Progressivism: The New "Center-Right"

Back in the day, one of the reasons Matt Yglesias gave for preferring Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton was that Obama was perceived as being more Centrist than he actually was while Hillary was perceived as more progressive than she actually was. Of course Yglesias was wrong - Obama was actually perceived as more Leftist than he actually is and Clinton was perceived as more Centrist than she actually is. My preference for Obama was simpler - the Media loved him and hated Hillary (there is not a dime's worth of difference between them on policy.) Indeed, I think Yglesias suffered (suffers?) from CDS himself (thus his self delusion on how Obama was perceived.)

Now Yglesias uses the same theory, but in correct fashion this time imo:

David Sanger for The New York Times:

Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury - suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party.

. . . [I]n some respects this is the genius of picking a relatively moderate cabinet. We’ve got Rahm Emannuel promising to “throw long and deep” on health care and energy, Tom Daschle spearheading the charge for universal health care, the president-elect talking about hundreds of billions in new stimulus spending, and endless reiteration of the idea that there will be no retreat from the campaign’s ambitious goals on carbon curbs. Putting reassuring faces on an agenda of ambitious policy change strikes me as dramatically preferable to appointing a lot of liberals whose job is to sell the progressive base on the need to trim and abandon campaign commitments.

. . . If universal health care, a clean energy economy, withdrawal of troops from Iraq, an end to torture, and massive new infrastructure investments are a “center-right” agenda because Tim Geithner is Secretary of Treasury then I’ll take it. The crux of the matter is to keep pressing for the agenda.

(Emphasis supplied.) I completely agree with this. Concentrate on the policies, not the drama. For the past two years, I spent a lot of time criticizing Barack Obama for his Post Partisan Unity Schtick. But the circumstances have made all of this moot. the calamities the nation faces make the selling of the progressive agenda unnecessary. Whatever agenda Obama seeks to unveil will be the Center.

Two years ago, I wrote:

And that is FDR's lesson for Obama. Politics is not a battle for the middle. It is a battle for defining the terms of the political debate. It is a battle to be able to say what is the middle.

By default, President-Elect Obama gets to define what the middle is. I believe he will define progressivism as the middle. If that is called "Center-Right," so much the better. Consider what that makes Extreme Republicanism (out of the mainstream of political thought instead of occupying the White House) and what that makes the formerly loony Left (the respectable Left flank.) Role reversal. This is a good thing.

For those who care, it was no accident that I always called myself a Centrist.

See also Drum, Digby and Sirota on the issue.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    BTD (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Jjc2008 on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:42:07 AM EST
    I love the way you put it....no nonsense, common sense.  You get to the heart of it with honesty, and shed light on the spin game.  I love it.

    I believe that whatever we label it, center left, center right, progressive, liberal conservative, the smart politicians understand that America is diverse and overwhelmingly centrist but that the center moves.  In my view, truly "liberal" folks are not about a point of view carved in stone but being honestly being open to hearing what others say without knee jerk condemnation.

    As well, I truly believe that my issue with the far right has been their absolutism, giving their beliefs as if they were absolute truths.  Sadly I started seeing this on the left too.   Maybe that is my awakening......that I realize I must be centrist because I am not a believer of absolutes.

    Some, perhaps, say that is pushing situational ethics.  But I don't think so. I think human beings are as complex as the issues we face.  I believe sometimes new information can change how I see things.  I like Hillary because I believe that how she operates.....willing and able to learn.  
    I am hoping Obama has that quality also. I think he does.  Sadly I believe too many of his supporters are stuck in absolutes.

    Where this "thinking" is wrong is (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by pluege on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:45:25 AM EST
    in separating the policies from the people as if that is possible: the people are the policies. Without progressive people, progressive policies don't happen - after all, who would make the policies and would push for them for them to be enacted. Under what rubric are center-right people going to implement center-left or left policies...why would they? They don't believe in them.

    This idea that "the policies" (progressive policies) exist without progressive people is left blogostan dementia. (Jane Hamsher has it too).

    Hey, if we can brand this stuff as Center-Right (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by blogtopus on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:00:59 AM EST
    Then does that mean we can dismiss everything further right as 'Far-Right-Extremism' and say that those followers are dangerous and damaging to the balance of a healthy nation?

    Just sayin'.

    I certainly plan to (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:11:08 AM EST
    Another mistake (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by pluege on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:01:07 AM EST
    Whatever agenda Obama seeks to unveil will be the Center

    the primary danger is and remains that the plutocrats - republicans and democrats - will use the crises to further engorge their brethren while further destroying the country. This is clearly what has happened so far with the $700 billion bailout engineered by Barney Frank and Leahy: it has been nothing more than a rescue package to  the uber wealthy only at the expense of the middle class - a give away to the rich of epic proportions that even dwarfs bush's tax cuts in its immediacy without solving any problems.

    Clearly the stage has been set for none of the progressive agenda to "be affordable". Democrats,  reminiscent of the Iraq and FISA boondoggles are working feverishly with republicans on this to direct whatever remains of American wealth into the hands of where it will do the least good.

    Well of course (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Pepe on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:10:18 AM EST
    all this what is center-right vs center-left stuff is nonsense. Nothing more than the blogs responding to the MSM - - not vis versa. Responding over and over and over again. Boring!

    But it is all to no avail because in the end it accomplishes nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    What I find more entertaining is BTD's insistence - over and over and over again - that there is "not a dimes worth of difference" between the proposed policies of Clinton and Obama.

    Gee I guess just for starters that Hillary wanting to mandate that everyone is covered with health care vs. Obama's insistence that we don't isn't worth a dime? Please.

    Or that HOLC, something Clinton and many other people including myself and BTD argued for or at least wanted explored more, and is something that Obama never argued for, is not worth a dimes worth of difference either? Please again.

    I could go on and on about the differences between the two but just the two examples above show that there are stark difference between the two and that BTD's argument is invalid on it's face. I hope we don't have to continue to hear this false argument much longer although it is entertaining to read someone with such conviction be so wrong and apparently not know it.

    In academic terms (none / 0) (#7)
    by The Poster Formerly Known as cookiebear on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:16:40 AM EST
    It depends on whether you're a lumper or a splitter, I suppose.

    Lumpers and splitters


    Heh (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:21:48 AM EST
    Oh you;ll hear it and if you followed my posts on it, you would know it.

    Ignorance is bliss.


    I'll hear it huh? (2.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Pepe on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:57:30 AM EST
    And you've wrote about it? Funny, you didn't write about it today, but you did repeat your main theme that I commented on. And you will keep repeating it because you've written the same thing a thousand times. That is the main impression you keep putting forth, so don't be surprised that what you want people to believe is the reason you supported Obama is what they believe. I like your new sig line.

    Of course you're right (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Maryb2004 on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:23:40 AM EST
    Concentrate on the policies, not the drama.

    And it will be a happy day when (if) everyone, or even anyone, starts to take this advice. Including you.

    I think I do (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:32:08 AM EST
    I think pointing out that others are caught up in the drama and not the policies is urging focus on the policies.

    I think your comment is rather unfair.


    rather? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Maryb2004 on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:50:39 PM EST
    I guess that's better than wholly.

    I'd like to see you lead by example. I doubt you feel unqualified to discuss policy.

    I can't wait until we get beyond picking the cabinet and actually can discuss what the cabinet members are doing, should be doing and shouldn't be doing.

    Don't worry. I'll stop whining. You are entitled to write about what you are interested in writing about and if you want to write about drama or the politics of personality, so be it.  I likewise try to comment only on what I'm interested in commenting on (or for entertainment but that's not the point of this blog).  I'm becoming resigned that I need to go do other things until after January 20.

    Carry on.


    I'm fine with calling (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by WS on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:44:22 AM EST
    it centrist although I would prefer center left.  But calling it "center right" will give the right credit for our policies and that's something I don't want.  

    A point worth considering (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:59:07 AM EST
    Progressives as Centrists (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by koshembos on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:11:33 AM EST
    Progressives as Centrists must be a joke. Obama doesn't want to be a progressive; he isn't a progressive and never will. This part of the post is high school talking about married women.

    Yglesias is not only consumed by CDS, but he also a confused and weak-brained media dude. Just ignore him.

    Also, I want to emphasize for the 100th time that there is a huge difference between the policies of Obama and Hillary. Let's count them: health care (Obama never wanted universal), poverty, blue collar workers, approach to foreign relations (Obama's moronic I go to Tehran), etc. Hillary is clearly more progressive and Obama is center-right. They might be right after all.

    Exactly. What I read (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Cream City on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 02:17:28 PM EST
    is that "there's not a dime's worth of difference" in those policies that matter to the poster.

    Other policies, in which they decidedly differ, also matter to me.  But I'll just have to "hope" for more flipflops by Obama.