Radical Center Review
Michael Lind with a sharp piece in The Daily Beast reflecting on his 2001 book (co-authored with Ted Halstead) The Radical Center.
Radical center consists of more center-left economic proposals with center-right cultural policy.
For me, Lind’s central insight:
To make things even more complicated, as journalists such as John Judis pointed out back in the 1990s, America’s loose but real class system produces not one but two centers: the radical center, which is based in the white working class and lower middle class; and the “mushy middle” (or the “sensible center” or “moderate middle), which is based in the corporate world, the corporate media and in many think tanks in Washington. While the socially downscale radical center is center-left in economics and center-right in cultural matters (in favor of lowering the Medicare retirement age, against race-based affirmative action), the socially upscale mushy middle is center-right in economics and center-left in culture (in favor of cutting Social Security and Medicare and also for promoting ethnic diversity in an elite that is homogeneous in class and worldview).
The mushy middle represents the class interests of the college-educated professional/managerial overclass, a group that makes up at most 10 or 20 percent of the U.S. population. That 10 or 20 percent, however, accounts for nearly 100 percent of the personnel in corporate management, news media and the universities. As a result, the only “center” that is ever represented in mainstream political discourse is the mushy middle, whose spokesmen include David Gergen and David Broder. Deprived of credentialed advocates in positions of power and influence, radical centrist voters are forced to find their tribunes among anti-system politicians or journalists, like Ross Perot and Lou Dobbs, whose theatrical styles and appeals to (sometimes justified) resentments allow the establishment spokesmen of the mushy middle to dismiss them as primitive Neanderthals and pitchfork-wielding populists. (my emphasis)
Obama, while in some ways a little to the left of Clinton, is very much of the mushy middle (a mushy left middle as opposed to say the mushy right middle of an Olympia Snowe and/or Susan Collins or the mushy center middle of an Evan Bayh).
Lind mentions immigration, health care, progressive value added tax, and education policy. A policy not mentioned but that would help form a bridge to more libertarian voters is a drug de-criminalization policy. And a green policy (perhaps an industrial green policy) would likely reach a good portion of that educated managerial overclass.
While I thoroughly appreciate the notion of a new New Deal or new social contract for a 21st century economy, there are still questions about the overhang from the New Deal era entitlement system and how best to bring it to a sustainable effort–i.e. is the national consumption tax along with a reduced corporate tax rate sufficient to reduce the deficit and sustain a reasonable new Neal Deal safety net?
Now some might say The Tea Party would be a logical context for someone like me to move, I have some serious qualms.
As in this Tax Day Tea Party poll from Politico:
Palin, who topped the list with 15 percent, speaks for the 43 percent of those polled expressing the distinctly conservative view that government does too much, while also saying that it needs to promote traditional values.
Paul’s thinking is reflected by an almost identical 42 percent who said government does too much but should not try to promote any particular set of values — the hallmarks of libertarians. He came in second to Palin with 12 percent.
The first set (the Palinites) aren’t really Tea Partiers. They’re social conservatives who will either stay home or inevitably vote Republican and therefore vote for a party intent on securing corporate de-regulation. Notice that while Lind characterizes the social/cultural side of the Radical Center as center-right, it is not he says a White Protestant Christian right (i.e. Moral Majority social conservatism). Palin (to the degree she believes and/or says anything coherently) represents another thread in the cut taxes, bombs away, but never really cut spending side of GOP Bush II economic and unilateral militaristic orthodoxy.
With Paul–however much I appreciate the self-coherence and sincerity of his political philosophy–I would say you get some of the worst scenarios. While I’m not a fan of the Cheney-ite foreign policy of a Palin, the Ron Paul American Fortress foreign policy doesn’t seem like a winner either. That plus his radical (so-called) free market stance and a lack of even a liberaltarian social safety net is to me quite repulsive.
Leaving as Lind correctly points out neither of the two US parties (nor even the tea party) as representing the views of the Radical Center.