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Wednesday, March 26, 2003  
Whose center is central?

When I disagree with the CalPundit, Kevin Drum, it is usually for a singular reason: I believe his sense of the center is too far to the right. His interpretation of what is liberal and what is extremist seems to exclude much I consider liberal. Kevin says:

The Finns have a party called, appropriately, the Center Party, and I want one too.

Why? Because I think that fundamentalism is the real enemy of progress, and that includes both fundamentalist take-no-prisoners conservatives as well as fundamentalist America-is-a-sink-of-corruption lefties — both at home and abroad. I'm tired of Christian fundamentalists, who apparently think America should be ruled via some lunatic interpretation of the book of Leviticus, and I'm tired of Islamic fundamentalists, who think it's a sin for women to drive cars. Likewise, I'm tired of tax-cut fundamentalists who want to ruin the American economy via deficits as far the eye can see, and I'm tired of anti-globalization fundamentalists who think McDonald's is the root of all evil.

One difference among the cited extremists is fundamentalist Christians and tax cut advocates have significant power in America. Islamic fundamentalists and anti-globalists don't. When one supports, or at least doesn't oppose the former movements, one contributes to an unfair status quo.

One of the groups I have researched extensively, the states rightists of the neo-Confederate movement, is important for the same reason. Those extremists have succeeded in placing members and sympathizers at the highest levels of government where they can influence public policy and thereby millions of lives.

The three groups, fundamentalist Christians, advocates for lower taxes and states righters, including neo-Confederates, often have views that conflate. For that reason, their common advocates include people such as Sen. Trent Lott, Attorney General John Ashcroft and to an extent, the president himself. There isn't a group opposing female drivers or the shifting of apparel manufacturing to Third World countries in Asia that can make the same claim.

Another difference between extremists of the Left and those of the Right is those on the Right usually want to curtail rights that already exist, while those on the Left want to expand existing rights or create new ones. The former position is more dangerous to our society because it would erode most of the reforms that have made America more equitable, such as the right to abortion, protections against racial, ethnic and religious discrimination and worker safety rules.

Third, the protests against the war in Iraq referred to in the op-ed piece Kevin cites are not necessarily evidence of extremism. They could be a reflection of a better educated and more internationally conscious population than existed during the Vietnam War. Or, perhaps the fact this conflict does not meet the criteria of a just war has made protesting it something mainstream Americans view as acceptable. I would need to see more evidence of the protesters' political stances before agreeing with Kevin that they are extremists.

In summary, I don't believe Kevin has met the burden of proof when it comes to establishing that extremists of the Left are undermining centrality. Nor do I believe he questions the status quo enough to see that erosions in what little protection it offers the masses is more dangerous to our society than calls for worldwide revolution by the far Left. If the tripartite Right Wing coalition described above gets its way, millions of people will be virtually disenfranchised and condemned to poverty. There is a chance of that actually happening, but not of even a relatively moderate radical, such as Ralph Nader, being elected to national office. The threat is certainly from the Right, not the Left. So, it seems to me that perhaps Kevin should consider 'recentering' his positions to be more realistic.

As for my own beliefs, I already oppose much of the far Left agenda. I believe that anti-globalism was a lost cause before it started because of the power and reach of multinational corporations. Though I can't think of any military adventurism I've agreed with in my life time, I am not against war per se. The death penalty? I think it is often incompetently and unjustly applied, but may be acceptable if the circumstances are egregious enough. I have no desire to torture animals and happen to be a vegetarian, but do not oppose medical experimentation with animals or most people eating meat. Environmental terrorism is just as wrong as any other kind of terrorism in my opinion.

Fresh-faced pundit Matthew Yglesias offers Kevin a way out. . .maybe.

The correct response to this sort of feeling isn’t Kevin’s “a pox on both your houses” pleading for a centrist party, it’s just to vote for your favorite uninspiring Democratic presidential candidate. Posted by Matthew Yglesias at 03:37 PM| Comments (13) | TrackBack (1)

A couple commenters at Atrios' suggest supporting a conservative Democrat such as Joe Lieberman might be the answer to the dilemma of the Kevins of the party.

And, as I pointed out in an entry called "Diversity and the Democrats" at the watch, a certain amount of conflict is practically a given in the Democratic party.

But ultimately, to me, my views are in the center. However, I suspect Kevin would disagree because he knows I favor full employment and affirmative action. So, the questions become: Whose center should prevail? If we can't agree on what positions on the issues are central, can anyone's?

9:54 PM