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“Triangulation” is when a political candidate presents his or her views as being above and between the left and right sides of the political spectrum.

It’s sometimes called the “third way.”

The term was first used by political consultant Dick Morris while working on the re-election campaign of President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Morris urged Clinton to adopt a set of policies that were different from the traditional policies of the Democratic Party in order to co-opt the opposition.


Morris described triangulation in an interview on Frontline in 2000:

Take the best from each party’s agenda, and come to a solution somewhere above the positions of each party. So from the left, take the idea that we need day care and food supplements for people on welfare. From the right, take the idea that they have to work for a living, and that there are time limits.

But discard the nonsense of the left, which is that there shouldn’t be work requirements; and the nonsense of the right, which is you should punish single mothers.

Get rid of the garbage of each position, that the people didn’t believe in; take the best from each position; and move up to a third way. And that became a triangle, which was triangulation.

Morris also offered a definition in his book Power Plays:

The idea behind triangulation is to work hard to solve the problems that motivate the other party’s voters, so as to defang them politically… The essence of triangulation is to use your party’s solutions to solve the other side’s problems. Use your tools to fix their car.

Uses of “triangulation”

The Nation (April 20, 2022): “Clinton and the DLC sincerely believed that market-based micro-solutions—like community development banks, microenterprises, empowerment zones, and charter schools—could address macroeconomic problems. They were not cynical, at least not at first, nor were their proposals mere ‘triangulation’ (that coinage, by pollster Dick Morris, became Clinton’s modus operandi as part of his campaign for a second term).”

Roll Call (June 7, 2016): “Dick Morris rose to prominence after his strategy of triangulation helped Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996 and fell from grace after letting a prostitute listen in on conversations with the president.”

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