Tag Archives: radical centrism

The undecided voter

I too am against partisan bickering, etc., but this guy just doesn't get it: 

It's striking that both liberals and conservatives are convinced nowadays of the imminent demise of the other side's governing philosophy. The left says the shocking toll of BP's recklessness and Wall Street's greed proves the folly of deregulation and unfettered markets. The right looks at Greece, Europe's welfare strains, and Britain's stunning new austerity budget and shouts with similar fervor that bloated government is on borrowed time.

The fascinating thing is that both groups are correct about the obsolescence of the other side's key premises, yet blind to the staleness of their own. What partisans on neither side seem to sense is that events are poised to consign many traditional priorities of both conservatives and liberals to the ash heap.

You'd never know this from the phony way public life is conducted. While independents are America's largest voting bloc, the left and right retain a stranglehold on the debate. Only the shrill prevail. On TV, talk radio or the campaign trail, it's almost impossible to hear the kind of common sense that takes us beyond the usual partisan tropes.

Think about it: How often do you hear the same pundit or politician say that (1) we need to reform Wall Street compensation so bankers can't get rich taking gambles whose losses get picked up by taxpayers ("liberal"), and that (2) Social Security's growth needs to be trimmed ("conservative")? Or that (1) we need to scale back gold-plated public employee pensions ("conservative") and (2) raise taxes in sensible ways to fix our fiscal woes ("liberal")?

These ideas aren't inconsistent or incoherent — they're pragmatic responses to the challenges we face. But our entire system conspires to ban the expression of a practical synthesis of the best of "liberal," "conservative" and more eclectic views.

Everyone claims–some correctly–that they have found "pragmatic responses to the challenges we face."  The question–one our public discourse fails to answer–is who has got the better response.  The problem isn't therefore (only) with the partisan people putting forward solutions, it's with our debate-style political culture, where the only measure is which of the two sides gains political advantage with regard to the (too often uninformed and speciously pragmatic) center.

So when the question arises, for example, What should be do about our mucking up the planet?  The best our best newspapers can do is have a debate over whether pollution is bad–because, you know, you have to hear both sides!