#1
Old 03-14-2007, 08:49 PM
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Centrist versus moderate?

A quick question about the political spectrum:

Democrats near the middle are "centrist."
Republicans near the middle are "moderate."

But I rarely hear of moderate Democrats, and never hear of centrist Republicans. Why the different terminology? Any particular reason?
#2
Old 03-14-2007, 11:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Millit the Frail
A quick question about the political spectrum:

Democrats near the middle are "centrist."
Republicans near the middle are "moderate."

But I rarely hear of moderate Democrats, and never hear of centrist Republicans. Why the different terminology? Any particular reason?
I'd never noticed. (I would have considered both sides to be moderates.)

To give it a WAG though, perhaps Republicans are less hostile to a middle-ground stance? "Centrist" sounds like someone rebelling against where they should be, whereas "moderate" sounds like someone who is just more mellow. But that's just going from the way the words sound.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 03-14-2007 at 11:41 PM.
#3
Old 03-15-2007, 08:38 AM
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Similar to how a Republican with particulalry conservative beliefs is called "right wing" but you hardly ever hear of anyone being "left wing".
#4
Old 03-15-2007, 09:56 AM
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It's how the labels have changed, and what they used to mean, and how those perceptions have changed over time.

The term "moderate" refers to someone seen as within the middle of their party; a "centrist" refers to someone seen as being between both parties. These terms were more common and useful back pre-1990, when describing someone as a "Democrat" could mean a George Wallacesque Southern Democrat or a Hubert Humphrey unabashed liberal; or someone calling themselves a "Republican" could be a Nelson Rockefeller social liberal and economic conservative, or a Ronald Reagan near-libertarian, or a Pat Buchanan social conservative with populist views. Given the vast spectrums the parties held by strange alliance, it became relevant whether someone was a "moderate" in their party, or a "centrist" whose views spanned the spectrum.

Since the 1980's and the political sea changes that have followed (the Republicans becoming a viable party in the South, the end of the Cold War and the strange anti-Communist bedfellows it made, Bill Clinton's "triangulation", and especially the rise of the Republican spin machines), there's been a general shaking out of the parties, and how their positions are perceived. Clinton governed through "triangulation" and by adopting what he saw as popular Republican ideas - ending welfare, for example - and so he and the Democrats who follow in his philosophy are still true "centrist" Democrats, taking a road between the parties. But we haven't seen a Republican politician in the last twenty years who was perceived as doing the same thing from the right - Bush came close in trying to champion Medicare Drug programs and steel tariffs, but the left reacts with such revulsion to the idea of anything Bush doing as being something other than "extremist" that no one really applies the "centrist" position to him, and he certainly doesn't seek out the appelation the way Clinton did.

As for "moderates" - the main story for the Republican Party in the 1980's and 1990's was the rise of the viable conservative branch of the party - Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and George W. Bush showing that the Republicans could be elected on a "red meat" ticket that emphasized how all Americans held some conservative views rather than by moderating Republican viewpoints to meet some ideal "swing" voter. "Moderate" is then an apt description for someone who is a Republican, but doesn't hold to all conservative views.

Conversely, calling a Democrat a "liberal" is seen as an easy way to destroy their national career, and so most Democrats try to position themselves as being moderates, and when everyone tries to define themselves by the term "moderate", well, that means it ends up really meaning nothing. So while describing someone as a "moderate" Republican gives you a clue as to what they believe or don't, describing someone as a "moderate" Democrat doesn't.

A lot of this is directly attributable to the rise of the Republican spin machine, and what a great job the Republicans have done over the last twenty years in defining what a "liberal" is. Take Ann Coulter - she's doen a great job of correctly describing the positions of American leftists like Noam Chomsky, and then ascribing them to "American liberals", thus blurring in many American's minds the difference between the average Democratic politican and the flag-burning, America-hating leftists.

Last edited by John Corrado; 03-15-2007 at 09:57 AM. Reason: How do you misspell "Pat Buchanan"? Answer: Sleep dep.
#5
Old 03-15-2007, 10:34 AM
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John, the above post is in my view one of the finest summaries I have ever read on this subject, and perhaps one of the top five quality posts on the SDMB ever.
#6
Old 03-15-2007, 10:41 AM
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John Corrado, great post.

