Everyone’s a Centrist

Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein believe that the decisiveness of the Democrats’ 2006 victory has been oversold, which the latter attributes to “the media’s tendency to report Republican wins as conservative triumphs while Democratic wins show centrism on the march.”

My reaction, “Isn’t a more simple explanation that mainstream Democrats appear ‘centrist’ to elite editors and producers while mainstream Republicans strike them as ‘conservative’?” led the next commenter to compare me (whether favorably or not I can’t tell) to Noam Chomsky. That’s not something that happens much.

But isn’t it the affliction of most to think that their view is identical to that of the silent majority?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I’d certainly like to know what Dr. Krugman’s operative definition of “landslide” is.

  2. M1EK says:

    James’ spinning of this itself shows his own bias – again, false equivalence. It’s unquestionably true that the Republican party, the last decade or more, has been moving farther and farther right. I haven’t seen a leftward movement from the Democrats, so it is, indeed, very accurate to paint their recent win as “centrist”.

    That is, if you aren’t just a partisan hack trying to appear even-handed (one of the oldest partisan hack tricks in the book).

  3. Barry says:

    “I’d certainly like to know what Dr. Krugman’s operative definition of “landslide” is.”

    Posted by Dave Schuler

    It you had actually read his article, you’d know what he’s talking about.

  4. Bithead says:

    Funny this should come up.
    I wrote to this situation from another angle, earlier today.

    Particularly, I respond to Megan McArdle’s bounce off Cass Sunstein. He goes on a great length, telling us how the U.S. Supreme Court has leaned right within the last decade. Of course, by his lights, the court isn’t Liberal enough. Gee, there’s a big surprise.

    But just how far to the right have we gone in the last decade or two? In terms of the Longview, not very. As McArdle herself says:

    Seriously: why on earth would the definition of a “conservative” court in 1980 be some sort of lodestar by which all future courts should be judged. By the standards of 1880, the current court would be a bunch of wild-eyed socialist libertine radicals bent on undermining everything that made America great. Does that entitle me to re-nominate Oliver Wendell Holmes, or his modern day equivalent?

    An interesting comment, given that the current implementation of Oliver Wendell Holmes would be Robert Bork. We know how that would fly today, don’t we?

    McArdle piece, I think, draws clearly something that even she doesn’t pick up on very well, and that is the historical headlong rush to the left that has always been there.
    GRated that as MEIK suggests, and as McArdle confirms, we’ve moved to the right somewhat since the bloody disaster that was the Carter misadministration, as a direct response to it. It turns out that while diet liberalism, has consequences. Thus the 1980 election. However, that’s been the exception, not the rule. That’s not to say such left-swinging has had the overt approval of the electorate, mind you, for reasons I’ll get to.

    But here’s the thing, that ties the two subjects together; Sunstien sees himself at the political center. as I say in my own piece, I’m willing to bet Dennis to senate thinks himself at the political center, as well.

    Here’s what many don’t understand about the USSC, and by extension, the American public, in McArdle’s words:

    The court is to the right of the average law professor, not to mention the average Cass Sunstein. But that’s because the average law professor is to the left of the average American, and any reasonably democratic system is going to produce a Supreme Court whose mean opinion hews more closely to that of the voters than to that of any larger group from which the appointees are drawn.

    Commentors should understand this clearly; the American voting public has always been right leaning, moreso than most legal “professionals”, including pols.

    As a side note, I would make the following point specifically to the issue of the liberal to conservative balance of the high court;

    Much the same way as the priesthood of the catholic church must remain conservative as respect to the teachings of the church, so too must the United States Supreme Court, remain conservative as regards the United States Constitution and its teachings. Without a heavy conservative influence on each, they would each lose their original meetings , and their purpose, and their impact.

    In context, the more liberal approach to the constitution would be to do justice. However, as the aforementioned Oliver Wendell Holmes reportedly remarked to judge Learned Hand, the job of the supreme court is not to do justice, but to apply the law as written in the constitution.