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.

Beltway ConfidentialUS

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott leaves the scene of an officer-involved shooting at Brannan Street and Jack London Alley in the South Park area on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chief Scott issues rare apology to man shot by SF police

Officer says he ‘did not intend for his firearm to go off’

Despite the pandemic, San Francisco has ended the fiscal year with a budget surplus. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Better than expected tax revenues leave city with $157.3M surplus for this year

As the fiscal year nears an end and Mayor London Breed prepares… Continue reading

Passengers board a BART train bound for the San Francisco Airport at Powell Street station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART bumps up service restoration to August 30, offers fare discounts

Rail agency breaks pandemic ridership records, prepares to welcome more passengers

Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa hold a photo of their brother Sean Monterrosa, who was killed by a Vallejo police officer early Tuesday morning, as they are comforted at a memorial rally at the 24th Street Mission BART plaza on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
State Department of Justice to investigate Sean Monterrosa shooting by Vallejo police

Attorney General Rob Bonta steps in after Solano County DA declines case

Gov. Gavin Newsom, show here speaking at the City College of San Francisco mass vaccination site in April, faces a recall election due to anger on the right over his handling of the pandemic, among other issues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Why Gavin Newsom’s popularity could work against him in the recall election

Top pollster: ‘We’re not seeing the Democrats engaged in this election. And that may be a problem…’

Most Read