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In politics, centrism or the centre is a political outlook or specific position that involves acceptance or support of a balance of a degree of social equality and a degree of social hierarchy; while opposing political changes which would result in a significant shift of society either strongly to the left or the right.

See also:
Radical center (politics)


  • Look, I don’t see the world as something divided between right and left. And I don’t at all care who’s on the right or left or in the center. Even though we use them, even though I use them myself, these expressions have lost all meaning. I’m not interested in one label or the other—I’m only interested in solving certain problems, in getting where I want to go. I have certain objectives.
    • Indira Gandhi, quoted by Oriana Fallaci. (2011). Interview with Indira Gandhi, in : Interviews with history and conversations with power. New York: Rizzoli.
  • What we have to realize is that what was on the line here was my position of a strong national defense, my position of peace with honor in Vietnam, my position of opposing, for example, busing for racial balance, my position against permissiveness, amnesty being part of that, against legalizing marijuana, being part of that. All of these things were involved. Now, having said this, however, this does not mean that my position is over on the far right. Basically it means my position is simply in the center. In the field of foreign policy, I think most people would describe my position as being that of a centrist. In domestic policy, if you look at the Nixon proposals in the first four years—and I can assure you that when you look at them over the next four years, this will be known as an Administration which advocated—and if we get proper support in the Congress after the election, was able to accomplish—more significant reform than any administration since Franklin Roosevelt's in 1932; but reform in a different direction. Roosevelt's reforms led to bigger and bigger power in Washington. It was perhaps needed then. The country's problems were so massive they couldn't be handled otherwise. The reforms that we are instituting are ones which will diffuse the power throughout the country and which will make government leaner, but in a sense will make it stronger. After all, fat government is weak, weak in handling the problems.
    • Richard Nixon, November 5, 1972, as quoted in Historic Documents of 1972. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
  • Voters for decades were conned into thinking they were noisome minorities whose best path to influence is to make peace with the mightier "center," which inevitably turns out to support military interventionism, fewer taxes for the rich, corporate deregulation and a ban on unrealistic "giveaway" proposals like free higher education. Those are the realistic, moderate, popular ideas, we're told.

    But it's a Wizard of Oz trick, just like American politics in general. There is no numerically massive center behind the curtain. What there is instead is a tiny island of wealthy donors, surrounded by a protective ring of for-sale major-party politicians (read: employees) whose job it is to castigate too-demanding voters and preach realism.

  • There was a strange aftertaste to many of the calls for grand social reform in 2020. As the coronavirus crisis overtook us, the left wing on both sides of the Atlantic, at least that part that had been fired up Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, was going down to defeat. The promise of a radicalized and reenergized left, organized around the idea of the Green New Deal, seemed to dissipate amidst the pandemic. It fell to governments mainly of the center and the right to meet the crisis. They were a strange assortment. Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the United States experimented with denial. For them climate skepticism and virus skepticism went hand in hand. In Mexico, the notionally left-wing government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador also pursued a maverick path, refusing to take drastic action. Nationalist strongmen like Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Narendra Modi in India, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey did not deny the virus, but relied on their patriotic appeal and bullying tactics to see them through. It was the managerial centrist types who were under most pressure. Figures like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the United States, or Sebastián Piñera in Chile, or Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen, and their ilk in Europe. They accepted the science. Denial was not an option. They were desperate to demonstrate that they were better than the 'populists.' To meet the crisis, very middle-of-the-road politicians ended up doing very radical things. Most of it was improvisation and compromise, but insofar as they managed to put a programmatic gloss on their responses—whether in the form of the EU's Next Generation program or Biden's Build Back Better program in 2020—it came from the repertoire of green modernization, sustainable development, and the Green New Deal.
    • Adam Tooze, Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World Economy (2021)
  • I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
  • Centrism is of vital importance today because the global economy is in a terrible meltdown — perhaps worse than any cyclical slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Alas, many textbooks have strayed too far toward over-complacent libertarianism. They joined the celebration of free-market finance and supported dismantling regulations and abolishing oversight. The bitter harvest of this celebration was seen in the irrationally exuberant housing and stock markets that collapsed and led to the current financial crisis. The centrism we describe is not a prescription that is intended to persuade readers away from their beliefs. We are analysts and not cult prescribers. It is not ideology that breeds centrism as our theme. We sift facts and theories to determine the consequences of Hayek-Friedman libertarianism or Marx-Lenin bureaucratic communism. All readers are free to make up their own minds about best ethics and value judgments. … The follies of the left and right both mandate centrism. Tightly controlled central planning, which was widely advocated in the middle decades of the last century, was abandoned after it produced stagnation and unhappy consumers in communist countries. … Only by steering our societies back to the limited center can we ensure that the global economy returns to full employment where the fruits of progress are more equally shared.
    • Paul A. Samuelson, "A Centrist Proclamation" (February 2009), in Paul A. Samuelson and William D. Nordhaus, Economics (19th ed., 2010)

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