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The term “squish” is often used as a pejorative to describe a politician, typically within the context of their own party, who is perceived as weak or not adhering strictly to the party line.

The term is most commonly used within conservative circles, but can be applied in any political context where there is tension between ideological purity and pragmatism.

For instance, a RINO — or Republican in Name Only — could be a squish.

A “squish” is typically characterized as being flexible or willing to compromise on key policy issues, which can be seen by more ideologically rigid members of their party as a lack of conviction or strength.

They may be willing to work across party lines, negotiate with opponents, or moderate their positions in order to achieve practical results or broader consensus.

The role of a “squish” can be complex within a political party.

On one hand, their willingness to compromise can be valuable in a legislative context, where negotiation and consensus-building are often necessary to get things done. They can help to bridge divides, find common ground, and facilitate the passage of legislation.

On the other hand, “squishes” can be a source of tension within their own party, particularly among more ideologically rigid or partisan members. They may be seen as betraying their party’s principles or giving in to the opposition. This can lead to internal conflicts, primary challenges, or even ostracism within their own party.

The term “squish” is often used as a weapon in internal party debates — as it was with Speaker John Boehner — intended to marginalize or discredit those who are seen as too willing to compromise or deviate from the party line.

It reflects a broader tension within politics between ideological purity and pragmatism, and between partisan loyalty and the need for compromise and consensus-building.

More on “Squish”

A derisive term conservative Republicans use to mock moderate or centrist members of their party.

“Squish” had been used intermittently during the Reagan years about Republicans who were unreliable in backing the administration’s agenda. It became cable fodder in the late 1990s, used by far-right provocateur Ann Coulter as a barb to Republican lawmakers who hemmed and hawed over impeaching President Bill Clinton.

In 2013 the term went viral when freshman senator Ted Cruz of Texas used it to knock his fellow Republican senators for insufficient fealty to the conservative faith. Cruz derided colleagues as squishes for opposing a filibuster on a recent gun control vote. They were too concerned with winning popularity among the political intelligentsia like the New York Times and Washington think tanks—rather than opposing all gun control, Cruz argued. “There is an alternative—you could just not be a bunch of squishes,” Cruz said at a FreedomWorks event in Texas.

“Squish” doesn’t always apply to Republicans. It’s become a catchall phrase for politicians who avoid taking firm stands on issues. “Clinton,” Newsweek reported in 1993, “was haunted once more by his old nemesis, the Squish Factor: the impression that he had difficulty making up his mind, that he was too anxious to please, too eager to compromise, too easily rolled.”

From Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes © 2014 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “Squish” in a sentence

  • Despite his conservative credentials, the senator was often labeled a squish by his own party due to his willingness to negotiate with the opposition and compromise on key issues.
  • In the fiercely partisan climate, being called a squish was a common insult, aimed at those who dared to deviate from the strict party line or seek middle ground.
  • While some criticized her as a squish for her moderate stances, others praised her ability to bridge divides and foster bipartisan cooperation in a deeply divided legislature.