Friday, July 29, 2011

On the "Cult of Balance"

Over the last few months, I've had a number person chastise me on these pages for being so "even-handed" on the current political climate. Most of the respondents who tend to be liberal, get upset that I try to say their is some blame on the Democratic side. In the minds, they can't understand why I just can't see that this is all the Republicans fault.

I don't think I'm trying to split the blame 50-50 when I do take the political system to task. I think there are many cases where the GOP is more at fault than the Democrats. I think the GOP needs to get off its "no taxes" kick. I think the GOP does need to clean up its act moreso than the Dems.

But I don't think the Democrats at blameless. I don't see them as victims. But that's what those who complain want me to say: that the Democrats are wonderful, good-hearted victims, that have made conscessions to heartless Republicans. They want that the press and the general public punish the GOP for extremism and let the Dems do what they believe needs to be done.

The problem is that in the real world, no one is all innocent or all evil. We are all limited and fallible human beings and politicians are not immune. Here's what Paul Krugman said today about "centrists" who want to place equal blame on both parties:
Many pundits view taking a position in the middle of the political spectrum as a virtue in itself. I don’t. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily reside in the middle of the road, and I want leaders who do the right thing, not the centrist thing....

So what’s with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it’s coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it’s not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.

But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.
Clive Crook is also wondering why folks like Paul Krugman think the answer is just to put all the blame on Republicans:
Paul Krugman and EJ Dionne agree that too much centrism is what ails the United States. What the country needs is fewer moderates and more people ready to stand firm on principle come what may. (Actually Dionne draws a distinction that eludes me between moderation and centrism--they are not just different but opposed--but let that pass.)

Lacking a Nobel prize, I find this theory odd. If only centrists would come over to the left and deplore Republicans more vigorously, all would be well? Right now, I would be willing to help out--but would this do much to reduce the House Republican majority? If centrist commentators only joined Krugman's anti-Republican crusade, the country would see its mistake and put things right at the next election? It's flattering, but surely we feeble soggy centrists have nothing to offer that would improve on the quality of the arguments already put forward by writers such as Krugman, Dionne, and many others. Surely they are refuting conservatism as effectively as anybody can.

Of course, what Krugman wants is for the GOP to be entirely discredited if not simply disappear. But that's not going to happen anymore than the Democrat would fade from existence and frankly, you aren't going win centrists over if you come accross in the same snippy tones that Krugman is so good at.

In non-democratic societies, the dictators love to see themselves as angels fighting whatever demon that threatens their powerbase. But in a democratic society, all we have are fallible humans, which means that we all have some (not equal) blame.

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