Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Middle? WHAT Middle!

Paul Krugman’s column on Slate is full of wisdom that one hopes the Democrats heed. Chief among them is his advice to forget the middle, because, contrary to the miopic views of Beltway insiders like David Broder, the country is actually trending more liberal:
... [I]t's true that even now, polls suggest that Americans are about twice as likely to identify themselves as conservatives as they are to identify themselves as liberals.

But if you look at peoples' views on actual issues, as opposed to labels, the electorate's growing liberalism is unmistakable. Don't take my word for it; look at the massive report Pew released earlier this year on trends in "political attitudes and core values." Pew found "increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies." Meanwhile, nothing's the matter with Kansas: People are ever less inclined to support conservative views on moral values—and have become dramatically more liberal on racial issues.

And it's not just opinion polls: Last year, the newly liberal mindset of the electorate was reflected in actual votes, too. Yes, some of the Democrats newly elected last year were relatively conservative. But others, including James Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, have staked out strikingly progressive positions on economic issues.

In such a climate one could have banked on a group of so-called “moderates” to suddenly clamor for “bipartisanship" and “political unity”--of course they have. They’ve been sitting on their hands for nearly eight years as the Bush Administration shred the Constitution; another eight years of irrelevancy must look really scary to these folks.

Sure enough, faster than you can say kumbaya, we have the “national unity movement” threatening to back an independent run by Michael Bloomberg. Okie dokie. Good luck with that.

I have the same problem with Unity ’08 and the "unity movement" as I do with those ridiculous “United We Stand” bumper stickers one still sees on occasion: No, united we don’t stand, and anyone who thinks we do either is awash in wishful thinking or believes anti-war sentiment is some kind of fringe movement.

By the same token, we do not have political unity right now. The nation is polarized, and as long as we have conservative and liberal talk radio, Fox News, and hate-spew coming from the Ann Coulter crowd (coupled with folks in the MSM who continue to give her ilk a national platform)--in other words, as long as there exists entrenched, established partisanship and people who profit from it--then there will be no political unity in Washington.

I mean, gosh. Isn't that why we have two parties to begin with?

Look, I'm as tired of the gridlock and ill-will as the next person, but this isn't a new thing. And these calls for “unity” ring awfully hollow when you remember this little incident from the 2004 Republican National Convention:

As Krugman points out, the problem is not George W. Bush but the movement that spawned him. Pat Peale was not some ordinary delegate who thought it would be cute to mock John Kerry’s Purple Heart, she’s a Texas GOP insider. These people aren’t going away, and they aren’t going to play nice with Democrats “in a spirit of Unity.”

Does anyone seriously believe that Ann Coulter will stop calling liberals “Godless” and Jonah Goldberg will quit fabricating his bogus histories of “liberal fascism” and Chris Matthews will get over his creepy Clinton fetish in a spirit of unity? Get real.

Digby exposed this sham for what it is, a way of telling Democrats to shut up “in the spirit of Unity” (which they seem to be doing very well anyway, without any help from the David Broders of the world):

I guess everyone is going to have to pardon us cynics here on the liberal side of the dial for being just a teensy bit skeptical of this demand for bipartisanship. The last time the country elected a centrist conciliator who wanted to leave behind the "braindead politics of the past", he first got kicked in the teeth by fellow centrists Sam Nunn and David Boren over gays in the military and raising taxes on the rich, and then faced an opposition so vicious that it ended with an illegitimate impeachment and a stolen election. A lot more has happened since then, all of it bad.

Damn straight.