Monday, December 31, 2007

The Middle Ground

The flaw in the "unity" argument is that it assumes the "middle ground" is between the parties. Thus the need for bipartisanship becomes defacto.

But what if the "middle ground" is not between the parties? What if the "middle ground" is, as Krugman suggests, to the *left* of the Democratic Party? In such a case, a "unity" platform that splits the difference between Republicans and Democrats would, in fact, move the government further away from what the country wants. It is a solution in search of a problem.

This is really not about parties. It is really about moving the government so that it matches the consensus of the American people. The GOP is way out of the mainstream while the Democrats are only mildly off the mark. But both are on the same side of the balance. A "unity" platform that has at its foundational belief the need for bipartisanship between the parties is, in fact, fundamentally flawed. It is guaranteed to move the government even further away from what the people want.

We all want "the middle ground". We just disagree on where that middle ground lies.


Blogger Ron Chusid said...

“What if the “middle ground” is, as Krugman suggests, to the *left* of the Democratic Party? ”

That is not what Krugman said at all. He wrote that the middle ground is “left of the center of the Democratic Party.” Left of the center is quite different from being to the left of the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party nominates someone like Edwards who is to the left of the party, then there is room for someone in the middle.

There’s another problem with Krugman’s analysis. The whole left to right spectrum is a flawed way to look at the issues. Placing the Republicans on the right and Democrats on the left and then seeing the alternative as the center would only make sense if there was one set of views on all issues.

What this analysis misses is that people might be liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues or vice versa. There are also other ways to divide the candidates including their views on civil liberties issues, church-state separation, and foreign policy.

The point is not splitting the differences between the Democrats and Republicans. The point is having another option of sets of positions if neither the Democrats or Republicans offer a choice which many of us find acceptable.

The Republican Party is way out of the mainstream. The question is how the Democrats respond. Many people voted Democratic in 2006 because of recognizing the problems with the Republicans but this doesn't mean agreement with Democrats on all positions.

This is not a "solution in search of a problem." There is a problem if the Democrats nominate someone like Edwards. Under normal circumstances if the Democrats nominated Edwards I'd either stay home or maybe consider holding my nose and voting Republican. However this year the Republicans offer no tolerable alternatives. In such a case someone like Bloomberg might present a real option.

Similarly if the Republicans nominate Huckabee, many from the Wall Street/Country Club wings who are not radical social conservatives might also see a businessman like Bloomberg as a real alternative. (I see an Edwards v. Huckabee race as the only case where Bloomberg has a good shot at winning, and even then it would be quite difficult considering all the obstacles a third party faces.)

12:46 PM  
Blogger Chris Andersen said...

"Left of the Democratic Party" and "Left of the center of the Democratic Party" are the same thing (unless you can explain how you can be left of something without also being left of the center of that same thing).

I agree with your point that a single axis of measurement is insufficient to cover all the varying issues on which people judge politics. But really that's beside the point.

The "Unity" proposition is based on the idea that the middle ground of American public opinion is equivalent to something in the middle between the two parties (otherwise why would the advocates for "Unity" keep harping so much on bipartisanship?) But if *both* parties are outside the mainstream in a qualitatively (if not quantitatively) similar fashion, then splitting the difference between them would actually move politics even further off axis.

I agree that, when both parties fail to provide something the people want, the people will start looking elsewhere. But what they are looking for is NOT something that is between the two parties (which is what the "Unity" movement is pushing).

11:23 PM  

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