Would a Rockefeller Republican still be a Moderate Republican today, or are they now Liberal Republicans? Would a Centrist Republican make more sense?

This has come up very recently and I would like your opinion on it.

Jim
#7
Old 03-15-2007, 12:30 PM
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What Exit:

Quote:
Would a Rockefeller Republican still be a Moderate Republican today, or are they now Liberal Republicans?
He'd probably be called a RINO these days - "Republican In Name Only." They mostly hail from the north-east.

If Giuliani gets nominated in 2008, that could turn some definitions on their heels. Or perhaps not - he's liberal on social issues, but on economics and law-and-order/security, he's solid right.
#8
Old 03-15-2007, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmkeller
What Exit:



He'd probably be called a RINO these days - "Republican In Name Only." They mostly hail from the north-east.

If Giuliani gets nominated in 2008, that could turn some definitions on their heels. Or perhaps not - he's liberal on social issues, but on economics and law-and-order/security, he's solid right.
So far it appears I might be a RINO, a moderate or a liberal Republican. Perhaps Centrist would make the sense.

Jim
#9
Old 03-15-2007, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by What Exit?
John Corrado, great post.

Would a Rockefeller Republican still be a Moderate Republican today, or are they now Liberal Republicans? Would a Centrist Republican make more sense?

This has come up very recently and I would like your opinion on it.

Jim
Wow, I take praise from you and Bricker very seriously - thank you both!

The problem with appelations like "Moderate Republican" and "Centrist Republican" is that, more than most words, it is the audience's perception of what it means that defines what you say more than what you actually mean by definition.

At this point, there isn't a major political movement that self-describes as "Liberal Republican"; that's partially because the Rockefeller/Anderson wing of the party proved itself unnecessary to Reagan's election in '80, but mostly because of the successful discrediting of the term "liberal" in the first place, making it a dirty word. So using that term would certain describe a place on the political spectrum - but it would also indicate a solidarity with Liberal Democrats, as well as a kind of quixoticness or quantness. If that is a little much, then "Centrist Republican" is a good modern equivalent.

I'd say "Moderate Republican" is more the province of people like Bob Dole and George Bush Sr., and a bit to the right of the perception of where Nelson Rockefeller stood. But again - I think modern political issues are different enough from those of the 1960's and 1970's that it's hard to say. Where would Rockefeller stand on the War on Terror? Social Security Privatization? The Patriot Act? We can extrapolate, but we might as well be speculating on how Abraham Lincoln would have handled Pearl Harbor. (And if someone starts that as a Great Debate, I want credit.)
#10
Old 03-15-2007, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmkeller
What Exit:



He'd probably be called a RINO these days - "Republican In Name Only." They mostly hail from the north-east.

If Giuliani gets nominated in 2008, that could turn some definitions on their heels. Or perhaps not - he's liberal on social issues, but on economics and law-and-order/security, he's solid right.
Yeah, but the difference between a RINO and a Centrist Republican is that a Centrist Republican is expected to hold some amount of core Republican views, like fiscal conservatism, or anti-abortion, or such. A "RINO" - in theory - would be someone who claims to be Republican, but actually shares no positions with other Republicans. That's what makes it a great attack word - by claiming Guiliani is a RINO, you deny that he actually has any interest in the Republican party. That's why it was important for Democrats to get out the idea in 2004 that Zell Miller was a DINO - by claiming he isn't really a Democrat or interested in Democrats' success, you defuse the idea that he has valid criticisms of the party.

I expect that Guiliani will get called a RINO during the primaries by opponents, but if he gets the nomination, Republicans will start echewing titles, claiming it's more important that he's a Republican than what wing of the party he's from. And Democrats won't call him a RINO - why point out that your opponent shares your views?
#11
Old 03-15-2007, 03:30 PM
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Wow, I didn't expect to get such thoughtful and detailed answers on this! Many thanks.

My husband and I were talking about it last night and wondering if it was just semantics or something more. I think we both speculated that there was more to it, a history, something. We're both twentysomethings so we don't remember when those terms took hold, so he suggested I ask the smartest group of people I know.
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