27 July 2011

Being a centrist, or: My opinionated nonpartisan ego

According to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, people who don't pick a side in polarized politicking are the cancer that is killing America.  He points to the media outlets which try (in vain) to maintain an air of impartiality in politics reporting, and concludes that centrists are devoted to a "cult of balance" and are "unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray."

I've heard this argument from liberals before.  Angry because I show capacity for reason, criticize the other side, and yet don't support their party either, it dawns on them that I must have some inflated view of myself, that taking a stance on a contentious issue is somehow beneath me.  In their minds, I walk a tightrope of neutrality, wary of any opinion that might knock me from my lofty position and into the mudslinging match below.

Bull hockey.  I'm as opinionated as any of them about the hot-button issues of the day; the difference is that I try to base my views on what I observe and not on party dogma.  It doesn't mean that I obsessively try to balance the scales in every debate or scramble frantically to point an equal number of fingers at both parties.

The specific issue on which he calls out centrists is regarding the looming debt ceiling crisis, and how we seem intent on giving equal blame to both Democrats and Republicans for bringing us to brink of default.  How dare we, as it's obviously totally the GOP's doing and we should support the heroic Democrats' effort to accommodate those right-wing tyrants' demands!

Not so fast, Paul.  You're right on one thing: the stubborn GOP congressmen, prodded by their Tea Party handlers, are the ones who threaten to topple our nation's economy in their stubbornness on the debt ceiling.  The GOP certainly hasn't been the party of spending cuts in the past decade, and that doesn't absolve the Democrats of their failure to control spending either, but pointing out that they're both to blame for getting us to this precipice doesn't mean that centrists don't recognize which one threatens to push us off of the ledge!

He also points out that we've already got a "centrist" President, in the form of Barack "moderate-Republican-in-disguise" Obama.  That's nice, except that politics isn't a straight line on which we can plot politicians and see who comes closest to the sacred midpoint.  I don't want a candidate who pretends to be the "average" of two extremes (they all do that when pandering for votes!); I want one who rips the good planks out of both major parties' platforms, leaves the rotten ones behind, and builds a new, stable platform that most of the country can stand on.  I know that that's just a fanciful dream, so we're just going to have to settle for him for now.

Finally, Paul, don't confuse the news reporters with the general electorate.  It's the big corporate journalists' job to pretend to be impartial and present both sides as equally as they can.  The frustrated swing voters, however, don't pick a side because they see through the glossy facade that both parties affix to their platforms and candidates.

If you don't like the fact that I view Democrats with the same skepticism I direct at Republicans, then perhaps you ought to look at why so many people feel that no one in Washington has their interests in mind.


Sorry, all.  That column irritated me more than it should have.

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