Defining the Political Center: Problematic

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics on

I basically wrote this blog post while commenting on one at another site.

The problem with liberal, conservative, moderate; left, right, and center, is that they are very largely subjective terms that often change. What’s liberal now may be considered extremely liberal in 20 years. What’s conservative now may be considered extremely conservative in 20 years. Or is could be the other way around.

Heck, even the definitions of what is a conservative, for example, has changed. I’m only 21, so I might be getting some of this wrong, but the old time conservative considered themselves fiscally responsible, and relatively willing to let the economy to get on of its own accord. Now you’d be hard pressed to call the Republicans of today (and especially the Bush administration) conservatives if all you based their membership to that ideology on was economics.

What they spend their time on has even changed. For the conservatives in 2004, it was the value issues, while they might have focused more on taxes 20 years ago. For the liberals, it was the environment and the war, while 20 years ago, it might have been the death penalty and welfare, lets say.

So, center is largely defined by where those two are. In my opinion, it seems that both left and right have moved more toward the extremes since I began following politics, possibly leaving a larger gap for the center. Perhaps that’s why some of the so-called moderate sites seem either more liberal or conservative, because there’s more area for them to cover.

I’d like to call attention to what Jason, the author of the entry on that site says. I also wrote a blog post on this issue not too long ago. He mentions that maverick Republicans like Hagel are called moderates while maverick Democrats like Lieberman are called “neocons or traitors”. I mostly agree with this analysis, though I’d argue that depending on who you ask on the right, people like Hagel and McCain would be called liberals or party traitors just as much. I think I might be argued with on McCain, given his support for the war, and I’d say that both have different focuses in their maverick attitudes. Note McCain and torture.

I’d propose that centrists or moderates describe themselves as people who take things on an issue by issue basis and decide where they lie on them.  Maybe this will turn out more right or more left, or perhaps balanced somewhere in the middle.  That’s how I’d describe myself, anyway.

So, to wrap it up, I think that a moderate or centrist is defined by where left and right are, and think that at this point in time, centrists simply have more territory to cover. Also consider that old time mantra, that what was considered very liberal 200 years ago (end of slavery, anyone?) is considered a very moderate view now. So, these things change over time. Finally, keep in mind that 150 years ago, the Republicans were today’s Democrats on many issues and the Democrats were today’s Republicans on many issues.

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