Friday, October 14, 2005

Moderately Moderate

Matt Yglesias has put on some thoughts on some thoughts about the ongoing discussion of the "must Democrats move to the center" debate.

Referring to some comments made by Noam Scheiber (sorry, behind TNR subscription) in which Scheiber said (in a nutshell) that rather than seeking the middle, Democratic compromise might be in the form of bartering on issues. Sort of a "I'll support your issue if you support mine" kind of trade:
Politically, that seems right to me. John Kerry showed that you can get the nomination by trying to position yourself as moderately moderate, but this creates all kind of problems. Nobody winds up really liking you, the public finds it confusing, you're open to allegations of insincerity, etc. What Noam's talking about is probably a better interpretation of what worked for Bill Clinton in 1992 -- you make some bold gestures toward the center, while offering liberals some big things that they can get excited about. To get technical about it, it's important to understand that in a multi-dimensional issue space there's no unique political "center" for politicians to occupy anyway. Instead, you achieve centrism with a mix of positions along different dimensions. It's also no good to adopt centrist views if those views wind up being so nuanced that people don't understand what you're trying to say, so seeking exquisite balance on any particular topic doesn't do much good.
Now...maybe I'm being snarky or stupid (or likely both), but isn't this obvious? Perhaps it hasn't been. But if it isn't, that really says something to me about the Democratic leadership class.

BTW, I think this is EXACTLY what Hillary is doing.


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