Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Shrinking Middle

E.J. Dionne warns that the retirement of one of the few remaining moderate Republicans from the House is an indicator that national politics is moving in the wrong direction with the Republicans being dominated by conservatives. He finds that the polarization of parties into left versus right does not actually provide voters with “a choice, not an echo.”

But it turns out that a Republican Party dominated by conservatives is no more coherent than the party that left room for progressives. The huge budget deficit is conservatism’s Waterloo, testimony to its political failure. The conservatives love to cut taxes but can’t square their lust for tax reduction with plausible spending cuts. Oh, yes, a group of House conservatives has a paper plan involving deep program cuts, but other conservatives know that these cuts will not pass, and shouldn’t.

Paradoxically, because the liberal Republicans didn’t pretend to hate government, they were better at fiscal responsibility. They were willing to match their desired spending levels with the taxes to pay for them. It didn’t make for exciting, to-the-barricades politics. It merely produced good government.

If there were really only two views of the world, then dividing the parties along strict ideological grounds might be a good thing. In the real world, there are more choices than left versus right, and viewing the world as liberal, conservative, or moderate is overly simplistic. As the parties become polarized, I fear that we will be given a choice of only one set of views or the other without room for those who disagree with either party’s extreme. The middle is not the answer either as this is merely a viewpoint defined by the extremes, which does not guarantee the best course. Sometimes an a la carte approach is needed which allows the choice of the best ideas of left, right, and center.

We are already seeing polarization into extremes in the blogosphere. Many right wing blogs have abandoned all principle to defend Bush regardless of how much his views both vary from traditional Republican beliefs and are harmful to the nation. The liberal blogosphere threatens to be overtaken by the looney left which demands adherence to a narrow set of views overly repeated in its own echo chamber. Of course there are exceptions, including The Democratic Daily on the left, of those who realize that to be liberal means to keep an open mind to the best ideas offered. I’ve linked in the past to more rational voices on the right, such as LewRockwell.com, which defends freedom over the authoritarian big-government tendencies of the current Republican leadership. There are also a handful of blogs from the middle, such as The Moderate Voice which has their own comments on this column. The retirement of moderate Republicans might foretell the loss of such analogous exceptions in Congress. There are only rare exceptions in the blogosphere, and hopefully national politics will not remain similarly polarized.


Post a Comment

<< Home