As much I hate all the bullshit about “centrism”, I realize that is has political value, so this is a real conundrum:
But to just regular folks out there—particularly the 35-45% of Americans identifying themselves as “moderates”—there’s some value in the brand, implying as it does a certain degree of reasonableness and perhaps even unpredictability. And as it happens, self-identified “moderates” are a much larger segment of the coalition that votes for Ds than the one that votes for Rs. Given that reality, does it make more sense for progressives to deny that people like David Brooks (much less Paul Ryan!) are “centrist” in any meaningful sense of the term, or instead to make the term itself so toxic that it’s ceded to crypto-conservatives because anyone to their left has stopped using it? That’s probably an easy question to answer for those who think an insufficiently loud-and-proud progressive message has kept Democrats from energizing their party base or awakening a “hidden” populist majority that sees no difference between “centrist” Democrats and conservative Republicans.
For those of us not so convinced that maximum polarization is an unambiguously good thing, or who believe that for all the many shortcomings associated with them, ideological “brands” do have some political value, then it’s not that great an idea to call both Barack Obama and David Brooks “centrists” in the same column, while trying to deny that one is at all like the other. In other words, it’s not helpful to be a mushy moderate in one’s definition of “centrism.” By all rights, the brand should belong to the Donkey Party right now—it it wants it—because it has been so decisively abandoned by the party of Paul Ryan. It’s better to police membership in the centrist camp than to burn it down.
I hate it when people call themselves “centrists” and wank about liking ideas from both parties, but, voters like that shit, and Kilgore is probably right that the trick here is not to allow people like Bobo to pretend that they’re “centrist” when they’re really far right.