Friday, November 11, 2011

The (not so) Elusive Center

The Economist falls prey to the classic pining for a centrist Messiah in last week's leader, "America's Missing Middle":

IT IS a year until Americans go to the polls, on November 6th 2012, to decide whether Barack Obama deserves another term. In January the Republicans start voting in their primaries, with the favourite, Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, facing fading competition from Herman Cain, a pizza tycoon, and Rick Perry, the governor of Texas. Already American politics has succumbed to election paralysis, with neither party interested in bipartisan solutions.
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In other countries such a huge gap in the middle would see the creation of a third party to represent the alienated majority. Imagine a presidential candidate next year who spelled out the need for deep future cuts in spending on entitlements and defence, as well as the need to raise some revenue (largely by getting rid of deductions); who explained that the pain would be applied only after the recovery was solidly in place; who avoided class or culture wars; who discussed school reform without fear of the Democrats’ paymasters in the teachers’ unions. Better still, imagine a new centrist block in Congress, which might give that candidate (or for that matter a President Obama or Romney) something to work with in 2013.

As usual, these pieces tend to conflate the right with the left, blame both, then pine for a savior who represents  "the alienated majority." That alienated majority, of course, shares all the writer's policy positions. One would think that if there really were a majority that shared those beliefs, the parties would reflect that.

As it happens, one party does largely share the positions laid out in this article: the mainstream Democratic party, led by President Obama. His position on deficit reduction all along and the position of most Democrats has been to accept deep cuts while insisting on revenues. True, we'll need more revenues than just taxing corporate jets, but Democrats are far closer to this centrist ideal than Grover Norquist's Republicans. Many Democrats (though not enough, I admit) are also willing to take on teacher's unions for school reform.

The article does admit that the right is "mostly to blame". So why are they asking for a centrist savior? The article would be closer to reality if it merely called on the right to stop being insanely intransigent and started working for solutions other than permanent, regressive, deficit-financed tax cuts.

Someone writes this article just about every day. And every day they bend over backward to avoid giving Democrats credit for actually being the centrists for which the writer pines. Sure they're not perfect, but they're far more likely to make a positive impact than a hypothetical third party. The Economist's "alienated majority" and $2.99 will get you a McRib.