Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Tom Strong

I guess I fail to see what all the fuss is about (and I don't just mean yours, by the way). It's been clear for a while that any "no" vote on Roberts would be a purely symbolic gesture. It's pretty clear that Hillary (who announced her vote in advance, btw) and Obama are signalling that they haven't totally disregarded lefty concerns (which to my mind are legitimate concerns, if not worth getting steamrolled for).

I recognize that a lot of centrist types don't share my general acceptance of Hillary, but even so, it strikes me as odd to treat anyone's vote here as especially meaningful. Like it or not, her schtick is to hew carefully from one side to the next, jettisoning as few votes as possible. Any Democrat following the Lieberman style of centrism is NEVER going to get elected to the presidency.

As for Obama: like you, I'm a fan. But I don't see him as a Hillary or a Lieberman style centrist. I see him as a cautious but principled liberal, one who knows how to reach to the center but doesn't live there. That's fine with me.

Sam Nicolas

See my post today with the entire list of the Nay votes, cross referenced with the National Journal liberal senator ranking, at The Daily Belch.

Sam Nicolas


Yeah, Tom, I know, I was overreacting. Obama's a politician, after all, what do I expect?

I trace my disappointment, really, to the realization that the center is just too weak and amorphous as yet (we'd make a lousy hurricane; we don't have a tight eye) to have the patronage and promise to attract aspiring talent like Obama. Although he talks like a centrist (favoring a strong military, for example), he has to decide where to cast his lot, where to place his chips. It's not going to be the Republicans, and when it comes to the center, so far there's just not much of a there there.


To continue your and Jack Whelan's theme of "What are centrists passionate about? What passions in the electorate can they appeal to?", using the metaphor of a hurricane, where's the heat that this storm of ours can feed on to become more powerful and organized?


I think actually there is a lot to capitalize on. Look at just how beloved John McCain is by the American public. I think average Americans are looking for someone who is not a whore for special interests. So I think the heat of the center comes from an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the status quo. As some have pointed out, people are flaking off the Republicans but not really joining the Democrats.

I think it was a bad move for Democrats in that it actually weakens their ability to oppose someone more conservative than John Roberts. The kind of stupid standing-on-principle that hinders your real causes.

But although there's a genuine passion that can be evoked from the center: people long for someone like McCain to preside, what is lacking is an organization that will take centrists' money and back up centrist politicians. Lack of visibility of centrism is also a problem. But I think, as I mentioned before, the Centrist Coalition is working on it. If anyone wants to add any other organizations working specifically towards this goal, I'd be quite interested. Politicians need to know that centrists will vote for them in the primaries and give them campaign funds. If they get to the general, centrists are easily voted in because that's what people want.


Have you read Obama's statement on his vote on the nomination?

I have utmost respect for Senator Obama and am proud to be one of his constituents.



Rats, the complete URL didn't come through, and it didn't come up as a link either.

Let's try this:>Obama's statment


Tom Strong


This may sound weird coming from me, but I'm actually quite skeptical that the "heat" necessary for political organizing can come from "the center." I think it needs to come from more radicalized activists who have some grounding in reality. The history of political activism suggests very strongly that this is the case.

I've been thinking about it lately, and I have to say that while I do believe that moderate is a useful political label, I don't believe centrist is. Because in my experience, nearly everyone considers themselves a centrist, but almost no one truly is. We all have a tendency to take sides based on our sense of community, and we all have a tendency to formulate our opinions based on the sides we take. Furthermore, most "centrists" often have some opinions that are very strongly conservative or progressive - often both.

As I've probably said before, I spent some time after college working in radical politics, and it has amazed me how easy it's been to transition to moderate politics since then. One thing about the groups I worked with then is that we all believed, very sincerely I think, to be representative of the center, of most people on Earth. We weren't, of course; on issues like sexuality, race relations, and the distribution of wealth we were anything but. But it was utterly important to our identity to believe we were.

I think this is true of most radicalized groups. But I also think that _effective_ activists tend to be aware of how they are different from non-radicals, and adjust their tactics appropriately. They may continue with the same ends they've always had, but they become flexible enough about means so as to broaden their appeal.

The most successful movements, from civil rights to the right to life, have always done this. The failure of progressive and "centrist" groups to do so in recent years has, in my opinion, a lot to do with suffering under the illusion that "we" are truly representative of the people.


For shame, Tom. For shame :)

In my conversation with Alan about the centrist movement, we discussed the need for centrist activists to energize the base, the 45% percent of Americans who consider themselves moderate vs. liberal or conservative. The number of independents is greater than those of the partisans.

And it can be done. Centrism can be just as full of missionary zeal as the wings, as witness radical centrism and its exponents, such as Mark Satin, likely Jack Whelan, and of course our very own amba.
The wingers want certain things, but so does the middle. There have been multiple radical centrist manifestos penned.

And there are precursors to radical centrism. I believe Solon, the ancient Athenian law-giver stated that he knew he did a good job because neither side was pleased with his laws. And above all, the Buddha, exponent of the middle way between hedonism and asceticism, is the primary precursor to radical centrism. Remember, we are not the secular left or the religious right, we are the Buddhist middle.

