Political extremists risk being ignored
Grand County, Colorado
You know you are in the middle when both far ends of the political spectrum are attacking you even before you take office. Barack Obama has not even taken the reins of power and the far right- and left-enders of the political spectrum are having a hard time coming to grips with the concept of governing from the center.
Far enders are whole loaf people. They are purists in their ideology and causes.
They want their one or two issues embraced 100 percent, regardless of the political, social, or economic collateral damage to their neighbors or to their country. It is also a matter of perspective.
To those on either extreme end of the ideological spectrum, anyone anywhere who leans even slightly to the center is viewed as an extremist who is either a socialist or a traitor to their cause. Compromise and trade-offs are no-no’s.
The political spectrum is also a moving target from year to year. What last year may have been considered left of center has shifted to the middle this year, as voters got frustrated with the wars, felt economic pain, and embraced the concept that global warming had manmade roots and manmade solutions. Social conservatism was barely on the radar.
The far right-enders seem out to smack down anything they see that even smells like government intruding into to their ideological notion of laissez-faire. It is difficult to find any economist on the left or the right who thinks that laissez-faire policies will pull us out of this mess, but right-enders continue to dream on.
After their historic defeat, the Republicans are a party in search of itself and they have indicated their direction should be toward the economic right end. The Republican National Committee (RNC) the other day proclaimed the party ought to return to the old conservative values of small government, free market system, and you know the rest. Americans are probably economic libertarians at heart, but when the chips are down, we look to the federales to come riding to the rescue. Woe unto a political party that fails to meet the demands of its constituency, as the Republicans found out this past fall.
The truth is that President-elect Obama has co-opted some conservative concepts, including tax cuts to business and the middle class, the need for accountability, and line item budget slashing. He has backed off his commitments to abandon tax cuts to the wealthy. He has made it clear that he will tolerate no earmarks, an item dear to the heart of John McCain.
The stumbling blocks will be the amount and scope of the money involved, the ratio between tax cuts and job creation projects, and whether, in this time of severe economic stress, concern about the national debt takes precedence over pocket book issues and ultimate recovery.
Republicans face danger if they drag out decisions too long by demanding interminable hearings, and if they try to trim the stimulus plans into a state of ineffectiveness. If Americans perceive the Republicans are obstructionists, they will take out their anger on the Republican Party just as they did in the FDR years, insuring the Democrats will be in power for the next 20 years.
Obama’s nomination of moderate pragmatists to his cabinet and staff set the left off to a high pitch. They expressed surprise and anger that Obama’s definition of change was not the same as theirs. They should revisit his campaign statements. Obama was never for gay marriage, but he does support enhanced civil rights and unions for gays. He was never a peacenik; he was in favor increased use of diplomacy, yet he considered military action a legitimate tool to be used. While his nomination of Interior of Sen. Ken Salazar got praise from some environmental groups and not from others, Obama’s nominations of those who are to carry out his environmental agenda are dedicated to that cause and the science involved. These positions are significant changes from Bush policies; they are just not the agendas some on the Left yearned for.
Given the overwhelming problems in the Middle East and the worst economy since the Great Depression, Obama needs support, not condemnation, from progressives. Partisan and ideological polarization can undermine the ability of Obama to realize his agenda as he tries to reach across the aisle. The result: The Left might end up with even less than they hoped for. Included in Obama’s stimulus proposal is money for education and health care. In a partisan dispute, they might not be included. It is important that the spirit of bipartisanship and pragmatism be maintained.
Left- and right-enders need to take heed that they could be viewed as anachronisms worthy of being ignored because this is the dawning of the age of the approximate middle.
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