Centrism is Good? Centrism is good, for the Left.
That Centrism is good is a Leftist Untruth, even though it is an untruth sometimes told by the Right.
...the vision of a political rapprochement in which individuals from all corners of the polity converge in the political middle as they sing “Kumbaya” is a dangerous fantasy...
John R. Hibbing, Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences (2013)
The Nation Divided, Left and Right
In 21st century America, many people said that the Left – Right political divide was a big problem, even a danger.
In 2019, Greg IP wrote “The Shrinking of the Political Middle—and What It Means” in the Wall Street Journal. He argued that the evaporation of the middle of the Left-Right political spectrum had decreased government's ability to solve the nation's problems. He blamed the political left, but also populists on the right (you know, “Trumpism”).
“People—what we’ll call normal people—ask all the time how it happened that so much in our politics and culture went off the rails so quickly,” wrote Daniel Henninger also in the Wall Street Journal in 2019. The subhead of the article referred to “Today’s Acute Political Mania”. Henninger was a Rightist. Was he right that the wide divide between Left and Right was throwing the U.S. maniacally off the rails?
Was centrism the way to prevent an American ride on a Left-Right crazy train? Apparently, some Rightists thought so.
But maybe America staying on the Right track wasn’t really crazy. Maybe the political Left-Right politics were not like a train, but were more like the two lanes on a two-lane highway, with the two lanes going in opposite directions, and only one of those directions was going in the right direction for America. If so, was it really a good idea to drive down the middle of the road?
A program of the University of Virginia Center for Politics was called the Home Fire Project. They conducted surveys about political compromise and to analyze results they, "...created five categories, ranging from the most committed to compromise (“Committed Compromisers”) to those least committed to compromise (“Conflict Hard Cores”). The committed compromisers group is made up of two-thirds Biden voters (66%) and just one-third (34%) Trump voters."
“What they found was that:
“— Voters who supported Joe Biden are likelier to be among the strongest supporters of compromise than Donald Trump voters, and there also are markedly more women in this group than men. These voters prioritize taking proactive steps to address concerns they have about the nation.
“— Trump voters are also likelier to be among those least open to compromise, and there are slightly more men among this group than women. These voters see compromise as contrary to their interests.”
The people at Project Home fire were not unbiased about centrism and compromise; they were for them. The University of Virginia described the Home Fire Project as a system to "...use innovative polling and data analytics to identify America’s political fissures, and explain ways to foster compromise." Foster compromise. Not too shocking. What percentage of the denizens of the Social Science Department of the University of Virginia would you guess were liberals and Democrats? A conservative estimate would be 100%.
Similarly, in April 2021 a CNN poll found that centrism was more popular on the Left, favored by “92% of Democrats, 90% of independents and 77% of Republicans”.
Of course, CNN phrased the question to make it sound as if centrism was a good thing that any good person would be all for it. They asked if the polled person favored: “Bipartisanship: Work across the aisle to get things done, even if it means losing out on high priority policies” Everybody wants to “get things done”. But still, why would so many on the Right favor something that seemed to always work in favor of the Left?
“Republicans” Give Democrats Control of the House of Representatives
Few organizations were more firmly planted on the Right side of the spectrum than the United States Chamber of Commerce, it would seem. But in 2020, in the name of centrism, the Chamber of Commerce endorsed 23 Democrat candidates for the House of Representatives, against Republicans. Some of the Democrats won, and as a result the Democrats got control of the House, because if even one of those seats had gone to a Republican, the Dems would have failed to get control of the House.
But after the Democrats won, their promised centrism and bipartisanship never showed up. Upon gaining the Presidency and the House, the Democrats immediately began enacting far-Left policies — both by Executive decree and by Congressional action: Vastly increasing government spending, ballooning the federal debt, promoting Critical Race Theory and other Marxist doctrines, and putting extreme far-Leftists into positions of power all across the federal government.
“The lobby’s bet in 2020 that supporting ‘centrist’ House Democrats would protect against anti-business policies has been a bust,” noted the Wall Street journal in 2022, “The business lobby has received almost nothing for helping Speaker Pelosi keep her majority.”
“The Chamber of Commerce’s House of Horrors”
What!? Could anyone really believe that electing Democrats was ever going to be the path to getting less government or more pro-business policies?
Was the 2020 Democrat wave of big-government Leftism what the RINOs really wanted all along? You had to wonder, because it seemed that anyone could see how centrism really always turned out for the Right. In a May 2021 article on its website, the Chamber of Commerce congratulated itself for endorsing the Democrats who took control in 2020, saying, “…we’re working to bring Democrats and Republicans together.”
If Centrism really was best, how exactly should the Right have moved to the middle?
1. Explain to the Leftists that they were wrong (because of course they were wrong) and then the Leftists would change their minds.
2. Compromise with the Leftists, agree to do half of what they wanted, so that then the Leftists would do half of what was right.
