Julia on political centrists:
This is like saying that you drive mid-size cars because you own a Civic and a Hummer. This is like saying that Michigan has a temperate climate because it's 95 in the summer and -10 in the winter. It's like saying you're a moderate drinker because you drink nothing Monday through Thursday and then have 15 pints on a Friday night.
That's about right. Centrism has become a synonym for "maverick". Proving yourself a centrist isn't about moderating your opinions so much as decisively proving you don't hold the same ones as your party. Lieberman, as Julie notes, is hardly in the middle on issues: he's generally quite liberal, or quite hawkish. Which, in the current calculus, makes him some sort of a weird centrist. But the middle should mean the center of the map, not all over it. The political press, we know, is always jonesing for politicians ready to buck their parties, and that's fine. But let's pick a new word for them, one that doesn't contravene the meaning of a perfectly good adjective.