The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Abandoning the Center?

Ed Kilgore of the Left-leaning The New Republic writes:
… [T]he "Obama has abandoned the center" narrative is a staple of conservative and some "centrist" criticism of Obama, particularly on the current hot topics of health care reform and climate change legislation. David Brooks made the case most luridly in a July 20 New York Times column entitled "The Liberal Suicide March." Clive Crook of The Atlantic followed up with a piece claiming that by "splitting with moderates," Obama was "repudiating one of the most brilliant campaigns ever seen." And pointing to the difficulties the administration is having with the Blue Dogs, Republican speechwriter Troy Senick of RealClearPolitics attributes all the blame to Obama, suggesting he is "perilously close to breaking the coalition that was built for him."

Kilgore goes on to argue that the “repositioning” is purely right wing politics and that Obama has not abandoned the Center.


Kilgore conveniently fails to note that Obama’s rapid decent in the polls over the past month have been predominantly due to widespread loss of independents, most of whom could accurately be characterized as centrists. Could it be that irresponsible spending and taxation proposals, ruinous cap and trade legislation that is based on belief, not factual data, health care proposals that just don't seem to pass the smell test, and a foreign policy that embraces our enemies (without reciprocation) and castigates our allies (think: Israel) might cause centrists a bit of heartburn?

But no matter, Kilgore argues, those of us in the Center are reviled by both sides of the aisle. He writes:
Now you can make the argument that this whole question of positioning is irrelevant, and there are certainly a lot of Democrats and Republicans who despise the very idea of "the center," as a place where principles are sacrificed and deals with devils are cut. But like it or not, there is political value in "the center" in a country where "moderate" remains the strongly preferred ideological self-identification, and on complex issues like health care reform and climate change where voters feel better if proposals have broad support and can claim to be "pragmatic."

So … those of us in the Center are perfectly willing to sacrifice principles and cut deals with the devil?

I don’t think so, Ed. In fact, the Center sometimes seems to be the only place where rational, commonsense thinking replaces the ravings of talking heads and politicians who proudly characterize themselves as either “Conservative” or Progressive.”

We in the Center tend to pick and choose domestic and foreign policy based not on ideology but on what would lead to real world, practical solutions. We try to avoid delusional thinking, recognizing that hard data and historical precedent are far more reliable than soaring rhetoric and “belief.” We recognize that some problems are intractable and that rather than trying to "solve" them, we should be trying to manage them in the sensible way.

Ed Kilgore wonders whether the Center matters. I can answer him pretty simply. Without it, Barack Obama will become a one-term president.