Saturday, December 4, 2010

Response to moderatelyinterested

moderatelyinterested:
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Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.
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[Obama] spoke to me and probably many tens of millions other Americans within one standard deviation of the political center of the country.
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While there are, no doubt, many tens of millions of Americans that feel comfortable politically leaning the right of, say, Rachel Maddow, there are just as many tens of millions who are right there with her. We are not a minority in this country --far from it. We are the tens of millions who have been marginalized by a centrist-centric politics and political media that unfortunately treats low-information, low-engagement, maybe-likely voters (who have no other perspective other than "moderation" just "sounding right" to them) like the holy electoral grail. We were the people who said to each other in offices and over dinner tables "Hey, I don't know about this Iraq thing. It sounds like they're cooking something up, and everybody's just going along with it. This looks bad." ..
There are tens of millions of leftists, tens of millions of centrists and tens of millions of rightists in this country. Given the economic and foreign policy deterioration in this country, the policies we on the left have been advocating --what "sounds right" to us-- for the past eight years (in almost total media darkness) look pretty good to even more folks these days. An alliance with one side is necessary for centrists to have any democratically legitimate political power at all. How did that "Bush is a good guy" and "Cheney knows what he's doing" alliance with the rightists work out for centrists? You folks got way more than you bargained for, didn't you?
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I gained additional confidence that this administration is a "thinking" administration and that makes me content, even if I don't agree with every decision.
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The thing is, we're not content. We have goals beyond minimally competent government. The rightists are correct, in as much as they (inconsistently) declare that we have a duty as citizens not to assume that the state --even if the people we like are in charge-- is doing the right thing. This is an enormous bureaucracy with a gigantic impact on all of our lives (and a track record of miserable failure over the past decade), and if that the guy at the top inspires confidence is good enough for you, that's super, but there are a lot of other folks who think that the government should actually do things that benefit their lives --by staying out or helping out, whichever is best. Didn't George W inspire confidence in you, too? Isn't it about time we didn't use "inspire confidence" as a measure of leadership, and looked at results instead?
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Joe's title was "Moderation vs. Extremism" and I am in full support of moderation. I enjoy reading the comments on Swampland, but some of the more left wing commenters are almost as extreme as the right wing commenters. I'm not looking for some sort of Centrist Party...
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Well, moderatelyinterested...here's the thing: you actually do have "some sort of Centrist Party" --it's called "The Village" by us on the left, and if there were an officially acknowledged name for it, it would be "The Washington Political-Media-Corporate-Military-Financial Establishment". The prime tenet of this party's ideology is that ordinary people in the rest of the country --left or right-- are incapable of making good decisions for the country, and so the people's will must be "moderated" by this set of elite institutions for everything to be in "balance". As it happens, these people enjoy the fruits of that elite power greatly, and have turned into a sort of courtier-class that stands in the way of real, American democratic impulses.
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Do you really think that Americans are against the government providing access to quality, affordable health care to everyone? Of course we're not.
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The thing is, "moderation" with respect to the goal of providing access to quality, affordable health care is not pragmatism, except in the political sense of the word. It's not that "moderation" produces the best results for Americans, it's that moderation feels comfortable a lot of the time, especially to those that are easily frightened of change. For people who think that things are going badly, for people whose lives are in crisis along with the country's economy, for people who really do want things to change for the better, "moderate" adjustment are simply not the most reasonable course of action. For elites, power to change in the hands of ordinary people --left or right-- is dangerous, and therefore always to be labeled "extreme". For the people who populate the Beltway, "moderation" means they can count on still doing business as usual.
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The thing is, though, that there is a centrist ideology that is in many ways more frightened of people-directed change than even arch-conservatives are. This is the ideology that always declares "The truth lies in the middle somewhere!" even if that's patently absurd --and the least pragmatic course. For these people, it means that the solution to the leftists calling for a bridge to be built, and the rightists calling for no bridge to be built is to call for half a bridge to be built, magnanimously congratulate themselves on their glorious compromise, and tell all the people who think that the situation is idiotic to shut up and go back to their little homes --and to take their "extreme" opinions on getting across the river in order to show up for work with them.
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We've been right about health care for decades, just as we were right about Social Security decades before that. We've been right about equality, as we have been for decades. We're right about progress --we want it. We're right about individual liberty, which is why we're called "liberals". We do not trust the government, we want the government to work for us. We were right about the Iraq war, about distrusting the Bush Administration, about the farcical Clinton impeachment, about the dangerous instability of our financial system, about evolution, about climate change, about abstinence-only education, about...well, a lot. If we had been proven as factually, empirically wrong as the rightist and centrist coalition have been proven over the past decade, then maybe it would be prudent for us to consider moderating our views. Perhaps centrists might consider moderating their perspectives, given the disaster they've helped the rightists put the country in.
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...but we should be grateful for what I think will be an outstanding presidency if President Obama continues the way he has started.
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I'm not sure what you mean. If Obama continues the way he has started, with half-measures, compromises and reversals, this will be a better presidency that Bush II's, but not the New Deal II that the country is desperate for. My future criticism isn't predicated on getting his every bridge built in four years that people on my side demand, but on Obama not leaving a legacy of half-built bridges for the American people to travel on.
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Thanks for reading and considering this, moderatelyinterested.

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