Like the price of gas, the indictment of Ted Stevens, the standoff at Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia, the wind, the rain, the average daily temperature on Mars, and everything else in the phenomenal world, Obama's trip abroad reaffirms the value of centrism.
Georgie Anne Geyer explains:
As was shown on this trip, this man is a classic moderate, rooted in the more traditionally, if unevenly, centrist positions of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy or even Richard Nixon.Again! Never mind that almost every Bush-era disaster Geyer decries was either implemented under the banner of bipartisanship, or justified as a reaction to partisanship, by "centrist" politicians and commentators. And never mind that Clinton governed to the right of FDR, while Bush governed to the right of Nixon. What we need, according to her, are more daring people who are willing to flout convention by staking out a "sensible" position in between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (preferably while doing their best to ramp up nativist paranoia).
In fact, we are coming out of the extremes. Bill Clinton was far to the multicultural left, even within the Democratic Party; George Bush is far to the neoconservative right, even within the Republican Party. We need to get centrist again.
Geyer's old columns give us a pretty good sense of what else centrism normally entails. First off, we should respect James Baker III and George H.W. Bush:
With Baker, perhaps there is a chance to return to the centrist, moral, politically savvy values of Father Bush's administration....Next, we should fret over the elitism and corruption in the Democratic Party, which offers more support than it should to welfare programs and unions:
[T]he welfare state -- and its supporting constitutencies -- is alive and well among many elites in Al Gore's Democratic Party, if only because so many of them (the teachers' unions, the education departments, for example) depend upon dependency....Having indentified the "moral impoverishment" of the Left, we may wish to look to the GOP for national renewal, as Geyer did back in 2000:
Most people would say that the Democrats are the party of liberal and centrist ideology and the Republicans (outside of the right wing, of course) are the party of business and individualism. That is still true on many levels, and yet a new political-social syndrome is developing in which the Republicans are the ones espousing the new ideology.Of course, no good centrist can remain silent about the evils of multiculturalism, "which began in the '60s as a U.S. adaptation of Marxism" and "makes it impossible for the society to fight militarily while at the same time destroying its will to resist philosophically."
This is the anti-centrist but, more importantly, anti-dependency ideology that George W. Bush personifies.
And what would centrism be without due respect for Joe Lieberman? To say nothing of the "old-time liberal" Pat Buchanan, the "visionary" John Tanton, and the "brilliant" Shelby Steele?
As far as I've ever been able to tell, Geyer's ideal moderate voter is a libertarian superpatriot with a barely submerged authoritarian streak, who deeply resents welfare and unions, generally admires hard-right political insiders and thinktanks, and worries obsessively over what the cultural and intellectual failings of minorities are doing to "our" America. Given a choice between a Democratic elitist and an anti-dependency conservative, she'll usually lean to the right, but only because doing so is inherently centrist. If this choice turns out badly, the blame is laid not on any act or monument of centrism, but on an outbreak of partisanship to which more centrism is the only reasonable response (Lieberman in '12!).
I don't pretend to know whether Obama will turn out to be a "moderate" in the style of G.H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon. All I can do is comfort myself with the fact that Geyer's assessments of presidential gravitas been wrong before...like, for instance, when she insisted that Bush would be an "excellent" president because "has the charm and easy joyfulness of FDR, some of JFK's idealism, the "smarts" of Richard Nixon, the practical mind of Ike and nothing at all of Bill Clinton."
(Illustration via The Onion.)