Monday, March 13, 2006

Walk the Line

(Visitors from Memeorandum: My post on the Feingold censure motion is here. Some glitch with their 'bot. VichyDems home page is here.)

Despite some things I've written here, I don't really have a problem with centrists. I really don't. I'm a centrist, actually. The thing is, real centrists seem liberal these days, because the center of discourse in this country has moved so far to the right.

Imagine a country road. Throw in some poplar trees colored that luminescent light green of new foliage, fecund fields on both sides, an Appaloosa horse poking his head over a wire fence to look at you as you pass. (The last sentence is irrelevant to my point, but if I'm going to write you a road, I may as well make it pleasant.) Two people are walking ahead of you. One is walking along the right shoulder, the other in about the center of the right lane. Got it?

Now join them. Walk faster until you're right in between the two, where you can talk and have good company. You're in the middle of the pack. But you're not in the middle of the road. If you were in the middle of the road, you'd be to the left of both your companions -- and they could call you, quite properly from their perspective, a Leftist.

That's what I am: a middle-of-the-road Leftist. Ralph Nader and the Communists and Socialists and eco-saboteurs and that last old, old guy who wants to nationalize the steel industry and those folks -- all two or three dozen of them -- are to my left. They're Liberals. And the Republicans and the neoNazis and the free-traders and 90% of the Democrats in Congress and 99% of the Democrats who ever appear on TV and 99.9% of all popular journalists (including Thomas Friedman) are over to my right; they're Conservatives. In the middle? It's just Paul Krugman, Molly Ivins and me, fair and balanced, walking down the middle of that road.

Anonymous Liberal, who's been contributing great writing to what I'll still loyally call Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory, writes today about "moving the line" in a slightly different context, but which resonates nicely:

What Republican strategists have learned is that when a party speaks in unison, it has the power to define what is considered reasonable in the eyes of the national media, and in turn, the American public.

Democrats, however, cannot seem to internalize this idea. They approach politics as if the rules of reasonability and civil discourse are immutable or have been set by some neutral referee. When someone like Howard Dean steps over this arbitrary line, Democrats join the GOP in immediately calling "foul." When a Republican steps over the line, however, more often than not his Republican colleagues act collectively to move the line.

Word. For example, when someone who shall go unnamed (ahem!) names a blog after the Vichy French, even some "leftist" bloggers cry foul, citing Godwin's Law. (Even Kos has called the term "like fingernails on a chalkboard to me".) But every time you turn around, Republicans are making Nazi analogies with impunity. Islamofascism? No such thing: their wealth is derived from natural resources, not industry, and is concentrated in families, not corporations, making fascism impossible. It's not fascism, but it sure sounds good.

So, yes, A.L., yes, on two counts. Yes, we need to speak with unity, which is why VichyDems exists. And yes, we need to use that unity to move the line, back to the side of reasonability and civil discourse, and more generally, back to the middle of the road.



lucretia said...

What arbitrary line do you see Howard Dean crossing over?

You say you are centrist and give views that as you say some call left. What is wrong with Left? I strongly disagre that's communist or pure socialism. Nader is not either of the former. But Nader, like Dean, calls it like it is, and you are like many who've been lead by the current group in Washington in this respect.

Anonymous said...

You say you are centrist and give views that as you say some call left. What is wrong with Left?

I'm not saying that being "left" means necessarily being "socialist" or "communist." What I'm saying is that the country is so far to the right now that even centrism looks leftist.

I favor strong social programs and higher taxation than is currently popular, but I don't favor the nationalization of major industries. I favor protectionism unless the countries with which we want free trade agree to give their workers and their environment protections similar to the ones ours have -- ie, no free trade without fair trade. I favor strong union rights, but then letting unions and management hash out their differences fairly, instead of always coming down on the side of workers. I think capitalism is a great engine but only a marginal brain, so while I favor having a central idustrial policy (we're the only industrialized nation that doesn't), I still want free-market capitalism to turn the crank of our economy.

And so on. Which I think makes me a centrist if you look at the spectrum of political thought over the past 100 years, and a lefty in today's climate.

Not that "lefter than me" is necessarily bad; I'm just saying that if we had a truly Socialist government I might look a lot more like a righty than I do now.

Does that help?

Andy said...

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