Social Question

Rarebear's avatar

If Democrats have gotten more liberal (see link) and Republicans have gotten more conservative (no link), where does it leave Centrists?

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16 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

Stuck in the middle, of course. ~

In any case, it’s only Democratic voters who have gotten more liberal (or at least, they are identifying themselves as more liberal). The Democratic Party is just as center-right as it has ever been.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

The survey just shows people describe themselves as “very liberal”. Lip service.

Marriage equality was huge step, but aside from that what views have actually changed?

rojo's avatar

@SavoirFaire I don’t believe that Dem voters have become “more liberal”. I think they are actually a little more conservative than they were even 20 years ago. It is that the base line has been moved further right and so they appear more liberal.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Most people on this site are very liberal. We have a handful of centrists and basically nobody in the far-right. I think the issues are more polarized but the spread is roughly the same as it ever was. I don’t think the democratic party has really moved.

JLeslie's avatar

The people in the middle need to vote their conscience until there eventually is enough votes that people believe that sort of candidate can win. It takes a lot of time and patience.

What is the middle? I think I’m towards the middle. Socially liberal and fiscally moderate. By that definition Bill Clinton was fairly moderate. I think Hillary is fairly moderate. People are saying Trump would wind up to be fairly moderate.

The national election process seems to turn moderates into extremists. It’s annoying. Mitt Romney was fairly moderate when he was governor. That changed. What about McCain?

Catering to the extremes of the parties is about money a lot of the time. It also has to do with wanting the votes from those extreme people, but I think the extremes change over time.

kritiper's avatar

Centrists are a group of people who sit in the middle. In American politics, we have Moderates who don’t belong to any group. There are left leaners, and right leaners, and by many varying degrees which would not allow any to fit into any specified group.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Still in the middle.

And no less contemptible.

Riding the fence will get you nothing but a crotch full of splinters.

Rarebear's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me I agree that most people on this site are very liberal. I’m not a liberal anymore (economically at least) , but I’m also old, so I’m allowed my quirks.

Rarebear's avatar

@secondhandstroke You think centrists are contemptable? What about conservatives?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rojo That’s why I included my parenthetical comment about them self-identifying as more liberal. That said, even as the US has largely moved to the right over the past 20 years, there are some ways in which the electorate has become more liberal in that time. The most obvious issue is same-sex marriage and gay rights in general. In 1996, DOMA was good politics. In 2016, it’s poison. There’s even a significant number of conservatives who are anti-DOMA these days (on the grounds that it constitutes a massive government overreach).

@ARE_you_kidding_me It’s hard to say whether the electorate has moved, but it’s fairly well established that politics has shifted considerably to the right (both in terms of the rhetoric employed and the policies endorsed by the two major parties).

In a 2007 interview with Jeffery Rosen for The New York Times, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens remarked on this phenomenon, noting that “every judge who’s been appointed to the court since Lewis Powell has been more conservative than his or her predecessor, except maybe Justice Ginsburg.” And he would know. He started in 1975 as one of the most conservative members of the Court and retired in 2010 as its most liberal member (though he still considers himself a conservative).

And it goes beyond the Court (as Stevens recognized, despite using a Court-related example). Health care is perhaps the next most obvious example. In the 1970s, Democrats and Republicans agreed that the United States should institute a system to provide universal health care, and members of both parties introduced bills aimed at establishing such a system. What they disagreed about was whether and to what extent such a plan should include cost sharing measures.

By the 1990s, universal health care was supported only by the Democrats, with the party splitting between the Clinton plan and an alternative single-payer plan. Meanwhile, the Republicans forwarded a variety of alternatives, the most popular of which had been designed by the Heritage Foundation. And by the time President Obama was elected, a variation on the Heritage Foundation plan had become the Democrats’ main goal, while Republicans now declared it tantamount to socialism despite how close it was to their own plan during the Clinton years.

The same goes for so many other issues. Reagan supported gun control. Now it’s anathema to the Republicans and something only the bravest (or safest) of Democrats will touch. Environmental issues were subject to bipartisan agreement in the 70s, but has rapidly come to be seen as a concern of only the far left (very rapidly in some cases; look at John McCain, who supported cap and trade in 2008 and then turned around and called it liberal claptrap in 2012). Over and over, the right has moved further right, and the left has followed suit.

Why have both parties moved right? Studies like this one suggest that politicians tend to overestimate the conservativeness of their constituents. Given this impression, actual conservatives have little incentive to compromise and liberals have every reason to take what they can get—something that we can see reflected in the rhetorical and political strategies of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. (That their impression is mistaken also helps explain a number of putatively “surprising” victories on behalf of Democrats more willing to express ideas further to the left than the pundits find advisable, though said Democrats typically moderate themselves significantly after taking office.)

Rarebear's avatar

@savoirfaire great answer. Very nice analysis and post.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I thought they were all voting for Hillary Clinton.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Why have both parties moved right?

It is very difficult to rally people for constructive purposes.

It is very easy to frighten conservatives.

So politicians take the easy route and rile up conservatives to vote.

Paint a picture of threats that people should fear. Fear minorities, fear foreigners, fear Muslims, fear Mexicans, fear the government, fear crime, fear gays, fear socialized medicine, fear welfare queens…

The threats don’t have to be real. They just have to appeal to the emotions of a large number of people.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


You have zero proof that my concern related to the issues you mention is based on fear.

JLeslie's avatar

If it’s true that both parties have shifted right, maybe it’s partly because America is aging statistically. Our over 60 population is growing proportionately to the total population. That group is also more likely to have a landline and answer the phone when polls call. I guess the polls call cell phones now too, but an older person is more likely to pick up an unidentified number in my opinion.

Also, some social issues are disappearing. Gay marriage is legal now. Gay people are in the military now. Done. Sure, they now have moved onto LBGT in bathrooms in some states. A stupid bit of legislation where both sides don’t listen to each other. The left accusing the right of saying trans people are more likely to be perverts and criminals, when they aren’t saying that at all. Sure, maybe you can find one or two people who think that, but that’s not the reason for the bill/law, it’s not what most people think.

Trump has captured the attention of a lot of conservatives, and he is what Cruz accuses him of, a New Yorker. Leaning socially liberal on many issues and fiscally conservative. He isn’t over controlled by fear and fire and brimstone (religion). He lives in a diverse city, son of an immigrant mother, has been married to two immigrants, and does business with the world. He even supports taxing the rich at higher levels. If he wins he shows that maybe we are more moderate. The far left won’t see it that way, but I do.

Bernie Sanders’ popularity shows a backlash to the conservatives. As we move more and more to the right fiscally, and more and more to the right where the rich get richer, the masses will fight back, and you can wind up with an extreme opposite. Those people feel desperate and fed up, and the opposite is socialism, can border on communism. Don’t push people too far and don’t be too greedy is what I think.

Believing in the American Dream kept us capitalists. No one talks about the dream like when I was young. I don’t hear that phrase anymore. The dream was for everyone, and especially meaningful for new immigrants and the poor. I think centrists still believe in that dream. That America is a melting pot, equal rights, hard work matters, education is for the masses, don’t judge, don’t hate. Don’t be very dependent on other countries. Keep the country fiscally sound.

disquisitive's avatar

right where they’ve always been

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