Ron Radosh is on a roll over at his blog at Pajamas Media. He’s nailed it with his last three posts.
Let’s start with the most recent and work our way back.
First, yesterday Ron published, “TNR and the Crisis of The American Intellectual: Can the Old Liberal Stalwart Play a Role in Today’s World?” which takes the occasion of a new editor at The New Republic to analyze the decline of both the publication and the liberal public intellectual.
And this brings me back to TNR and its potential role in the future. As good and necessary as the American Euston Manifesto is, the advocates of the old progressive and liberal model have to move in new directions — such as those suggested in Mead’s brilliant essay. Are Richard Just and the other TNR editors prepared to acknowledge that the old so-called progressive Left is neither progressive or “left,” but instead utterly reactionary?
My answer: No. At least not until more within the Conservative Movement can start transcending the image problem we have and start articulating a free market message more in the messianic, revolutionary style of Howard Bloom’s The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism. Only then can more center-left, old fashion liberal intellectuals be lured away from the reactionary Left.
Second, on Wednesday Ron took on someone we’ve certainly had our problems with here at NRB. “Why the ‘No Labels’ Movement Will Fail”:
As Galston and Frum write, they believe that “the center has collapsed, and ideological overlap between the parties has vanished.” The Republicans in their eyes are too far to the right, and the Democrats too far to the left. As they explain, “Although 30 percent of grass-roots Republicans consider themselves moderate or liberal, and 60 percent of Democrats consider themselves moderate or conservative, their voices are muted in the nation’s capital. As increasingly polarized media feed centrifugal forces, potential primary challengers stand ready to punish deviation from party orthodoxies. Only 22 percent of the Pew respondents thought that cooperation was likely to happen under these circumstances.”
What they clearly want, but shy away from saying, is a new centrist party to emerge from the heart of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. I should note that this was once my hope as well. In a book I wrote in 1996 about the left-wing takeover of the Democratic Party, I concluded with these words:
“The Democratic Party as a whole has shifted to the Left, precisely at the moment when the Republican Party has shifted toward the Right. That means that the old political Center has eroded once and for all — a fact that has led many Americans to hope for the creation of a new political party of the Center, the kind that might be led by the likes of Bill Bradley, Colin Powell or Sam Nunn.”
At the time, I considered myself a center-right Democrat, much like Bill Galston is today. Therefore I hoped for the creation of a new “political realignment” that would create a force for “fiscal and personal responsibility, cultural conservatism, and a more limited and constrained social safety net.”
Now, I consider myself a moderate conservative, and, as I argued in a previous blog post, many of the moderate Democrats are in fact asserting the viability and correctness of conservative programs, which is why I argued that perhaps Democrats like Galston and Ed Koch might consider becoming Republicans. Then they might have more of a chance to gain support for the solutions they favor to today’s problems. Their arguments are really conservative solutions and far from those favored by most Democrats. By joining the Republican Party, they could help make it more of a big-tent party, not a party shifting too far to the right.
Something that needs to be said in this whole “centrist” discussion: the reason why large numbers of people consider themselves “in the middle,” “moderate,” “centrist” etc. is not because there is some “centrist” philosophy that is inherently better than conservatism, libertarianism, leftism, etc. It’s because most people in this country don’t think about politics that much.
An Ann Coulter quote that I used to really resent but I’ve come to embrace:
“The swing voters – I like to refer to them as the idiot voters because they don’t have set philosophical principles. You’re either a liberal or you’re a conservative if you have an IQ above a toaster. “
There’s a lot of truth in Queen Ann’s sharp hyperboles.
The only people of the activist/intellectual variety who advocate for some kind of “Centrism” as a coherent political philosophy are actually people in the process of making a transition from Left to Right or vice versa. Note how Ron talks about how 15 years ago he advocated something similar to what Frum is advocating now. At the time Ron was making his shift from Left to Right. I sympathize with this. From Summer of ’08 through Spring of ’09 I was in a period like this myself, trying to articulate a “New Centrist” political philosophy to avoid having to become an Evil Neo-Con Warmonger. It didn’t work — obviously. (And I hope to write about this question of “Centrism” more deeply soon.)
My prediction: by 2012 Frum will endorse Obama and be firmly on the Left. (Though, I bet he’ll still call himself a “conservative” and try and claim that he didn’t leave the Right, it left him. In other words he’ll follow Andrew Sullivan.) Given that Frum would rather defend pedophiles than stand with conservatives it’s really only a matter of time before he backs Obama completely rather than lock arms with Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Tea Partiers.
Third, on Monday Ron had some fun with Michael Lerner’s braindead notion that Obama needs a primary challenger from the Left. Check out “The Idiocy of Michael Lerner: His Call to Challenge Obama from the Left“
That is the kind of “democracy” Michael Lerner proposes in his effort to create a society of — those great words again — “love, kindness and generosity.” That means, he writes, a “progressive push for a new New Deal … the Caring Society.” The candidates should come from people he suggests such as Sens. Russ Feingold, socialist Bernie Sanders, Barbara Mikulski, Al Franken, or Reps. Joe Sestak, Maxine Waters, Alan Grayson, Dennis Kucinich, and others. Just pick among your own favorite on the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Oh yes, he also suggests Rachel Maddow, Bill Moyers, or Susan Sarandon. (Even Lerner, however, doesn’t put Keith Olbermann on his list.)
Clearly, the man has no concept of politics, and lives in his own starry-eyed radical world. I would bet that those he names are running as fast as they can in the other direction, and won’t be around to answer the phone when Rabbi Lerner tries to phone them. He also left out John Edwards — the disgraced former populist candidate so favored by the left has, from all reports, little to do. He might be the only one I can think of who might rise to Lerner’s call and take the bait.
NRB‘s Walter Hudson also had a fantastic take-down of Lerner here. The height of insanity in Lerner’s article was his inclusion of the disgraced former representative Alan Grayson on his list of people to challenge Obama. I mean, honestly, why not just include Alvin Greene on the list? I’d think that Olbermann would garner more votes than Grayson.
So there you have it. Three reasons to remind you to make Ron’s blog one of your regular stops if you haven’t already. And don’t forget to read his memoir, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, if you haven’t already.