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?
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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