Centrist Democrat Definition – A Dying Political Breed


While the word centrist can be used in a lot of different ways, many of them intended as attacks on centrists and moderates, the term ‘centrist Democrat’ is generally used to mean one of two things. It’s either used to describe a Democrat that is a centrist, or someone who the person using the words thinks is centrist for a Democrat. The same general thing can be said for the tern ‘centrist Republican‘.

All centrist really means is that the person being described stands in the center region of the political spectrum in the country you’re looking at, so calling someone a centrist Democrat just means they’re someone who is a member of the Democratic Party, and stands somewhere in that centrist range – which might cover a third to a sixth of the spectrum, depending on how strict or loose you are in your definition of centrist.

If you’re using it in the other sense, often it’s using the term as an attack, as those on the far left often do (also often connected with the term ‘corporatist’, as if not having extreme anti-business views makes them lap dogs to “big business”). The other most frequent use I see regularly is when you’re using it in a more loose definition that might cover anyone who isn’t a hard left winger, or maybe just lumping centrists and moderates together.

Centrist Democrat Label as Pejorative


As I said above, the term centrist is often used differently, and this being a political label, of course those who see the world a bit differently than your average centrist Democrat often will use it as a sort of political slur. To the far left – among them the more extreme liberal Democratic base, as well as third party and independent types on the left fringe – anyone who doesn’t tow the liberal line all of the time can be cast as a centrist, moderate, corporatist or even a conservative.

President Obama, clearly a liberal (although not a left wing liberal or socialist by any means), is a good example of this, and has been inaccurately labeled as centrist Democrat a great deal by left wing types. Attempting compromise does not make one a centrist – believing in the same things that other centrists do – that is what makes one a centrist.

Although not yet as successful as the far right has been, the hard core liberal base has been working hard at making the Democratic Party less welcoming for centrists and moderates for a long time now, and have been having more and more success in recent years. If the trend continues, they may well catch up with the GOP in their success in driving moderates out, as the Dems are looking more and more like the GOP did 10-15 years ago.

This can be seen as the percentage of the populace that are registered Democratic (as well as Republican) has continued to decline. The think tank Third Way – a group that represents the moderate to centrist democrat – has been tracking the decline in party registration – click here for a recent report on that. Also note that while the top line registration numbers haven’t gone down precipitously, they’ve been creeping down, as our nation’s population has been going up. In the mean time, independent registration has ballooned.

A centrist Republican stands in the center region of this chart
A centrist Democrat would be in the middle section there, or the one to the left of it, depending on how you’re using the term

Ideological zealous, whether their of the liberal, socialistic, commnistic, conservative, libertarian, anarchistic or some other variety – there is their side, vs the other side, and often nothing in between save people who they think are too weak kneed to choose a side. They either choose not to see, or can’t see, the obvious – that there is a huge spectrum of opinions between not only the two main tent poles in our political culture, but also even in directions that don’t neatly fit into the left to right spectrum.

As said above, all centrist means is that you stand in the center area of the political spectrum. The image to the left shows a rough map of how you could separate the ideological spectrum in our country. The bell curve comes from political science 101 – that on any given issue there is a center of gravity that roughly mimics a bell curve (even on contentious issues like abortion, which you might not know since most polls are designed to find where people disagree, rather than find what people actually think).

The Centrist Democrat – a Dying Political Breed

The few actual centrists that are left and still registered as Democrats aren’t long for the party, as long as it keeps moving in the direction that it has been for over a generation now.

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