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‘Centrism’ and The Overton Window

The media often presents politics as a horse race, with the left and the right competing. However, said media, with the exception of the ABC, is ultimately under corporate control. Corporations tend to lean to the right in their politics since they favour profits over people. Politics itself has, in the last thirty years, moved drastically to the right. This fact leads to a discussion of the term ‘Centrist’ and its implications for the Overton Window, here understood as the acceptable range of political opinion.

Moving the Goalposts

There is a two part strategy to control the debate. First, the right wing, with the support of the media, continues to stake out positions further and further to the right. Since the media is under either corporate or, in the case of the ABC, government control, they do not question the positions of the right wing. The second part is demanding that the ‘left’ meet them in the middle. The weak and corrupt ‘left’ parties do not want to be excluded from the debate, so they reach a ‘compromise position’. This position typically exists somewhere between the extreme right position and their own centre-right position. Compromise might be the essence of practical politics, but the ‘middle’ between the extreme-right and the centre-right is the far right. All other ideas are dismissed as radical left-wing nonsense.

‘Centrism’ as Stagnation

While it may seem reasonable to be ‘Centrist’ in one’s politics. this is a relative term. The ‘centre’, particularly in American politics, is really the centre-right. This often takes the form of corporatism without the bigotry. Continue to deregulate, cut taxes for the rich, and gut the social safety net (see Mr. Obama’s ‘grand bargain’) but without saying nigger, kike and fag. Politics should reflect the nation it represents. Candidates that serve corporate interests with a nice venir as the antithesis to candidates who serve corporate interests with a horrid social agenda is not an effective two-party dichotomy.

It is true to say that this desire to be ‘in the centre’ is not useful in practice. Despite how ‘reasonable’ the ‘left’ is expected to be, the right is held to no such standard. We thus have a situation where the political conversation is continually dragged further and further to the right. Think of this as playing a game of football always inside one team’s quarter line. The other end of the field may as well not exist. The result of this is that the best result the electorate can hope for is stagnation. Whenever the ‘left’ gets into power, it is the end of the world and the conservatives mindlessly oppose whatever policies are put forward. They repeat this process until they get back into power and then the right-wing governance starts again.

The Origin of the Problem

What is the basis for all this ‘centrism’? Why is the left just assumed to be outside the realm of respectable political opinion? The American example illustrates the point. In 1992, former Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Clinton ran for President as a ‘New Democrat’. The Democrats had previously been the party of the hippies and other so-called ‘radicals’. Clinton sought to overcome this by bringing the Democrats back to political respectability. The image he presented was that he was the consensus candidate for the entire nation. Sometimes, he said, he agreed with Democrats and sometimes with Republicans. He was, so to say, above the fray.

The result, partially based on his corruption and partially based on his own political sensibilities, was that Mr. Clinton governed as what was essentially a moderate Republican. He deregulated Wall St, which included signing the infamous Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. This law had created a wall of separation between personal and investment banking which had prevented a banking sector crash for decades. That was apparently not something that Washington could tolerate, so the Act was repealed. In addition, Mr. Clinton signed the Crime Bill, which is perhaps most famous for the coining of the phrase Super-Predators by Mrs. Clinton. This was your Centrist President.

This set the pattern for the next generation (and beyond) of Democrats, up to and including the 2016 election with Mrs. Clinton and her corporate colleagues. Using this strategy, specifically in the Obama years, the Democrats lost one thousand seats, between Governors’ races, state legislatures and federal seats. This ‘centrist’ strategy, whereby the ‘left’ must be reasonable to be taken seriously (which never happens by the way) cost the Democrats hundreds of seats and much political capital. What to do?

Solution

The solution to our Overton Window problem is actually quite simple. The actual Left, headed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Ro Khanna and their colleagues need to continue to stand up and refuse to be ‘reasonable’, a term best translated as ‘well-behaved’ and serving corporate interests. Since these candidates are not corrupt, they have the political freedom to move the Overton Window back to the centre or even, gosh, to the left. Conservatism is nothing but selfishness masquerading as a political ideology. It is utterly incorrect on so many of the issues, and is either too ignorant, too corrupt or just too stupid to notice. The actual Left, who are not corrupt, have the freedom to ditch ‘centrism’ (which was always illegitimate) and move towards actual progressive and Left wing change.