You may not know it, but Buddhism was intensely missionary, so much so that it spread all throughout Asia including China and Japan. Contrast this with Hinduism which has never really taken root outside India.

Now you raise a good question about what makes a centrist. Let me define a radical centrist, of which an average centrist is a somewhat more cautious and sometimes more mushy variety. A radical centrist recognizes that no one can be 100% wrong and sincerely strives to harvest the insights from both sides of the aisle, and then strives to craft a creative solution that combines the best from each side. If a person cannot find something deeply worthy of admiration on both sides of the political spectrum, that person is not a centrist.

Now admittedly, sometimes the centrist will find little of value on one side, but only after searching very hard. And even after that, she will still aim to harvest what she can from that side.

So perhaps the litmus test for a centrist would be: "Do you always sincerely strive to harvest the nuggets of truth from each side?" Or, "Do you find something admirable about both liberals and conservatives?"

Furthermore, a centrist politician would aim to build consensus, aim to unite the country, and would very reluctantly make a decision that would alienate a large segment of the population. And if she did, she would tell the "losing side" why she made such a decision.

A centrist is committed to balanced solutions. A centrist believes that the truth is usually to be found in the middle. A centrist wants to protect the environment in a way such that business is not destroyed. A centrist desires to help people overcome poverty but not in such a way that it merely perpetuates it.

Further characteristics of centrists include a love of creative solutions and a commitment to what works. Above all, they are pragmatic. They will not maintain support for something which has failed in practice. Some people may claim that they are centrists in these ways, but just as claming to be rational does not make it so, neither does claiming to be centrist. By their fruit shall ye know them.

I think the time is ripe for a third way in politics.

Sorry for going on, but to see a fellow centrist lose the faith, and in fact to repeat the lies that are said about us by the wings (that the center doesn't really exist, that they blow with with wind, everyone considers themselves a centrist) was too much for me to bear. The wings aim to kill the child before he is yet grown, for they know in his maturing is their end. Keep the faith, Tom. Remain stalwart before all enemies, enemies without and enemies within your own mind. If you do this, surely you will be victorious.

(I have a penchant for humorous melodrama. Well, at least I think it's amusing. My mother just thinks I'm nuts.)


I should probably add that I believe in big-tent centrism and thus that there are varieties of centrists. There is one kind of centrist that was described by Michael Stickings of the Reaction as socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and prudently hawkish. (Michael derived that impression from the folks at the Centrist Coalition.) Then there is another kind which sort of swings the other way, leaning socially conservative and fiscally liberal.

Then you have the radicals, the Ambivablog moderates as they're widely known :) and finally you have people who just aren't comfortable with either side of the spectrum. What unites these groups is a commitment, or at least what I believe would unite them, to principled compromise, practical solutions, and honest government. Furthermore, each pool of centrists usually just leans to one side of an issue, rather than being, say, a full-blown social liberal. So it's really not so hard to get along. Certainly easier than the coalitions that make up the current parties.


Adam, I've posted your definition of a centrist over at The Yellow Line, accompanied by a Biblical analogy, no less.

Tom Strong


Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you - I've been very busy so far this week and haven't had a chance to give your thoughtful response the attention it deserves. Anyway, I have a few more thoughts of my own to add:

I think your definition of "centrist" is a good and positive one; whatever term is chosen to describe us, I agree with your definition. It may very well be that my only disagreement with you is a semantic one. And as amba's recent post shows, I may have been too quick in choosing "moderate" as a better term.

However, I do fear that to most people, the term "centrist" carries that inherently mushy aspect you speak of, and that what most people think may in the end matter more than what us radical-middlists think. Moreover, as taken as I am with the concept of the "radical middle," I think that phrase is unfamiliar and awkward to most people, and often requires and unfortunate amount of explanation.

Which is all to say that how we choose our names matters, and those of us who would find something deeply valuable in both the liberal and conservative traditions need to think carefully about our chosen moniker. I think a lot of centrists tend to be charmed by the whole "radical middle" thing, but continue to think of themselves as centrists, and therefore lose some of their radicalness. And to my mind, that's a real loss. Radicalness is necessary for real political change; centrism, all on its lonesome, can too easily diverge into mere protection of the status quo.

Finally, I should say that I don't think I am losing faith, and even if I were I wouldn't be too concerned. I am by nature a doubting Tom; while I don't think faith is useless,
skepticism is generally more valuable to me. Furthermore, as centrists go, I am something of a devil's (or is that winger's?) advocate. Whatever group I happen to be marching with can expect me to regularly try and bite them off at the knees. One thing I happen to like about "centrists" is that they don't usually want to kick me out of the club for doing that.

But then again, at their best, neither do liberals, conservatives, or even radicals - which is part of why I am striking a cautious tone here. Having spent some time among each, I've found that just as the "wingers" don't understand centrism at its best, so do centrists frequently not understand wing-dom at theirs (though I also recognize that you do). Looking closely at strong, positive definitions of liberalism and conservatism, reveals that they not only seem very "centrist", but they also have a lot in common with each other. I don't say this to minimize their differences, but to highlight the fact that they are not the polar opposites we customarily think they are.

Anyhow, sorry to go on; I hope this hasn't gotten too lecture-y or muddled. Hopefully, you can find something of use in it.

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