Press "Enter" to skip to content

Centrist Project Endorses “Credible” Pressler; Why Not Weiland?

Independent candidate for U.S. Senate Larry Pressler got some good press yesterday. The Centrist Project, founded by Dartmouth professor and writer Charlie Wheelan, has endorsed Pressler along with four U.S. Senate candidates nationwide. The Centrist Project's endorsement is a noteworthy affirmation of Pressler's status as a "credible" candidate.

Ken Santema shows his Libertarian stripes and dismisses the Centrist Project as just another progressive group that wants government to do things. "Personally I think gridlock is a good thing," writes Santema. "[I]t at least prevents DC politicians from doing more harm on the economy," writes Santema.

The Centrist Project doesn't dismiss Santema. Their Principles page invites anyone who agrees with three or more of the six listed principles to consider the Centrist Project "home". Let's see what common ground we might find:

  1. Good governance I believe in putting the nation’s long-term interests ahead of the electoral interests of a political party or any narrow interest group.
  2. Solving problems I realize that governing a nation of more than 300 million people is inherently difficult and contentious. I will set aside ideological purity if it enables me to achieve things that are broadly consistent with my views. I will let the most important lesson of the United States Constitutional Convention guide my behavior: In a vibrant democracy, compromise is an essential source of strength.
  3. Fiscal responsibility I am committed to putting the nation on a sound fiscal path. We recognize that this will require a combination of revenue increases, spending cuts and reforms to our major entitlement programs.
  4. Environmental responsibility I will act as a steward of the environment for future generations. I believe that climate change represents a potential threat to the United States and the international community. I will support international efforts to curtail carbon emissions, including policies that raise the cost of polluting behavior.
  5. Social tolerance I believe that the federal government should not involve itself in private behavior that does not affect the broader public. I will work to heal America's division on social issues rather than exploiting them for political advantage.
  6. Economic opportunity I believe that markets are the most powerful tool for promoting prosperity and innovation. The role of government is to create an environment in which the private sector can thrive; to provide a meaningful safety net; and to ensure that every American has an opportunity to achieve his or her economic potential [The Centrist Project, "The Big Idea: Our Centrist Principles," downloaded 2014.07.10].

We all like good governance. Ken may not like government doing stuff, but I think I could get him to agree that sometimes we need to solve problems, and that solving problems often requires compromise. We both like fiscal responsibility, though Ken is probably much less inclined to accept revenue increases as part of the solution. #4 is out, as Ken likely won't roll with me on national or international action to address climate change. Ken's got to like #5, as do I, on keeping government out of private affairs. And #6 should join us, letting markets work their wonders in a framework of reasonable regulation and access. Going halfsies on #2 and #3, I think we've got a score of 4 out of 6 for Ken. He's a Centrist, too!

But to which candidate should those six principles lead us? We'll skip ultra-right ideologue Gordon Howie and reliable GOP corporate crony Marion Michael Rounds. They fail on #1, #2, #4, and #5 immediately. Who better fits the Centrist Project's principles, Pressler or his Democratic opponent, Rick Weiland?

Pressler and Weiland are both good on the environment (Weiland sounds a touch stronger on climate change than Pressler) and social tolerance (both back marriage equality). Weiland and Pressler both recognize the need to boost some revenues and decrease spending. Both men see the need to get past the partisan squawking on the Affordable Care Act and focus on improving our health care system. Weiland and Pressler both support net neutrality, an issue the Centrist Project appears to consider important to economic opportunity.

So what's Pressler have that Weiland doesn't? It ain't money. It may just be his ABSCAM innocence and cross-partisan stripes. The Centrist Project has included one Democrat and one Republican in their five endorsements so far, but they have also picked two Indies and one American Party candidate. And they like using the words pro-business and business-friendly, suggesting Weiland's anti-corporate message is too strong for their tastes.

The Centrist Project's endorsement seems to challenge my hopeful contention that Pressler poses more of a threat to Rounds than to Weiland. Whichever candidate Pressler can most viably poach, both Rounds and Weiland should be vexed that apparently honest outside observers like the Centrist Project can deem Pressler a "credible" candidate.


  1. Rorschach 2014.07.10

    Is Weiland a centrist? I know Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was.

  2. lesliengland 2014.07.10

    perhaps not concerning electability, but global warming is the biggest issue on the table. "after 6000 years of stability, a new era of rising sea levels will move shorelines far inland." CO2 AND methane are big problems. John Englander, tedx 2014. see also Wallace Broecker phd, albeit Columbia U. compromised by Kochs (global conveyor belt, carbon cycle research)

  3. Jerry 2014.07.10

    lesliengland here are the results of those rising sea levels as we speak.

    In the meantime, republican legislators continue to deny the tide is rising like they can be like King Canute and simply order it away. NOem thinks that way and has voted with the rest of the deniers on every turn at least Ichabod has kind of turned a little, but is still in with his in crowd to cause problems for the world and for us here.

  4. Ken Santema 2014.07.10


    I would agree the principles would align with my views... But not as I believe they are intended to be used with the group.

    Here is a breakdown of the principles in question:

    1 Good Governance - This one I agree with. In fact you have quite often made the case that smaller government does not necessarily mean better government. Good governance has more to do how they system is run as opposed to how big the system is.

    2 Solving Problems - This one scares me. Almost every bad piece of legislation begins with someone trying to 'solve something'. And in many cases the problems being 'solved' were actually created by legislation passed before. This creates a non-stop cycle of the government providing more solutions, which in turn require more solutions. The cycle never ends.