Forward, Uncorrupted Ones.

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20 comments

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  1. Matters Not

    Tim I wonder how many readers appreciate the concept of the Overton Window – which has currency in the US but less so here. This video is illustrative,

    https://www.vox.com/2017/12/21/16806676/strikethrough-how-trump-overton-window-extreme-normal

    Nevertheless, here in Australia, the ‘brain’ behind Anning is well aware of the concept. As this link will demonstrate.

    https://www.xyz.net.au/the-liberal-party-and-the-overton-window/

    Shifting the Overton Window requires ‘suicide bombers’ – as it were – candidates with historical time on their hands to storm the intellectual barricades – to create a new ‘common sense’ – a new discourse etc. While AOC fits that description – not so with Sanders.

    And remember, this intellectual radicalism can cut both ways – as Trump will most probably demonstrate.

  2. Diannaart

    Indeed, Malcolm Turnbull’s sensible centre is Fraser Anning’s extreme left.

    Trying to view events objectively is becoming more difficult as the left has been moved across to the fringe and the right is sitting firmly in line of vision, the new normal view through the Overton Window.

    I believe the pendulum will remain stuck in the right well after Trump in the USA and the motley collection dominating the LNP and a significant percentage of Labor, are voted out or retire. Expecting progressives to simply fill in such vacancies is a big hope and unlikely to manifest in the near future.

  3. Alcibiades

    There is no objective debate in Oz Media, televised/radio & especially in legacy print. None. What debate is permitted is increasingly rigged/unbalanced or faux.

    Antitrust laws must be enacted to breakup the Murdochracy as an absolute minimal first step, or we are doomed.

    This is all part of a long term strategy of societal manipulation going back to the inception of neo-liberalism 40 years ago. Elections ? Win some lose some, yet, the societal movement & consequences also follows your overton window diagram. Each period of Coalition government(Neoliberal Major) moves 2 steps to the right, Labor government(Neoliberal Minor) sits pat, or at best takes one step back, Coalition regains power & moves societal norms/laws/tolerance/ethics another two steps to the extreme right, not merely acceptable political policy debate.

    None of this by accident.

    The bustard 1% are playing the long game, over decades. And the conservatives as a grouping are simply lesser patsies, dog soldiers & frontmen, because the actual ultimate beneficiaries are not what we group as the conservatives, but the 1% and minions the 10%. Predominantly foreign shareholders of multinational corporations.

    It is all about creeping incremental societal acceptance of Authoritarianism, breakup & division of a cohesive compassionate society, and especially, by design entrenched rigid inequality in service of sustained massive wealth transfer to the 1%.

    The issue of the day is ultimately irrelevant because whilst we are distracted talking about yesterday & today, they are always acting to achieve tomorrow … long term.

    Historically the Fascists came to true power in a rush of just a few years. The changes were too rapid/extreme. Most societies rejected their model. Gough Whitlam sought to crash through or crash to rollback the right, too quickly ? We know how that ended.

    The 1% have learned the lessons of history and that is why we are being slowly boiled alive, slow enough so we don’t notice till it’s too late, like a frog in a pot slowly, very slowly being brought to the boil.

    Political suicide bombers is quite apt. For to speak outside the ever more extreme limits of debate publicly, assuming one can get a public hearing, is to be gang tackled, bloodied & beaten down & publicly ostracised & demonised as an object lesson by our corporate MSM.

    Lastly, because the 1% are playing the long game, over generations, they actively covertly suborn key individuals, technocrats, media influencers, and crucially groom key individual political opponents internal factions as co-conspirators (Agents of change), again, over years. One shits you not.

