Greg Sargent complains with justification about "one of the most mindless and reflexive uses of the word 'centrist' I've seen by a big news org in a very long time," from the NYTimes. The Times calls a proposed (and as yet unwritten) Senate resolution on Iraq involving Warner, Snowe, and Nelson "centrist," but, as Sargent points out,
polls show not just that very large majorities oppose escalation, but more to the point, that more of those opposed to escalation are against it "strongly" than aren't. Here, for instance, is one poll finding that of the 68% against escalation, nearly three-fourths oppose it strongly. Here's another poll finding that virtually all of the 60% against escalation are "strongly" opposed to it.
Yet the "toughly worded" resolution is the position of the "left," and anything just to the "right" of that automatically gets designated as "centrist." This perfectly illustrates just how devoid of meaning and divorced from public opinion use of the word "centrist" has become. Indeed, it perfectly captures the extent to which the left-center-right spectrum has devolved into little more than a figment of the big news orgs' collective imagination.
Of course Sargent's right that the use of "centrist" here is mindless and reflexive.
But from another perspective, is it really such a bad thing that the tough" position, the one two thirds of the country agrees with, is being called the "Left"?
Speaking as a "Lefty" myself, I've been called worse things (not least by the NYTimes) over the last six years than "Tough" and "Popular."
Why should it bug us if the media won't anoint our position as "Centrist" when it is clear that right now The Center is the place where wishy-washy equivocators draft mealy-mouthed resolutions while Baghdad burns and American soldiers are under fire?
Seems to me that right now we have a chance to make the case that the Left is the place to be on foreign policy -- the right place to be on the morality of starting stupid wars and then running them badly, the right place to be when it comes to expressing the Values of the American People.
I wonder if the fetishization of "the Center" and the demonization of "the Left" hasn't had the insidious effect of making even bright and committed liberals say "ick" when they're called "Leftists," even when they're espousing a position that is toughminded, principled, and, praise Jebus, popular.