An old word used in a new way to clarify debate.

I have a new word that I’d like people on Docudharma to consider.  Ok, it’s not really a new word.  Still, it’s a word I’d like people to think about using.

The word is “accommodationist”.

You see, I was thinking about creating a new diary to raise a new point, and I was thinking about making certain, well, there is no other way to put it than accusations.

And I have been thinking also about the discourse we use, putting our complaints as it were in one basket.

For example, we use the terms that have been given to us to describe certain things.  One of those words is “centrist”.  “Centrist” is indeed a dirty word based on all that purported centrism has accomplished for this country in the last 30 years.

Centrism has brought us a military industrial complex out of control, a massive uncontrollable debt, untold misery and lies for the people who can afford it least, people kicked out of their homes, their jobs shipped overseas, “free” trade enacted that is anything but, environmental damage in the name of jobs, our manufacturing base destroyed, the illusory “service” economy, bubbles, false euphoria, greed, misery, the “ownership society”, and outright economic, political and moral failure.

All of these ills, I truly believe, can justly and rightly be laid at least partially at the feet of the political phenomenon in this country known centrism.  Loosely defined, I would call it the pretext or idea that one can take a middle position between two putatively extreme political positions and arrive at just and forthright solution.

Using an analogy with statistics, centrism could be thought of as a “mean” whereas moderation is an “average”.  You can have a tiny number of screamers on the right, massive numbers of people on the left, and and even more massive number of people in the middle, and regardless of the numbers of people in the middle or at either end, pick a point exactly in the middle of the absolute range of political opinions.  That is “centrism”.

And, really, you need no more to explain why we on the left deride centrism.  It isn’t real, because one highly influential person on a far right extreme can confound the will of millions of other people by setting the outer boundry of debate at an extreme end, and the way it works in this country is this end is almost invariably a far right one, since our corporate media tries to ensure that “far left” people never become influential, or else if they do, they are efficiently destroyed.

“Moderation” by contrast is the exercize of picking a middle ground between the volume of people on any given topic.

In a vacuum, we could posit that “moderation” is superior to “centrism” in that moderation at least more accurately reflects the political will of the mass number of people.  Neither moderation nor centrism, however, have any bearing on the accuracy or ultimate good of any particular policy proposal.  Moderation, or “moderatism” simply tries to guarantee that any particular outcome of a policy proposal is more in tune with what the people think they want.

In this country, political polling at least attempts to be an exercise in moderation or “moderatism”.  But one of the troubles we face as a country is that our political system isn’t built around moderatism.  The structure of the system is built around centrism.  This is why, for example, we have a Senate in which we can glibly speak about “President Snowe” who, while representing a tiny sliver of the actual American people, has the power to influence debate about what we do in a policy sense in this country to an unholy degree.  That is centrism in action.

There is by contrast no true moderation in this country where it concerns policy outcomes as arrived at by government.  The process is fundamentally centrist.

So, I was about to write an essay about what has been going on for, heh, twenty or thirty years with reference to this phenomenon when it occurred to me I couldn’t remotely approach any accuracy with what I was about to say, because I would be accusing the wrong people of the wrong things.

Who are these “centrists” who have been making our lives a bloody hell for since as long as I’ve been alive, and I’m sure, much much longer?

Ah, there’s the rub.  The concept of centrism works as a phenomenon but it doesn’t work especially well when we try to apply it to people.

The problem is, depending on the topic, the people can be different, while the phenomenon remains.  An influential person can be a “centrist” when it comes to any given topic, but far out on the fringe of debate on a wholly different topic.

So this is why I’ve come up with a different word: “accommodationist”.  This differentiates the phenomenon of centrism from the people (accommodationists) who further and enable it on any given topic.

Was, for example, John Edwards, by his stated positions in the 2008 elections, a “centrist”?  I don’t think so.  It’s not an accurate accusation and doesn’t reflect reality.  The accusation becomes meaningless, an epithet.  

Similarly, when we debate whether Barack Obama is a “centrist” versus a “liberal” this can also become a meaningless epithet.  Centrism can mean different things for different topics.

However, when we talk about John Edwards having been an “accommodationist” in the sense of having voted to enable the use of force in Iraq or Barack Obama being an accommodationist for any number of things, our dialogue becomes much clearer and explicates what we mean.  The accusation, where before might have been over the top and out to lunch, suddenly becomes a deadly accurate homing missile.  

Is John Edwards, for example, fairly described as an overall “centrist”?  Not hardly when you consider the bulk of his 2008 policy positions on life, the universe and everything.  Was he an accommodationist in terms of helping enable the Iraq war?  Um, YEAH!

And, lo, we can actually begin to talk about things in a sensible way.  Accommodationists to centrism have caused untold ills in this country, but these can all be different people at different times.  And the phenomenon itself, “centrism”, remains untouched.

Accommodationism, simply put, is the enabling of a negatively centrist perspective on a policy perspective in any given topic and an accommodationist is one who furthers a destructively centrist ideology on a given policy debate.

In a future essay (hopefully, not too long) I plan to use this term to make an observation or a series of observations I had long planned on making.  Or someone else can pick up the torch and divine what I am about to say.  But it simply occurred to me that I had to lay the groundwork first.


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  1. Wow. You’re one of the few people who can leave me speechless and in awe. 🙂

  2. appeasers? heh.

    I think mediate vs moderate.

    • Edger on December 16, 2009 at 20:46

    is also maybe a good new word to use for people who think they can take a middle position between two putatively extreme political positions and arrive at just and forthright solution?

    With all due respect (heh!) to some self described “extreme centrist” friends… 😉

  3. Did you know I’m a centrist?

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