    We are literally pissin’ in the wind if we do not seize the chance & make the absolute priority, regardless of short term political cost, the complete breakup & dismemberment of the Murdochracy & the corporate MSM as the critical very first step. Anything less is to be an acquiescent participant in our own execution.

    The frontmen of neoliberalism on behalf of the 1% persist regardless with the proven myth of ‘trickle down’. Facts & analysis are dismissed with outright lies. There is only growing numbers of destitute, disadvantaged, ostracised & exploited as our wealth & natural resources are transferred overseas, our environment destroyed, insecure underpaid/under-employed/overworked living hand to mouth in debt laden indentured servitude, as the global middle class participates in its own extinction, the underclass grows and the 1% & minions accumulate evermore absolute power & the wealth of the world.

    Greed is Good.

    Anti-trust Media Laws with teeth! Immediately enforced & prosecuted using every resource available, with rabid venom & damn the torpedoes.

    If we don’t take that first step all else is for naught, IMV. And then Orwells descriptive vision will be true … extreme inequality & an ever stomping jackboot.

    The majority ‘objective non partisan'(snark) corporate MSM frontpages yesterday morning should be a wake up call.

    Apologies for the rant, insomnia.

  4. Alcibiades

    Todays case in point of incrementally inculcating tolerance for de-legitimisation/demonisation/incitement & evermore acceptable overt acts/conduct in service of extreme right wing Authoritarianism.

    Video shows British troops firing at Jeremy Corbyn poster

    Acceptable policy debate ? Ha!

  5. Joseph Carli

    ” We are literally pissin’ in the wind if we do not seize the chance & make the absolute priority, regardless of short term political cost, the complete breakup & dismemberment of the Murdochracy & the corporate MSM as the critical very first step. Anything less is to be an acquiescent participant in our own execution.”

    And just WHO do you think is going to take this drastic action, O immoral one?….The very class that makes up the jurists, the legal fraternity, the MSM moguls?..the very class that controls the military?, the very class that controls regulating authorities, the AFP, the Parliamenmt and the government in power now?…You’re dreamin’!

    To change the rules, you have to change the ruling class.

  6. Alcibiades

    JC,
    O immorral one ? You are consciously utterly ignorant of my morals or anything else about me. Yet, your ad hominem runs rampant. With the very greatest respect, dearest Joe … T- f-— et caballum tuum.

    To change the rules, you have to change the ruling class.

    You last screeched only 48 hours ago, it was the ‘Middle Class’, determinedly undefined, that must be ‘extreme predjudiced’. Followed by perpetual cycles of unceasing revolution in the footsteps of Chairman Mao Zedong. Now it’s the ‘Ruling Class’ ? Oh do please make up your mind, or alternately, swap it out for a fresh clean one, perhaps, hm ?

    Out.

  7. Bolirvia

    Some things never change. John Kenneth Galbraith “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness”. True decades ago and just as true today.

  8. New England Cocky

    Excellent comments above.

    However, the start of the “push to the left” should be discouraging natural persons and corporations from financially supporting political groups like the IPA by requiring immediate registration of all donations from natural persons and the delegated officer of corporations on an Australian Electoral Commission website within 48 hours of donation and available to the Australian voters to determine where the political vested interests are pushing.

    Another worthwhile strategy may be to obtain a mainstream media voice, such as a radio station or print media masthead, to provide a focal point for educating presently disinterested individuals. Never underestimate the “sponge effect” of soft propaganda, it worked extremely well for Nazi Germany.

  9. Ken Fabian

    The LNP and conservative right politics has a lot invested in fear of extremism – and merely being it’s opponents counts as being extremist.

    Climate isn’t innately an issue of left vs right; it is an issue about responsibility and accountability, which both left and right are capable of avoiding, but it is important to opponents of climate action that the climate ‘movement’ is widely seen as Green/Left extremist and that anyone who leans right must adopt socialism to join. Utter nonsense – the climate movement only leans left because those who lean right have refused to participate and the only real requirement to join is taking the decades of top level expert advice seriously.

