The Problem That Is The Dipshit Centrists

A panel from the comic The Nib.

A term that I have seen bantered about the Intertubes over the past year is Dipshit Centrists.

This term is an evolution of Reactionary Centrist, and refers to a type of pundit who declared themselves “middle ground thinkers” and despite this are curiously right-leaning. I say this because while they claim to be in the middle but quite often seem to be more upset at progressives. They really put in the work to make the progressives in the Democratic Party the Real Problem for doing wacky things like working to prevent people from losing everything if someone in their household gets cancer. In the summer of 2020, when a pandemic was raging and so was a batshit insane authoritarian who also happened to be the President of the United States and oh yes, a long-overdue reckoning with racial police violence these folks decided that the Real Problem of the moment was college kids booing right-wing speakers. And quite possibly, Black people and their allies getting a bit too uppity. This, as writer Julia Carrie-Wong pointed out, ended up enabling much of the awful stuff we are seeing with schools, transphobia, book-banning, etc.

In this case, Carrie-Wong is responding to Jonathon Chait, one of the leading voices of the Dipshit Centrists. Chait is also one of the leading voices of the “just asking questions” people regarding trans folks. On this issue, he seems to think that the GOP is sincere that they are going after trans people out of concern for kids, which given how the GOP has dropped the mask about their real intentions on this issue makes people like Chait seem either disingenuous or at best very naive.

Unfortunately, Chait and compatriots like Noah Smith, Conor Friedersdorf, Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, etc. are far from alone. Dipshit Centrism is the standard for our Very Serious and Sensible Minds of the DC Media, as Dan Froomkin proves here.

I guess I can’t blame them, for they write for a type of upper-middle-class reader who fits the description of a white moderate that Martin Luther King Jr. expressed disappointment in throughout the 1960s. I would imagine they would deny this. Mainly because they also claim to be “in the middle” and unbiased.

Noble ideals if they are indeed real, and something I was taught in journalism school 35 years ago. But times are different. It is quite a reach to claim that the current Democratic Party is as dangerous to the nation as the current Republican Party, unless you want to equate climate action and wanting a more equitable society with whatever it is Marjorie Taylor-Greene is ranting about at the moment.

Silly ideas from centrists are nothing new. Indeed, the centrists who were spectacularly wrong about the Iraq War like Chait and Matt Yglesias are still making quite a living peddling questionable takes. It does feel like COVID-19 broke some of their brains, perhaps indignant those crazed leftist hippies in the CDC were telling them they might need to wear a mask when visiting their favorite steak house. They certainly linked arms with right-wing loonies (see Nate Silver) over the ridiculous Wuhan lab link conspiracies, despite evidence this was hooey and also probably a little racist. This also led them to become DeSantis-curious and write bat-shit glowing love letters to him (hundreds of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Floridians died of COVID after that Politico piece was published).

There were and are, of course, babbles that the Democrats are too woke (whatever that means) or too progressive, and that these leftist Dems are a Big Problem. As this Tweet demonstrates, it is not hard to imagine how the Very Sensible Centrists of the Discourse would react to a progressive uprising to tank Biden’s agenda like the “moderates” ended up doing. To jolt your memory:

These people are continually wrong. They yelled at Democrats to calm down about abortion for years, claiming Roe was safe. Climate change is a problem but won’t be for years and likely not as bad as the hippie leftists (read: climate scientists) claim it will be. The New York Democratic Party’s 2022 campaign strategy is smart to focus on crime and go on Morning Joe to tell everyone that New York City had become a crime-ridden shithole based on “vibes” (“crime is out of control” is often not backed up by facts), which resulted in New York being one of the few places where the Red Wave showed up. Elon Musk is a once-in-a-generation genius and anyone criticizing him is a jealous left-wing loser.

As far as any damage this type of punditry is doing, it is hard to say. Anything that gives cover to the worst of far-right impulses is not good, just ask any LGBTQ+ person who lives in a red state. Constant drumbeats about inflation and recession by the likes of Larry Summers are quite possibly behind Biden’s low approval ratings, despite a solid list of achievements. One of the Dipshit Centrists’ core beliefs, that incrementalism is always correct no matter what, is tantamount to supporting making it illegal to pull a fire alarm even when a building is on fire because that’s way too radical of an action given climate change and creeping fascism. Speaking of fascism, all the lectures that anyone left of center worrying that Republicans were becoming fascists were nothing more than divisive hysterical weirdos look increasingly out of touch and naive. But even incrementalism might be seen as too radical now, because it appears that the Dipshit Centrists’ main goal is fighting hard to make sure nothing is ever done about anything (“how are you going to pay for that?” is a fine question to ask but not before you even ask if an idea is any good or ponder the benefits).

But then again, I am but a weirdo lefty writing for a weirdo lefty blog, I suppose. I just wish these Very Sensible and Smart Centrists of the Discourse would act more like an actual moderate and less like someone who secretly is weirded out by LGBTQ+ people and hates low-income people but wants to do it while appearing “reasoned.” Also looming in our future is whatever the so-called centrist organization No Labels will do in 2024 to help Trump get elected.

The last word has nothing to do with this post but instead, is a song from an excellent group I recently saw at a music festival, Laila Belle. Wanted to give them a little publicity…