The lie of the centrist
Paul Krugman says centrism is a cult that is destroying America, and I think he’s right. Not that the right isn’t doing its part — it is. But it’s this insistence on being in the middle of two “extremes” that is killing us.
Centrists wear blinders that keeps them from telling the truth, from knowing the truth about the right. And the prime offenders: My beloved colleagues.
Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.
So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.
It makes me crazy. Back when I worked for a big media outlet, we didn’t have execs coming down to tell us we had to toe the party line. We did it ourselves, as if we were afraid to do our jobs. Somewhere along the line — and it started with Spiro Agnew’s “nittering nabobs of negativsm” — we lost the will to tell the truth and instead adopted a policy of stenography. “He said she said” isn’t journalism. It’s minutes of the meeting.
What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.
You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.
And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.
No, not blinders then. Blindfolds. With blinders, you can at least see what’s in front of you. But with blindfolds, you see nothing, and that’s what my colleagues — and others who claim to be centrists — see. Nothing that matters, and very little that doesn’t.
At least Krugman tells the truth about the right.
But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.
Which points the finger right back at the centrists — and Democrats who, what, don’t want to rock the boat?
So, no, both sides aren’t equally at fault. Not in this instance, and not during the 2008 election campaign when racism and ugliness owned the Republican campaign and my colleagues bought the lie that “both sides do it.” No, they don’t. That’s not to say that some left wing bloggers and such don’t get nasty. Hell, I get nasty. But I never advocated shutting down the government to keep George W. Bush from getting re-elected. I never heard one single Democrat say that either, or say that their No. 1 priority in 2004 was to prevent a second term.
What I did see, and continue to see, is constant capitulation on the part of Democrats to Republican threats , just to make something happen. And now, the president has drawn the line.
I just hope he has the guts not to move it — or, worse yet, erase it altogether.