The dangerous center

It's a favorite refrain of the mainstream media to extol “centrism” and curse “extremism.” If you're looking at a large enough spectrum — say, with Stalinism, eugenics, slavery, and anarchy as the “extremes” — I agree, but within the confines of American politics, where the extremes are Jim DeMint and Bernie Sanders, this is silliness.

Jon Stewart engaged in this “centrism” canard briefly, and these days, it's the “No Labels” clique of failed Republican politicians and principle-free Democrats waving this flag.

But recently Christopher Hitchens got on this anti-extreme tirade, going after the Tea Parties and those journalists and politicians who emboldened them. Ross Douthat at the New York Times has the correct response to those who worry about the influence of the fringes:

Hitchens is absolutely right that paranoia can lead to disastrous follies, and crackpottery to violence. But do you know what else has often led to folly, disaster, violence and human misery? The “moderation” and “centrism” of the Western governing class. It wasn’t Glenn Beck who mired the United States in two neverending overseas occupations, where “gun brandishing” is the least ofthe everyday horrors that flow from our policy failures. It wasn’t the Tea Party that decided to create two new health care entitlements (Medicare Part D and Obamacare) just as America was about to go over a fiscal waterfall. It wasn’t kooks and reactionaries who got the European Union into its current mess. It wasn’t the radicals of the left and right who risked the global economy on a series of disastrous real estate bets, or locked our government into a permanently symbiotic relationship with the banking and financial sectors, or created a vast labyrinth of unaccountable bureaucracies in the hopeless quest for perfect security from terror attacks.

I would add another charge to this indictment. The “center” gives us most of the tawdry revolving-door corruption that makes lawmaking such an inside job in this town. Lisa Murkowski and Bob Bennett — the Tea Party's top targets this past year — thrive on the revolving door and patronage. John Breaux embodies the revolving door.

Also, on the “paranoid style of center-Left politics” please check this great history by Jesse Walker at Reason.

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