The first one cannot work. This whole “Leftist Untruths” project shows that Leftists do not really believe what they say that they believe; actually, they know that their ideas are wrong. Arguing or explaining or even proving to Leftists that their ideas are wrong will not make them do what’s right. They don’t care what’s right. Their intention is not to be right, it is to gain power, as we discuss in Leftist Untruth #1: Control.
Nor, does it seem, will the second option will work. Is compromise — i.e. doing things that are half-wrong — the right idea?
The middle-of-the-road policy is not an economic system that can last. It is a method for the realization of socialism by installments.
Ludwig von Mises, The Middle of the Road Leads to Socialism (1950)
There is no compromise possible between these two systems. Contrary to a popular fallacy there is no middle way, no third system possible as a pattern of a permanent social order. The citizens must choose between capitalism and socialism...
Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy, (1944)
Real compromise with Leftists was not really possible because Leftists never really compromised. They sometimes agreed to compromise, but after the Right had moved Left, the Left never moved Right; the Left always just move farther Left.
There are no centrist Leftists. Leftism, by its nature, is absolutism. To be Left is to be far Left; there is no Leftism anywhere in any "center".
But can that really be true? Most Leftist wouldn't actually support the despotic governments and murderous militaries of Communist dictators, would they? The ordinary garden-variety left-leaning Democrats don't really support Communists and what they do, do they? The people who vote Democrat aren't really Communists in American clothing are they? Surely not. At least not in 2023.
Oh yes they are.
By a party-line committee vote on Feb. 16 they [Democrats] killed a bill, which had passed the Republican House of Delegates, that would have required public schools to honor on each Nov. 7 the 100 million or so people killed by communist regimes around the world...
Wai Wah Chin, "A Teachers Union Smears Asians as Communists" Wall Street Journal (2023)
The same Democrats who cry "censorship" when Marxist CRT and trans-gender perversion are taught to children in public schools will prevent the truth about Leftism from being taught. And what was the lie that the Democrat communists used to justify their support of communism? Teaching students about the history of communism is… racist. “’We are concerned that this bill would subject Asian-American students to anti-Asian sentiments,’ a spokeswoman for the Virginia Education Association was quoted as saying.” Even though historically Communism is primarily a European phenomenon.
Leftists, to Rightists: "You owe us $2 trillion."
Rightists: "What? What are you talking about. We don't owe you anything."
Leftists: "Compromise and meet us in the middle ground. Give us $1 trillion."
(Rightists give Leftists $1 trillion.)
Leftists, to Rightists: "You owe us $4 trillion."
Starting early in the 1900s in America, the Workers Party and the Communist Party ran candidates with a Socialist platform in essentially all U.S. national elections. But they never won a national election, or any election of any consequence. However, by the end of that century essentially the whole of the Socialist platform of the 20s had somehow been enacted by U.S. government regulators. Even though no one who openly supported that platform was elected.
How did the Left keep getting away with this?
1. As we discuss in the Leftist Untruth #3: Unbiased, by the 1910, Leftists mostly controlled mainstream media in the U.S., and that control only increased from then on. By the 1960s, the mainstream media was not "biased"; the mainstream media was a dedicated propaganda arm of Leftism. Promoting the Leftist agenda was the motive and raison d'etre of the U.S. media. Promoting the Leftist agenda came ahead of "fairness", ahead of "journalism", ahead even of profit, as they proved over and over again.
2. The UniParty. In the 21st century, the two political parties were one party. The leftmost side were the Democrat Socialist wing. And the Republicans were the RINO wing. It didn’t matter who got elected if almost everyone running for one of the two major parties was really left of center. A couple of times, in other Untruths, we quote a Leftist book titled Why Liberals Win (Even When They Lose Elections by Stephen Prothero. It’s a good question, because that is what happened. Leftists lost half the elections, but their whole agenda was enacted into law.
In the decades from the late 1920s to the 2020s, approximately half the candidates put forth by the two major parties in elections said that they were for smaller government and lower taxes. Every year, politicians who had been elected increased the size of government and increased the amount of money taken by government in taxes. And they vastly increased the national debt, and instead of shrinking government power, they created hundreds of thousands of new laws. (As we documented in the book OverRegulated.)
...experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny...
Thomas Jefferson “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” (1784)
This is what happened to America.
Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de trés bon foi believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.
John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson (1816)
People who love government, who want to be in government, tend to be people who love and want Control and Power. Maybe we, and they, pretend that that isn’t true, but it is true. And essentially all such people actually belong on the Left side of the political spectrum, because the one defining difference between the Left and the Right is that the Left want more government control and the Right want more freedom. In the 2020s, the U.S. government regulators on the Left didn’t compromise because there really were no U.S. government regulators on the Right to compromise with.
With almost no significant exceptions the Right were RINOs, the Controlled Opposition, Leftists in Rightist clothing. The only difference was that some government regulators were somewhat farther Left than others. Everyone enacted bigger government, higher taxes, more government regulation, no matter what they said they believed. Compromise and centrism are good all right, good for the Left.