Democrat in more than forty years…

    But he believes strongly, to this day, that a government controlled health care system (re: semi-socialistic medicine) is the only reasonable option. I don’t agree with him on this, but I do agree that something needs to be done, whether through tax rebates ( a la McCain) or some other method, to make health coverage more affordable to the average person.

    However, this example does show that highly “conservative” people can still have highly “liberal” views on particular topics.

  5. chiefmuser

    You revealed an interesting aspect of my personality (to me, if no one else): If someone comes in and takes cheap shots at my socio-political views, I get angry and fire cheap shots right back.
    But if someone comes in and thoughtfully asks questions about aspects of my socio-political views, then I have to stop and *really* think; with me, it’s the best form of persuasion: ask me tough questions that make me find answers myself, even if those answers don’t fit my pre-existing world view.

    For instance, yeah: I don’t want nationalized health care. I think you can look to the UK to see how screwed up that can be, and I’m convinced Canada’s system only works because if there is a time-sensitive procedure that needs to be done, they can just come across the border and have it done in the US. Canadians get the best of both worlds, having socialized medicine for routine exams and medicines, and a capitalist system available for life-threatening illnesses like cancer, where you want to be able to locate the best, rather than someone who gets paid the same regardless of quality or quantity of work (which is what happens in socialized medicine).

    However, I can be blase about health care because I’m in the military. Now, most people say military medical care sucks. I’ve found if you stay proactive in your treatment, you get excellent care, but that’s beside the point. The point is that I haven’t known what it is like to be without health care since 1994, and over these past 14 years, I haven’t even had to pay premiums.

    It would be easy to say, “Want health care? Join the military or marry a military servicemember.” But that would also be a cheap shot. Simply put, not everyone can join, and not everyone can stay in, because even if you are in good health and good shape, the military isn’t for everyone.

    So even thinking about it just 5 minutes (and I’ll think about it more later), I’ll fall back on my standard line of thinking:
    If we have the money (and we do), there’s no reason not to provide some health care for everyone. The problems come in under socialized medicine when there is no motivation for healthcare providers to do their best, or work faster, and when there is no motivation for healthcare customers to minimize their use of the system.

    Thus, single-payer (i.e., govt paid) healthcare in a national system is out. It won’t work, and will bankrupt the nation.

    Every procedure and every medicine should have a co-pay. Doctors should be able to opt out of the national health care system and offer their services to the highest bidder (like they do now), so that even new doctors have an incentive to give the best care possible: so they can someday charge outrageous amounts, too.

    That will mean that the rich will get better care than the poor. Well, you can’t have everything. The public gets better care than the military, but you don’t see me complaining about it, you just see me being careful about the treatment/care I get.

    Anyway, if it isn’t clear, that’s my standard answer:
    The goals of socialism aren’t bad, but the methods to get there suck. Socialism removes incentives for hard work, self-improvement, self-restraint in demanding service, and good service. If care is taken to provide incentives for hard work, self-improvement, self-restraint, and good service, then I’m all for it.

    One last thought: Liberals have to face some facts: if we are to have even an incentivized national health care safety net, some of their favorite sacred cows are going to have to be slaughtered. We can’t have national health care when our borders are so open. We already provide pretty much free health care to illegal immigrants, and the rest of us pay for it with higher fees and taxes. We will need to cut other funding to get the money for health care, and it could be govt funding for abortions, for ACORN and community organizers, midnight basketball, etc. Basically, anything that only provides an indirect or intangible benefit will have to be on the chopping block, because health care will be expensive, and as a Conservative, even if I weren’t in the military, I’d say that we can’t cut military spending…we even need to expand it slightly.

  6. Pingback: Better Government for a Better USA « Chiefly Musing

  7. I am still laughing at the idea of “marry a military person.” My sweetheart was in the military for about a year, but was let out early because of something he isn’t allowed to talk about. While it was a honorable discharge, he doesn’t qualify for the health care since he didn’t stay in… (No one in his company did, whatever that means.) As for me, well I think my medical problems would make it so I wouldn’t qualify, even if I was the military “type” which I am not.

    I had a lot of reservations with national health care, for a long time, and really most of my problems are exactly the types of things you mentioned here. I can’t articulate well exactly why my views changed, which they didn’t completely…

    My problem with the McCain view was that I didn’t see most people using that tax break for insurance, or like in my case it wouldn’t cover but about a quarter of it. I do agree that keeping some capitalist areas within the system are important. However, only time will tell if that will be addressed. However, I feel that even if it isn’t right away it will be in the future…

    (I loved this “what you are is an American citizen, concerned about your day-to-day situation.”)

  8. I forgot to ask, are those programs you mentioned funded by the federal government? (If so I have a problem with that.) Local government should address those issues if the local people want to address those issues…

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