    3 Fiscal Responsibility - This is another one that is bad. As you noticed it says to increase revenues. Ideologically I cannot see why the federal government should have elected officials with a stated goal of taking more money from the citizens of this country.

    4 Environmental Responsibility - I am a huge advocates of environmental responsibility. But not when it comes to government regulations. Too often government bureaucracies use bad science or get stuck on best practices that are long since debunked. The problem is that government cannot keep up with the ever changing science involved in environmental responsibility. I don't know what the best answer going forward is for environmental responsibility, I just know I believe the government has caused more economic harm in the name of environmental responsibility than it has good in protecting the environment.

    5 Social Tolerance - This is a topic I am pure libertarian on. Government should not be involved in any social issues.

    6 Economic Opportunity - This one scares me more than the Solving Problems. There is a bi-partisan love of corporate welfare. Each party has their favored industries, but they both love it just the same. And each party will say the other party is worse....

    I still think the interesting story here is that Pressler is getting support from anyone.. and that Pressler is going after Weilands demographic. I never would have expected either to happen.

  5. Chris S. 2014.07.10

    I don't know anything about this "Centrist Project," but it sounds like another astroturf project akin to "Third Way" and "No Labels." In other words, a corporate-friendly house of shills masquerading as Moderate Everymen who will bring comity and sense back to our great nation. Oh, and also gumdrop houses, little mice in footie pajamas dancing on toadstools, and unicorns farting glitter. Centrism!

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.10

    So if they are corporate cronies, what's their game: actually elect Pressler, or just draw votes away from Weiland to ensure a Rounds victory? If the latter is their game, why play that game here in South Dakota? Is the Rounds–Weiland race that close?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.10

    Ken, on #3: my stated goal, as well as Weiland's and Pressler's stated goal, is not to take more money from citizens. The goal is to provide necessary services in a sustainable way. The most practical and just means to that goal may well be to take more money from citizens.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.10

    On #5: are government bureacracies any worse at keeping up with science and discerning good science from junk than individuals and for-profit corporations?

  9. Chris S. 2014.07.10

    I can't claim to actually know these guys, but if they're anything like Third Way, No Labels, and Blue Dogs in general, they're actually not very good at their game, whatever it is — and it's almost impossible for an outsider to tell, because they play it so badly. However, think Joe Lieberman, Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Cuomo and the like, and you've got a good idea of politicians whose policies they probably like.

    Why they're backing any particular candidate, I don't know. However, I haven't seen any Third Way or No Labels candidate taking the country by storm, no matter how much Tom Friedman swoons over them. Given that, I wouldn't bet too much on any reason. However, I wouldn't be surprised if they would actually prefer Rounds to Weiland.

  10. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.07.10

    "reforms to our major entitlement programs."

    They're talking about the real entitlements, right? Defense contractors, corporate tax giveaways, tax breaks for the wealthiest, etc. Major entitlements!

  11. Ken Santema 2014.07.11

    I do agree that many corporations are also bad at keeping up with science and best practices in environmental responsibility. I really don't know the best answer. It just seems the federal government programs have been mishandling the environmental policies to an outrageous degree. That is why if we need some regs, it should be at the state level. But here in SD there are problems with that as well. This is an area I wish more people cared about the environment, instead of what their party says about the environment (both parties have taken odd stances).

  12. mike from iowa 2014.07.11

    Ken S-when the party of fiscal responsibility claims we can do fracking,uranium mining,coal mining,open pit mining,drill for oil and gas inside city limits AND protect the environment at the same time,I have to wonder if they understand which environment needs protection. They tilt every factor in favor of making a buck-protecting korporate amerika's profit environment and then forcing taxpayers that aren't korporations to foot the bill to clean up the messes. To add insult to injury the profits go offshore so Uncle Sam is deprived of rightful tax revenues until such time as wingnuts can cut korporate tax rates to zero. Personal and fiscal responsibility are just a couple missing pieces in rethuglican philosophy,imho.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.11

    I don't know about "outrage," Ken. When we didn't have federal policies at all, we got smog and dead eagles. After Nixon's EPA and Bush's Clean Air Act, things got better. Federal policies can certainly go wrong, just like any human creation, but they seem to have been a step in the right direction. Given the power of corporations, there is no other entity equipped to check the corporate motivation to profit by imposing costs on others. In the age of transnational (non-national? extra-national?) corporations, even on federal government may not be enough (United Nations! Agenda 21! or international NGOs bringing together breathers and drinkers from around the world), but it's better than nothing.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.11

    Is Rick a centrist? Not as much as SHS, I'm pretty sure. But I don't think he's as left as Paul Wellstone or Dennis Kucinich.

    Interesting that, for the Centrist Project, "centrist" means a Republican like Pressler, who seems to represent what the GOP was before the Ralph Reed and Paul Rubio radicalization. Note also they endorse Susan Collins of Maine, who has resisted Tea Party pressure.

  15. Bill Fleming 2014.07.11

    Not positive (you'd have to ask him) but I think Weiland would describe himself as a Progressive Populist. SHS self-described as a Blue Dog Democrat, which come to think of it, might be the equivalent of a Republican Centrist. I've got to think SHS is probably happy she didn't have to sit through the nightmare of being part of the worst, most do-nothing Congress in American history.

Comments are closed.