Electoralism/Democratism

Krystal Kyle & Friends | Luke Savage: The undead center: why we’re still fighting centrism — and how we got here

This episode of KK&F has a lot to offer — especially a thoughtful conversation with a writer we truly admire, Jacobin’s own Luke Savage, who’s just written a powerful new book on centrism. But we’ve also got Kyle’s attempt at a solution for the war between Russia and Ukraine (you be the judge), our analysis of the imperialist, extractivist motives behind that war, whether we’re actually headed for nuclear war, and more. Watch below:

Is centrism dead? We’re certainly haunted by its stagnant, austere view of modern life: allowing paltry government funding for social services, upholding an archaic political establishment, and gutting our public institutions. Think of this as a very appropriate pre-Halloween episode, because to hear Luke tell it in this conversation, the centrism we observe in today’s political terrain is undead: a force that’s still at work around us, but stripped of its vitality and original political foundations, running on fumes.

It’s a powerful, compelling, and unexpected analysis of one of the most dominant currents in American politics over the past decades. The presidencies of Obama and (to a lesser extent) Biden were hailed as opportunities to shift course from Republican presidents’ outright attacks on public programs and basic rights. And a focal point of Biden’s 2020 campaign was the candidate’s attempt to embrace establishment politics as a means of reassuring the electorate. In debates and on the campaign trail, he presented himself as the centrist foil to left-wing Bernie Sanders and his agenda for building the public sector. That comparison has remained a constant through Biden’s presidency (earlier this year: “I’m not Bernie Sanders. I’m a mainstream Democrat”).

After years of a pandemic, layoffs, the beginning of a recession, and so many other hardships for working people, why should we be reassured by centrism? What makes this political vision attractive at all, and why do we still have to contend with it? We’ve seen how Biden has scaled down or outright abandoned the central campaign promises that made his candidacy bare-minimum palatable to many leftists. So, we turn to Luke’s fantastic work to understand the legacy of centrism, hoping to get a sense of where it’s headed — and how much longer it’ll be around.

Thanks for subscribing to KK&F. This conversation will be available tomorrow as an audio episode via Pandora, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and more.

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