...there is my sister Sue.... If she heard your call for a third party she would jump in the air and scream amen. She hates both parties, she hates the politics of personal destruction, she felt bad for the hounding of President Clinton over his zipper problems and the Roberts and Alito hearings turned her stomach too....
But hold on. She isn't for gay marriage. Civil unions are fine but nothing else. Not in a 'you can become a heterosexual' stance but she thinks the way we have it now is best. She was against the war in Iraq from day one. Not because of the WMD question but because she thought we should stay out of the area and that it would never work. She is a non-racist isolationist. And because of this her loathing of President Bush matches my other Mother Jones sister. She is disgusted with the Immigration stance of both parties and her solutions lean towards a strict crackdown on illegal aliens and the companies that hire them. She is generally for increased public spending but wants a complete reworking of the way the money is spent. she is not too keen on the union movement. And she is in love with Hillary. I mean non sexual lust. She doesn't agree with all of her political ideas but she has bought into HRC's whole spiel.
The center is hard to define sometimes.
It is frequently presumed that there is a "center" out there and that the speaker is in it and that anyone who disagrees with the speaker is an "extremist". We all want to believe that our own beliefs are reasonable and everyone else's are insane. They seem insane--how could any reasonable person disagree with my own well-thought-out beliefs?--but calling them "insane" or "Nazis" tends to lose us friends and alienate people, so we dub them "extremist" instead.
There are partisans--and plenty of them--who will always vehemently argue for their own party no matter how outrageous its positions. Yet when individual issues are considered the world looks rather different. My observation is that there are two distinct types of people who take an interest in politics, on the one hand those who completely buy into the party line and always parrot all of its talking points, and on the other hand those who, like Kevin's sister, hold a constellation of opinions, a different one for each issue, a situation which looks contradictory to the more partisan sorts. Those who want to buy a whole package, hook line and sinker, and those who want to consider each option separately. It is people like Kevin's sister who are usually meant by the word "centrist", i.e., people who will not necessarily vote for or against Hillary just because she's a Democrat. But Kevin's post makes vividly clear the fundamental contradiction inherent in trying to create a "centrist" political party, to wit, two "centrists" are liable to be in complete opposition. A "centrist" like Kevin's sister might be anti-Iraq War and in favor of a crackdown on illegal aliens; a "centrist" like Terrye might hold the exactly opposite opinions on these subjects.
I would feign look at the situation from a different angle entirely. We can obtain a 1-dimensional view of any single issue by asking whether we favor it or oppose it. But it is more informative to add a second dimension, let us call it the dimension of passion, by asking how much we care about the given issue. Take Wal-Mart, its palpable iniquity a given for many. Whether I consider it to be the Devil's spawn or not is one thing; whether I really care very much about Wal-Mart is another thing entirely.
One thing that occurred during the Sixties was a shift along this second dimension, the dimension of passion. Somehow the idea propagated that passionate adherence to one's political beliefs was ipso facto very important, was a Good Thing, was in fact the Very Meaning of Life Itself. The idea spread that The Angels Would Sing if one pursued politics--as opposed to, say, engineering, entertainment, or getting involved in one's church--because, so the story went, only through politics could this world of vast woe ever be fixed. Politics became the religion, in other words. And in the process it became filled with self-righteousness and the belief that anyone who disagrees cannot simply be wrong but must be evil.
I would call for a little moderation. Let's pull the throttle back a smidge. The people I would like to see winning the political game are those who are a little less involved, those who don't quite take the thing so seriously, those who realize that their own beliefs may be wrong after all and so they can show a little humor and a little disinterest and, most important of all, a little humanity toward the other side. And a little graciousness in losing.
Those are the best "centrists" of all.