July 30, 2011

why whole-scale sabotage gets a free ride

This piece by Paul Krugman points to “the cult of centrism” which has infected the American political media during the debt-ceiling fiasco of late, “a wholly self-inflicted crisis,” he writes, “which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences.” Sure, he knows that the right will always out-crazy liberals, and for many Americans that’s largely its appeal. But:  

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…

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

He’s right…well, at least kind of. I’d just like to know where the hell has Krugman been the last decade? Where was he during the lead up to the Iraq War? And how could he forget this absolutely hilarious “To Be Continued” exchange hosted by Tim Russert in 2004?  

I generally like Krugman. But the problem is not, as he sees it, “the cult of centrism” but rather the professionalism and respectability of a Centrism which continues to find its seat at the table which just happens be on the right side of the political spectrum. And the problem is endemic to the mainstream political culture at large – and its not new. What Krugman sees as intellectual and institutionalized corruption is hardly the work of a “cult” but is business as usual for the media establishment which depends on caricatures, sound bites, and short-handed laziness in reporting. More bluntly, the spectacle of debate is what counts in realpolischtick, not its content. So as long as the Democrats are seen to be left of the Republicans they will be The Left. And as long as Republicans pull to the right regardless of the consequences, the Left will be The Responsible and Sane Ones, at least minus the likes of Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, and Leon Trotsky. Thus, The Center, that hallowed ground of good ol’ American pragmatism where conflicting parties come to make deals and settle their differences, becomes a legitimate debate between rabid political animals who act as ideological crusaders and respectable pea-eating gentleman like Harry Reid and Barack Obama who cut deals with them, sometimes behind closed-doors, sometimes not..…you know, not perfect but clearly “the lesser evil.” 

Not convinced? See this for a good argument for why “We just have a right wing media. Period."

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