Thursday, November 6, 2008

Two Misconceptions

1) The "Center-left" "center-right" kerfuffle: many commentators are taking to task the assumption that the United States is a "Center-right" Country. My question: how do we judge "center right" versus "center left"?

If you go by international opinion, we are clearly far to the left fringe in terms of democracy, civil rights, and freedom; economically we're somewhat to the right but not very far. But I don't think the pundits are comparing us to countries like China, Indonesia, Iran, or Afghanistan (just to name a few).

In terms of comparing us to "The West" or the other first-world countries, I think it would be accurate to say we're "Center right." After all, Barack Obama is considering a National Health Care plan, and will meet into a lot of opposition; but even his plan does not go as far as England's, France's, or Canada's (unless I'm misunderstanding his plans and theirs, which is possible). Then again, one question that comes up is how much does this "left-right" polarization actually mean when you leave the conventional two-party system and compare different world multiparty governments?

Why the pundits are wrong: when I heard CNN consultants and other talking heads defend this claim, they said that yes, the election did lean to the left, but Barack Obama and many of the Democrats ran a fairly centrist ticket. One commentator (and her sentiments were echoed) said that the Dems couldn't win without endorsing "certain right-wing philosophies: anti-abortion, pro-gun" etc.; basically, the social conservative litmus tests. This is a bad argument, because firstly, it ignores the more important issues of economic and foreign policies in favor of the old "culture war" model (why did the Democrats and Obama win? because they abandoned the "culture war" model).

2) McCain's Campaign Is No Worse Than Any Other Republican Campaign. Perhaps. Perhaps it's true that McCain is no less or more toxic than Bush in 2000, or Reagan in 1980. That is not the point. The point is is that this time, we've decided that it's not acceptable. The point is not that McCain's campaign's race baiting and McCarthy-era rhetoric is unprecedented, or that it conforms to the previous norm. The point is that we've decided to change the norm. We just won't put up with it any more. A politician who goes down that road will be punished. If we reward the politicians who play cleaner, and knock the politicians who go on the offensive, we'll get a better class of politicians. After all, the entire meme of "Change" is precisely that the old norms no longer apply. We are not content to have our politicians match up to the politicians of 2002, or 2000. We're out to change politics.

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