Cutting the baby in half

Jon Chait eviscerates the idiotic "centrists" in the Senate as only sharp political satire can:

 “I think that often where I am is just in the middle. The middle
is often the commonsensical place to be. The notion that one side is
right and one side is wrong is generally, as one finds in life, not the
case.”

–political commentator Cokie Roberts

Roberts has a great point. The sensible position usually does
lie halfway between two extremes. Just look at history. In the 1960s,
the country was split between extremists who wanted to deny civil
rights to African Americans, and extremists who insisted on completely
equal rights everywhere. The dispute caused so much strife and anger
because no sensible moderates could be found to stake out the middle
ground between these equally radical positions–say, desegregating some
institutions but not others, or letting black people vote in every
other election.

Or consider the nasty contretemps between Galileo and the Catholic
Church. Both sides staked out such unyielding positions on whether the
Sun revolved around the Earth or vice versa. A lot of vitriol could
have been avoided if each party had agreed to the simple proposition
that the two bodies revolve around each other.

OK, so maybe Roberts doesn’t have a great point. But she does have
an extremely seductive point. The notion that you can determine a
sensible position simply by stopping halfway between the Democratic and
Republican stances is one of the enduring fallacies of public life.
There are few more sought-after labels in American politics than
“moderate” or “centrist.” They signify an independent thinker, unbound
by ideological or partisan dogma…

But taking the middle ground between the two parties is not a way of
liberating
yourself from dogma. It’s simply a way of lashing your own judgment to
the prevailing sentiments of the moment. Fifty years ago, the notion
that the federal government should cover the cost of health care for
all senior citizens was too liberal for even many mainstream Democrats
to swallow. These days, even right-wing Republicans embrace it.
Meanwhile, universal health care may be a liberal idea now, but, if
enacted, it would quickly become uncontroversial. If it fails, it would
remain a utopian fantasy, spurned by centrists. To define the middle as
the sensible position is to believe that what’s sensible can change
dramatically with the political winds.

A huge proportion of self-styled “centrist” thought simply boils
down to surrendering one’s own capacity to make normative judgments
about politics and public policy. This tic has been on display
throughout the health care debate.

Oh, heck, just read the whole thing.  It's really not that long and it's terrific.  If only more journalists would stand up the absurd cult of centrism that passes for sensible politics inside the Beltway, but more often than not is just un-thinking and stupid.

 

%d bloggers like this: