Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not ConservaDems, but Centrists

I'm going to get killed by the Wongster for saying this, but, no, "ConservaDems" are not conservatives, they don't look like conservatives, they don't act like conservatives, they don't think like conservatives.

Conservatives don't fetishize compromise, do they?

It looks right-wing to us because we're liberals, and it looks like liberalism to rightists because they're not conservative.

For example, Nate Silver, who doesn't really know or care much about political philosophy, makes the case that Evan Bayh is really a fine Democrat in his voting record, because, compared to his state, he's liberal: (link to "Bayh, Relative to His State, Was Valuable to Democrats"):
The positive score indicates that we'd expect a Senator from Indiana to be slightly more conservative than average. Bayh's score is -.171 instead, meaning he is slightly more liberal than average. In total, he's .274 DW-NOMINATE "points" further to the left than we'd typically expect of a Senator from Indiana.

Note that, conditionally upon his being a Democrat, Bayh is conservative, even relative to his fairly conservative state. Other Democrats like Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln, for instance, are slightly more liberal than Bayh, even though they hail from more conservative states. And some other red-state Democrats like Mark Begich and Jon Tester are much more liberal than him. Nevertheless, a Republican from Indiana would probably also be at least reasonably conservative, and would rarely align with the Democrats on key votes.

In Nate Silver's world (as in much of the horse-race reporting world), there's no separate, distinct "Third Way," there's only a single line from conservative on the right all the way to liberal on the left, and Evan Bayh sits on that line somewhere, either being more or less conservative or liberal.

That's how he can make a nonsensical statement like "Other Democrats like Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln, for instance, are slightly more liberal than Bayh" without expecting raucous laughter to greet it.

If there wasn't such a thing as the New Dems and the DLC, if there wasn't such a movement as Pearlstein advocates called "the Radical Middle" (Google it!), then there wouldn't be such a thing as an Evan Bayh or a Blanche Lincoln.

These are not "moderate conservatives," since they do vote reliably Democratic and against the Republicans most of the time (which is why the right labels them liberals). They're not "moderate liberals" --I think they'd be insulted by that characterization-- since we know they always vote against liberal ideas that haven't been compromised in some significant way.

The centrists are the centrists, and people like Pearlstein don't believe in conservatism or liberalism, they believe in centrism.

For whatever reason, the press corps has largely disappeared the topic of the Third Way (much of the mainstream press corps bought into the Third Way along with Broder, and so, as reporters, they can't come out with their ideology), but it is distinct from liberalism and conservatism.

Conservatives believe in a market in which the dominant forces are private corporations operating free from government interference. Liberals believe that the state needs to step in to stop private corporations from ruining the market for everyone (big and small) in blind pursuit of their individual interests. Centrists believe that the government should work with the biggest corporations to keep things the way they are, which means only interfering in the market when the biggest corporations want the state to interfere, in exchange for only the regulation that industry agrees it can handle --that's the Third Way.

The fake-populist mythology of the Radical Middle is the politics of the Third Way. That's the mythical "independent voter" that Pearlstein and Broder adore.

If the press corps were ever to define centrism, it wouldn't look like conservatism and it wouldn't look like liberalism --it would look remarkably like the Village press corps itself.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.

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