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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

 
That's not what centrism means, Joe

by David Atkins

Joe Lieberman won't be getting an invite to the Democratic national convention, and it appears all of maybe three Democrats are upset about it:

But when Democrats and Republicans gather in Charlotte, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., later this summer, Lieberman will receive less homage than a local councilman. He will be left out of the festivities altogether.

Some Democrats think keeping Lieberman away is a mistake. After all, he served as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, becoming the first Jewish American to run atop a major party’s ticket.

He also presided for several years as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, which helped transform the ideology of the Democratic Party and laid the groundwork for Bill Clinton’s election in 1992...

“Joe Lieberman is a victim of polarization. He’s another person cast aside by people who aren’t interested in centrist views,” said Professor Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, who has worked as a scholar in residence in the Senate.


Ross Baker should be embarrassed to have been quoted as saying such a ridiculous thing in print. A political scientist should know better.

Joe Lieberman is not a centrist. He is a man who holds some left-leaning positions on social issues and climate change, and extreme right-wing views on invading other countries, slashing social services, banning certain kinds of videogames, and keeping taxes really low on the wealthy. As The Hill notes at the very end of the article:

His vote for Democratic legislation is often more assured than is support from centrists facing tough reelections, although he did vote last week against a Democratic proposal to end the Bush tax rates for income above $250,000.
In an election against Gordon Gekko incarnate, Lieberman votes against the very popular position of ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy while sitting in a safe blue seat in Connecticut. And there's surprise that he's not part of the Democratic convention where economic populism will be a major theme?

Holding contradictory partisan views doesn't make one a "centrist." Supporting lower taxes on the wealthy while supporting action on climate change isn't "centrist." A hypothetical candidate who wanted to ban abortion entirely while supporting single-payer healthcare wouldn't be a "centrist," either. A centrist is someone who supports milquetoast, inoffensive positions on a variety of issues: say, simplifying the the tax code while raising taxes slightly on just the richest incomes. Or advocating toothless carbon exchanges as a "solution" to climate change. Or decrying abortion but wanting to make it "safe, legal and rare." Or converting welfare programs into work programs.

You know, the mainstream positions of the modern Democratic Party. That's centrism. It's not the voters' fault if centrism has been wholly adopted by one political party while the other sits squarely in crazyville. That's just the breaks.

Politicians like Lieberman who take some centrist positions from the sometime left while advocating other extremist positions from the modern right don't get to claim the mantle of centrism. They're just extremists on a less diverse set of issues. And nobody should be surprised if they don't get an invite to the centrist party's big shindig.

Update: As multiple commenters have pointed out, there's also the simple fact that when Joe lost the Democratic primary, he left the party to stay on as Senator. So he's not a Democrat anymore. Why anyone is surprised that he's not at the Democratic Convention is beyond me.


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