What’s “Centrist”?

This question arose from a discussion at OTB. Is the PPACA a centrist proposition?

I think it can only fit that standard if by “centrist” you’re referring to the center of the Democratic Party. Evidence: it passed without a single Republican vote.

I have a follow-up question but I’ll save that for another post.

Just as a casual remark, I think I should point out that the politics of both parties has changed enormously over the period of the last 40 years. Forty years ago the old New Dealers in Congress were much more liberal (in just about every sense) than today’s progressives. And, of course, today’s Republican Party doesn’t bear much more resemblance to the party that comfortably held both Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater than it does to the party of Lincoln by which I mean the Republican Party of which Lincoln was actually a member.

Despite the present day Republicans’ regard for Reagan I don’t think he’d recognize today’s Republican Party.


Cf. also this from Chris Cillizza, this from Voteview, and this from Doug Mataconis at OTB.

6 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds

    Under Reagan, Reaganism was conservatism as practiced by a decent fellow. Modern conservatism is Reaganism as practiced by assholes.

    But the sanctimonious religiosity, the lachrymose patriotism, the indifference to facts, the dog whistle racism, the chicken hawkishness, these are all core features of Reaganism. It was Reagan to reduced the intellectual birthright of his party to “Government bad.” So he might not recognize it, but he sure as hell caused it.

  • I think that “Reaganism” is mostly romanticization. I never voted for Reagan. He was just too bellicose for me.

    I think he was a pretty conventional 1950s vintage middle of the road Democrat who was an ardent anti-communist.

  • ...

    And who gave us the Democratic proposition, which is that “Government good”? Was that Lenin or Mao?

  • Ben Wolf


    Democrats buy into the “markets good, government bad” mumbo-jumbo as much as anybody. The only difference in the rhetoric (I say rhetoric because in reality the Republicans abandoned the idea of free markets decades ago) between the two parties is that Democrats will occasionally acknowledge that markets can fail.

    I’ll mail Hillary a mean letter the next time she babbles on about making markets work.

  • mike shupp

    I think Ronald Reagan would recognize the modern Republican Party quite easily. Granted, it seems the party has been taken over by extremists, but these people were always present in the party, and they’re not saying anything they wouldn’t have been saying in say 1964. Reagan would have heard just such voices when he was in the White House, when he governed California, in the years he traveled across the country giving speeches for GE, when he was president of AFTRA, in his acting days, probably even when he was drilling in the Reserves in the late 1930s.

    Not saying he’d have agreed with them all along the way, just that there are strands of Republican thought that go back to FDR’s day, or perhaps back to the 1880s.

  • mike shupp

    Back to being “centrist.”

    Obamacare is centrist because health care systems which treat even the destitute, in some form, are common throughout the world (note that most anti-Obamacare partisans regard it as axiomatic that poor people can “always” get free medical care at any hospital emergency room). It’s centrist because providing health care to all Americans through some sort of federal program has been debated by American politicians and intelligentsia for many decades. It’s centrist because it preserves the formalities and procedures — company funding of insurance, insurance companies, hospitals, physicians as independent entities — that Americans have been familiar with for many years, with little disruption.

    And perhaps half the American people react to the idea of Federal health programs much as much as well trained German reacted to Jews in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s — with complete, automatic, revulsion. So the PPACA isn’t centrist, and we’ll be arguing about what an evil thing it is 50 years from now, even while we all organize our lives around its existence, as we do with Social Security.

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