I've been hearing more and more people claim that the Democratic party and Obama are centrists and only look far left because the Republicans over all have moved so far to the right. This really got me thinking, how could anyone consider Obama a centrist? I guess to answer that question one must first figure out what it means to be right or left and what views are considered extreme right and extreme left.
Let's try to figure that out.
For starters there are the easy distinctions:
Abortion - This is perhaps the easiest to group as a left or right issue. The right support the life of the unborn child while the left support the woman's right to choose. Obama has continually received 100% ratings by pro choice groups going so far to even support late term partial birth abortions. He also voted in 2000 to support tax payer funding of abortions. Clearly one would have to agree that on abortion issues Obama is as far left as you can be on this issue.
Taxes - While not as clear cut as abortion, taxes too can be grouped into what the left believe and what the right believe. The key difference is the view of how to treat the "rich". Now I'm not going to get into defining who the "rich" are because that's an article all to itself, but the clear difference is Democrats believe the rich should pay more in taxes then anyone else. Obama made his views well known during the campaign with his tax cut calculator that showed the "rich" getting tax increases to allow "cuts" to everyone else, including those who's earnings were so low they didn't pay taxes in the first place. This wealth redistribution plan puts Obama fairly far left of center.
Spending - Now spending isn't clear at all however if you look at voting records and break down spending patterns of the left and the right it becomes clear that the left over all spend more. The National Taxpayers Union every year rates all federal politicians and you can clearly see that Democrats continue to make up the bottom of the list pushing for more spending. Now Republicans aren't perfect but you're far more likely to find a republican who's fiscally responsible then a democrat. The Republican party is perhaps 30% responsible members like that of Ron Paul who never once voted for a spending increase, or our ex-Senator Sununu who in his last year in office had the highest rating in the country for being the most fiscally responsible senator in office to about 70% irresistible. Obama's record is that of fiscal irresponsibility. He's already increased spending on the federal level by 60% more then the past largest single year spending increase ever in US history. Since his spending goes above and beyond moderate spending I would classify him once again far left on this issue.
Civil Rights - Civil rights are perhaps the hardest (along with environmentalism) to break down to a left or right thing. Issues like legalization of marijuana are equally split down party lines with both Democrats and Republicans supporting it where as other issues like same sex marriage are more fairly broken down party lines. Affirmative action is also an interesting divide. Republicans push to have everyone viewed as equal. If you want a job you must be the most qualified. If you want to enter a school you must have the most qualifications and best grades. Etc. The Democrats feel that since blacks were prevented the same upbringing in this country because of our very racist history that they need help to get that leg up. They feel that schools should take a minority student over someone more qualified because of the history of their race. Obama has stated he believes that colleges and employers should consider race when looking at candidates (Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test Jul 2, 1998). He also made it clear that class should be taken into account (Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 65-66 Oct 30, 2007), allowing those with a poor upbringing to be given a chance over someone from a wealthy family. Obama however comes out against many Democrats on other civil rights issues such as same sex marriage stating that he opposed same sex marriage, although he did support same sex unions. Over all I'd have to rate him left of center, not extreme left but left of center never the less.
Environmental Issues - The left have claimed this as their parties issue although I don't see it that way. Each party believes they are helping the environment in some way and they each believe the other is causing the harm. Take deer hunting for example. In some counties Democrats have banned hunting thus protecting the environment and the deer living there. Left unchecked however the deer population have exploded causing far bigger problems and leading toward many of them starving to death over the winter. So I cannot classify Obama as left or right on this issue
Gun Rights - This is one of the easier ones. Republicans believe what the 2nd Amendment states, that all citizens have the right to bear arms. Democrats however feel this right needs to be constrained. That permits need to be issued after the person has been evaluated. Obama's record is once again as far left as you can get on this issue. He supported a gun ban in Illinois. He's flat out admitted that he believes local gun bans are ok. He sponsored legislation that would limit how many guns people could purchase. He's also opposed legislation that would have allowed people to protect themselves in the case of home invasions. Obama falls into the far left on this one.
Defense - Now this is the one issue I would label Obama a moderate or even right of center on. Obama is getting away with a lot of things that republicans would have been nailed on because he's a Democrat and the press tend to look the other way but let's look at his record. He stated he would vote to repeal the patriot act but voted for it. (Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic debate Jan 5, 2008). He's been following Bush's plan in Iraq. He's claiming his war on one country is to stop another ( http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/08/13/why-are-we-in-afghanistan/ ) which the media would have crucified Bush for claiming. Obama claimed he'd shut down Gitmo, which he hasn't done yet and he's even protecting the "torture" photos from being release. (http://michellemalkin.com/2009/05/13/flip-flop-watch-obama-will-now-fight-release-of-torture-photos/) So Obama falls right of center on this one.
So given Obama's history, his record and his views I fail to see how anyone can view him as moderate in the least. At best he's moderate on one or two issues but over all it's clear he falls as far to the left as you can on most others.