Tag Archives: left

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.

The other extremists

We know only too well about the extreme right wing, the ones who are actually running the Republican Party these days. And then there’s the extreme left wing, the ones the extremists on the right wouldn’t know if one bit ‘em on the ass because they’re too busy thinking Barack Obama is a progressive.

But there are another group of extremists we rarely mention. I’m talking about the radical middle, those extremist moderates who like to point on either side of their political ideology and harumph a lot.

Now, there are some moderates who are truly moderate moderates, not extreme at all. But let’s just get this out of the way right here and right now — they’re not the ones I’m talking about.

You know who I mean. The ones who think fans of Glenn Beck and “tree-huggers” are the same, just on different sides of the ideological divide. They’re champions of the “both sides do it” meme And they love to be all superior about it. But I gotta tell ya, they’re just as damaging as any of the other extremists.

Maybe I’m biased here … ok, I’m definitely biased … but I don’t see the logic in thinking that people who advocated armed rebellion against a president they don’t like and people think we ought not destroy the planet that keeps us alive are some kind of moral equivalent. There’s just no there there.

My colleagues do it all the time, because they think it makes them “balanced.”  Riiiiiiggghhht. Balanced, like a pound of feathers and a pound of radioactive material are really the same thing. Balance in journalism isn’t an equation. Balance is digging into your story, getting all sides — because really, there’s never only two — and then writing a story that tells the truth. But that’s just too damned hard anymore. My beloved colleagues don’t have time to do that with all the fancy dinners with the president and make-up sessions for the Sunday network talkies and the 24-7 cable gabfests.

Maybe the extremist middle got that way because of what they see on the tube. I don’t pretend to know how it happened, but I do know that it’s a dangerous place. It’s the reason the meteoric rise in right-wing violence in this country barely gets a mention on the news, and when it does, it’s just some “lone wolf” or “isolated incident.” Calling it that means you don’t have to do the work to find out what’s really going on, although, truth be told, the work’s already been done by people like the Southern Poverty Law Center, who, by the way, get labeled a “liberal” group and therefor can’t be trusted as a source. Unlike, say, the conservative Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute, who are regularly treated as if they have some special knowledge and understanding of our country that makes them better than, say, the Center for American Progress, that radical leftist communist group.

It’s also a reflection of just how far right our political spectrum has gone. Now here’s the thing — the country, the people, they haven’t gone that far right.

So, Nunzia, you say, if that’s the case, how do we keep getting stuck with all these right-wing crazies in office? Well, my friends, it’s partly because of redistricting and partly because my colleagues feed the madness. Instead of talking about how, say, Michele Bachmann has a little problem understanding that the First Amendment protections for freedom of speech apply to everyone and not just who she likes, they spend days and days and days making weiner jokes or telling us about the trials and tribulations of former child stars who don’t get it that they are not queens of the universe.

We, the People, as Dave Johnson calls us, are being fed a load of bullshit, and unfortunately, some of us aren’t up to the task of sorting through it to find out what the real score is.

My colleagues treat Paul Ryan’s budget plan, for example, as if it’s just another plan to try to eliminate debt, different from the Democratic plan. I’ll say it is. It’s just another way to gut government and stick it to the poor, plain and simple. But they won’t say that. They’ll say that Democrats say it is and Republicans say it isn’t, except that’s not what Republicans say. Republicans, in fact, won’t answer that question.

And what my colleagues won’t do is question the very idea that the deficit is the problem. The problem they don’t seem to see (and no wonder, living in WonderWashington as they do) is fucking jobs. There aren’t any. Republicans said they’d work on jobs when they got into office this last time, but they’ve done absolutely nothing. Instead, they started in on social hot button issues like same sex marriage and abortion. But my colleagues don’t mention that either. They have no institutional memory of what was said or done last week, much less during a campaign a year ago, unless someone brings it up — and Democrats notoriously won’t do that.

And so the radical middle stays there, swearing both sides are as bad as the other and if they’d only come together and stop the bickering everything would be just fine. Can’t we all just get along? Well, in my book, it’s damned hard to get along with somebody who’s entire being is centered making sure the rich get richer and everybody else just shuts the fuck up and takes what scraps they can dig out of garbage bins.

But to the extremists in the middle, it’s all just partisan noise, amplified to ear-splitting distortion by my clueless colleagues.

Can’t we all just get along? Sure we can. Just as soon as we drop the feudal nonsense and start realizing that we humans really are all in this together. Hear that, radical moderates? I regularly hug trees, and I will gladly work with all of the other sides in this world, but there are some ground rules — no discussion about anything can go anywhere without some agreement on where we’re starting and where we’re going. And that, my friends, is precisely why debate in Washington is useless.

Conservatives think everything is hunky dory if it weren’t for those filthy liberals screwing with everything that makes this country great. Progressives think that we’re in a heap of trouble and it’s just gonna get worse if we don’t do something real about it. See? There’s not one iota of agreement in where we are. And if we don’t know where we are, there’s no way in hell we can figure out where we’re going.