(Political) Myths Doesn’t Equal Unreal

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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9 Responses

  1. I tend to think of ‘principled Centrism’ which is a very rare thing (i.e. someone whose political leanings truly fall in the Center) and the ‘compromise Center’ which are the Snowes, the Spectres, etc who leverage their position to get more power than they deserve. Those guys make me barf.Report

  2. Roberto says:

    “I don’t really like Lind’s use of the term “white” in “white working class”, I would prefer simply “working class” across ethnic-racial distinctions, but I think his point otherwise stands.”

    Apropos of my comment to your earlier post, I’m not convinced Lind’s point stands without the word “white” because I think that he is speaking in more or less explicitly racial terms. The “resentments” he refers to aren’t so much the utter hosing of the working class at the hands of neo-liberal economic policies as resentments at the perceived preferential treatment of the “others.” His books — forgive me for repeating myself — trace a downward trajectory from Anglo-America to multi-cultural America.

    For me, the question is: can the “radical center” be thought of otherwise? I suspect the answer is “no.” I’ve been on Reconstruction/Gilded Age reading kick lately and I’m struck at how exclusive what could be called the “radical center” has been in American history. Its vision of what it meant to be a true American was always limited to — let’s be honest here — white Americans. I think that part of the reason is that the “radical center” saw itself as besieged by forces beyond its control which, in turn, strengthened a sense of group identity and solidarity. (The sound you hear is my back snapping in two as I bend over backwards to be fair.)Report

    • Chris Dierkes in reply to Roberto says:

      @Roberto, I know we keep going back and forth on this one, but I think Lind is partially correct (though overblown) in the idea that there is a big difference between multi-racial reality and multiculturalism. The latter is a strategy as to how to deal with the reality of the former. The first is factual.

      The question then is: how to deal with it. And in Lind’s mind, the early Civil Rights movement is a better marker for the later 70s/post 70s multiculturalism model, which has (in his mind) tended to isolate and segregate.

      As I said I think he’s overestimating the degree to which multiculturalism is causal (instead of admitting challenges and trying to live with them), but as a political project I agree with him that it’s day has come and gone. Particularly given what is occurring in Arizona. I think the multicultural thing has isolated Hispanics (a possibly questionable category to begin with I would say) and then left the Democrats gun shy to respond to the rather abysmal law. Beyond perfunctory calls as wrong, etc. The Dems look like they want to pass immigration reform so they get another “group” into their coalition of interest groups. Instead of articulating a nation-wide vision and being the political party that will seek to bring that vision to reality.Report

  3. Bob Cheeks says:

    “Centrism then being the ideology of people like Lieberman, Graham, Nelson, Snowe, and Collins.”

    This is the political ‘centre?” I thought them all radical statists, commie-dems!Report

    • JosephFM in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      @Bob Cheeks,

      …there is only one Democrat on that list, Bob, and one increasingly-right-wing former Democrat.Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to JosephFM says:

        @JosephFM, I don’t think you’ll find any comment of mine indicating that neocon/GOPers can’t be “radical statists/commie dems.”
        Though in their case, “radical statist” would be the preferred term. However, “commie-dems” covers a great many statist behaviors and inclinations.Report

  4. Kyle says:

    This deserves more space than my comment is giving it but if there’s a defense of Broderist Centrism, I think I’ve found it in the goals of prime importance in our various ideological camps. I don’t think Jamelle is quite right that it’s an ideology of the status quo. You don’t become a pundit, a journalist, or a politician because you like things the way they are. I don’t see nor do I think there are that many cheerleaders for the status quo, even if the result of centrist politicians is to moderate or limit reforms.

    However if we contrast centrism with populism, progressivism and conservatism, I think we see four distinct ideas of what matters in politics. For the progressive a reordering of society along more equitable lines. The prevailing ethos isn’t sentimental at all, it’s forward-looking and creative focused on designing a good society. The conservative is romantic and sentimental, intent upon preserving the good society from dangerous innovations. A preference for authority, tradition, and the preservation of socially powerful institutions.

    Then there is populism, which combines the two through a shared exercise of state power, as an expression of collective power. The power to reinforce social norms and traditional social institutions while remaking economic institutions to be more equitable.

    Mushy centrism is different. The prize to be achieved here is not the achievement of an ideally ordered society but the maintenance of society itself.

    Mushy centrism is an ideology of stability not the status quo. While the other three broad disciplines argue over the course heading, it is the mushy center that aims to keep us from capsizing, from achieving the ideal society at the notable expense of society itself.

    At their worst they look like appeasers, men and women without backbone or principle. At their best they look like keepers of the peace, voices of wisdom and vision. Something for everybody centrism isn’t without its faults and goes without intellectual criticism far too long, but there’s something to be said for the ideological/political tradition that prizes stability over a take-no-prisoners-my-way-or-the-highway approach to public engagement and policy.Report

  5. Michael Drew says:

    I made this comment (in part) at the Attackerman cross-posting of Jamelle’s piece.

    I believe [previous commenter] redball is correct that Jamelle is mistaken that radical centrism is an irredeemably incoherent term. I believe he may be mistaking ‘ideological extremism’ for radicalism. But I’d actually go further than redball, as (s)he seems to suggest it can be made sense of only in terms of being comfortable with radical means to get to centrist (i.e. still not radical) ends. In other words that if you are centrist, you cannot be fundamentally radical. I actually think it is quite possible to engage in radical critiques of society or politics that nevertheless would be located more-or-less in the center of a left-right political continuum. You could support radical policies that are nonetheless centrist (in terms of solid political philosophy, not constantly shifting political opinion in the government/media world) and not extreme in terms of ideological content. This would be an actual centrist radicalism (which by Jamelle’s logic would be equally incoherent) that wasn’t just support for any and all craven efforts to get to the “center” of the prevailing political discussion (which if I understand correctly is what redball is getting at), but rather had actual radical ends. An example of this would be having a radical view about eliminating deficits, but having no preference about whether that is done by spending cuts or tax increases.