All of which means that it's time once again to discuss what Both Sides have done wrong.
I'd like to thank Drifty for turning me on to this story, although I'm not sure that "thanks" are in order so much. The topic this time was from our old friends in No Labels. You remember them, right? Of course you do - that exciting political movement that no one outside of the Beltway ever asked for. The latest news from this media beast comes from Kathleen Parker, describing a meet-up of the elite media dimwits and earnest millionaire donors to hear from dynamic and beloved speakers like Joe Lieberman and Tony Blair. Truly, an organization that has its finger on the pulse of national sentiment.
As it turns out, No Labels has a new project dubbed the New Center, and I'm sure that all of you are eager to learn about this thrilling new think tank that you'll have completely forgotten about by this time next week.
Let's start by meeting the masterminds behind this decidedly not-bold new foundation:
Say, does that caricature on the left look familiar to you? Why, yes - it's our old friend Bill Kristol! Fresh off of his attempt to build a True Conservative third party run built around, for some reason, David French, he is now bringing his famously clear-eyed and accurate political acumen to the policy powerhouse that is No Labels.
The other guy running this thing is Bill Galston. I'm not familiar with him at all, but his New Center profile indicates that he was "Deputy Assistant to President Clinton for Domestic Policy." So the New Center conservative is a hardcore neocon, whereas the New Center "liberal" was one of the guys who gave us tough-on-crime bills and welfare reform. Much like Ms. Parker, I can't imagine why anyone would accuse No Labels of being a "front for right-leaning 1-percenters"; these guys run the gamut from right to center-right.
So let's take a look at the world-changing memo that these two co-authored - "No Labels Values: A New Center in American Politics." My instinct is to assume that it's going to be chock-full of Bothsiderist trash of the exact variety we've seen so many times, but maybe I'm being unfair. After all, this is a genuine bipartisan affair:
We’ve differed on major policy issues. One of us vigorously backed the war in Iraq; the other just as vigorously opposed it. We’ve publicly debated many times, usually focusing on our differences. These disagreements persist.
But we write now to stress what we have always agreed on, because the times demand it. The basic institutions and principles of liberal democracy are under assault.
Indeed they are. The mainstreaming of neo-Nazism is disturbing, of course. We have a President with numerous conflicts of interest that Congress is unwilling to address, not to mention the possibility that he is mentally unfit and none of you are falling for this, you all know what's coming next:
..we stand together against an alternative right disdainful of the traditions of American conservatism and a vocal left that blends socialist economics with identity politics.
- And here we are again with the "identity politics" crap, a pair of words that ensures that you don't need a picture to be sure of the speaker's race. As we'll see in the next two parts, the "Ideas to Re-Center America" do not address issues like police-public relations, women's health, public accommodations, or anything else that might be of interest to any of those people with identities. Too controversial, y'see.
- Note that the problems on Both Sides are not symmetrical. The problem with the left is that it's too liberal; the problem with the right is that they're the wrong kind of conservative. Thus, to achieve the New Center, liberals must move to the right while conservatives must quit reading the quiet parts out loud. And if you think I'm being unfair and reading too much into this...well, give it a minute.
- I also love that alt-right is matched with "vocal left." Remember, We Are A Center-Right Nation (and we have the polls from the mid-70s to prove it), so one should be proud to follow in the grand traditions of American conservatism but a little ashamed to be liberal.
Our form of government, in short, is fundamentally sound. Not so our parties and our politics. It is in this spirit that we make the case for a New Center, one that does not split the difference between Left and Right but offers a principled alternative to both. Its core tenets—Opportunity, Security, Accountability, and Ingenuity—can respond to the challenges of the present and chart a path to the future.The core tenets sound less like "tenets" and more like an acronym dreamed up by a terrible motivational speaker (tell me that this set words wouldn't seem right resonating through a catering hall at some corporate retreat) but we'll get to that.
Americans see ourselves as problem-solvers, and we’ve solved a lot of them over the centuries. If machines aren’t working, we fix them, and similarly for our institutions and policies. In the depths of the Great Depression, FDR called for “bold, persistent experimentation.” Ronald Reagan, who voted for FDR four times, emphatically agreed.
If you were looking for a generally liked Republican President, you could have gone with Eisenhower, but nope: Ronald Reagan. He's one of our calibrating points for this little project. It was at this point that I realized what "New Center" means - not a new centrists movement (even these guys can't believe that's going to happen), but a new center point that's well to the right of the current center point. Apparently, the new center is going to be somewhat to the left of Ronald fucking Reagan.
I get the impulse. Bill Kristol had an awesome time during the Dubya years - the Overton Window was shot way the hell to the right, meaning that conservatives could go on television and say whatever horrible, destructive things they wanted while anyone left-of-center kept his mouth shut lest he put his livelihood on the line. The right might run things now, but it's only in such a dysfunctional and ugly manner that conservatives are forced to constantly play defense. Make no mistake, that's what Bothsiderism is - conservatives defending the indefensible by forcing a fictitious indefensible position on the other side and then suing for peace. It can't be fun, although it's more than Kristol deserves after everything he's done to deliver us to this point.
Come on, though - even a dunce like Kristol can't think that this is a real movement. With a population that's growing more liberal and more diverse (i.e. possessing those identities that we must scrub out of politics), the notion that anyone's moving politics rightward now is preposterous. And with more and more people seeking more and more profound change, the odds on some great centrist movement (with marchers carrying placards reading "We have no strong opinions and we feel strongly about it") is similarly preposterous. These guys have no base. What they do have - and this is the important bit - is money and connections. They're never going to get their third way candidates, but they're already influencing politicians from both parties. That's why as ridiculous as these guys can be, it is essential to know what they're up to. Their ideas have weight well out of proportion to the numbers they can mobilize.
Starting next time, we'll look at their ideas - the good, the bad, and the aggravating.