Monday, June 16, 2008

The Case against Moderation, Part I

Everywhere I go for political wisdom these days, I'm hearing stuff like, "The way to victory is for the progressives to move toward the middle, the center of American political thought. That's where the votes are--the independents and the undecideds that can be the key to victory. Change will come but we must be patient, finding middle ground where we can and waiting for calmer waters when we can't."

Well, no doubt, patience is a virtue--when virtue is plentiful. The problem is that that's no longer the case. Ultra-rightist thinking has dominated our national policy for the past seven years now--soon to be eight. As a result, we are in such a pickle that, in order to restore balance, the pendulum will have to swing just as far to the left, though without the name-calling and obstreperousness.

[Queer question (question you are not likely to hear while listening to NPR or PBS): Why is it that it is the liberals who are always advocating for caution, measured steps, moderation, and compromise? Hasn't it been the liberals who have been the ones to move the country forward toward real progress (as opposed to conquest)? Haven't we been the ones who have woven the safety net, balanced the budget, created sustained stock market growth, and brought justice and freedom to more people? Why should we feel that it is US who must compromise our principles in order to achieve anything?]

I'll tell you why. It's because we know that the other side is fundamentally incapable of moderation. This didn't used to be true of Republicans but it certainly is now. These ideologues, with few exceptions, only understand one thing and that is power. We on the left must realize that we will only save the planet and nation by going over them, not around or alongside them. They are only concerned about preserving their power. We are the only ones concerned about the common good, solving more problems than we create, and passing on to future generations an American Dream worthy of the name. Centrism, as George Lakoff claims, is not a political philosophy at all but rather a strategy. Unfortunately, it is too little, too late to make a real difference. This I firmly believe. It is why I believe that, ultimately, the Clinton administration was a failed one. He sold the heart of the Democratic Party for political expediency. He, more than any other man, made the word "liberal" anathema.

I still say that we need another FDR. Sure, he campaigned as a centrist. But when he was in office, he governed as a liberal and he saved the nation from its greatest crises of the 20th Century (and I'm not forgetting the Cold War here). He was not afraid of the backlash. In fact, he said that he "welcomed" the hatred of the elite who called him a traitor to his class. His courage and wisdom won him reelection twice. THAT is the lesson that I hope Barack Obama learns when he is in office.

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