    The intentional focus on the more extreme elements is essential to those supporting the very activities that make the climate problem worse – they desperately need to prevent the climate issue being accepted as mainstream and non-partisan and kept forever outside the Overton Window. Whilst there are good reasons to seek socially just outcomes from climate policies – and the UN, by it’s charter, has a ‘socialist’ agenda to improve the lot of the poorest nations with the assistance of the wealthy – those pushing socialism and the demise of capitalism as the principle climate solution play into their hands by sustaining the artificial left vs right divide. Some of the more extreme climate activists are going to be pleased to be raised to prominence, but if elements of the climate movement seek to exclude all who lean right then the ability of climate activism to rise above partisan politics will be lost.

  10. RW

    While I agree with the problem but the solution posed is to wait for some unknown Australian AOC to make a stand for us. I think the trouble is a little deeper than voting the next supposed savior in.

    I agree about Anti Trust but who is going to bring that in?

    JC “change the ruling class”? Do we need one?

  11. Dr Tim Jones

    The ultimate solution, which I should have included (bad oversight), is to remove any and all third party donations from politics (that includes unions). It is private (particularly corporate) money in politics that is the corrupting force. Remove that and you can get an Australian AOC or someone like her.

  12. Alcibiades

    Dr Tim Jones,
    Indeed re political donations. Yet in my mind that’s the second, immediately subsequent follow-on step. Then waiting, hopin’ & prayin’, for an AOC to save us ?

    Respectfully, that is … ‘Waiting for Godot’.

  13. DrakeN

    “Sheeple” have an inbuilt need for a shepherd – notwithstanding that the herder will fleece you and untimately lead you to the abattoir.

  14. Joseph Carli

    From Wikipedea….: ” Alcibiades (or Alkibiades) was a gifted and flamboyant Athenian statesman and general whose shifting of sides during the Peloponnesian War in the 5th century BCE earned him a reputation for cunning and treachery. Good looking and rich, he was also notorious for his ………- extravagant lifestyle and loose morals.”

    Cinaedus!

  15. Kronomex

    Well, I made a boo-boo. Eh, it happens.

    When you say “cinaedus” do you mean that Alcibiades was gay or you were insinuating that Alcibiades the commenter here is gay? Perhaps you were trying to be witty and using a double entendre. Either way all you seem to have done is succeeded in being unpleasant.

  16. Alcibiades

    Kronomex,
    My dear friend Joe dumped the same butchered extract re Alcibiades in another thread, sans Cinaedus! No idea why.really.

    Speculative: Perhaps Joe is using the addition of ‘Cinaedus!’ as for old Archimedes, ie Eureka! A declarative exclamation of revelation/insight/discovery. ‘Twould seem that Joe is asserting that Alcibiades of antiquity was a promiscuous exhibitionist male prostitute. This would be revolutionary, ’cause as a student of the classics this would constitute singularly unheard of new insight. Though relevance to this thread ? Yeah/nah. Perhaps Joe will be disposed to enlighten us further & justify his supposed ‘discovery’ with evidence or at least a rationale. Or not.

  17. Dr Tim Jones

    I think the removal of third party donations will allow people who actually believe things to come to the fore. I was not intending to convey my intention to ‘wait for a messiah’ – that I think is flawed as you say. The point I think is that once money is removed, the empty suits saying what they are paid to say will also fall away. That will allow a series of candidates with actual positions to have an actual debate of ideas rather than a debate of donors. Is that clearer? I see how my post could have been ‘messiah hunting’, which is wrong. There is no political messiah. AOC is simply an example of the kind of candidate that can emerge without the corrupting influence of money. An individual is not the answer, but rather a party. More specifically, a progressive, obviously left wing party who will fight for serious action on climate change, a fairer tax code that actually charges big corporations their fair share in tax etc. That is, fight for actual left-wing ideas

  18. Alcibiades

    Apologies for failing to correctly perceive your premise.

  19. Dr Tim Jones

    No apologies necessary, Alcibiades. It was my poor expression of the idea that caused the issue 🙂 Peace

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