Before the healthcare bill was passed, many pragmatist bloggers were writing quite often about opposition to the bill, that it was extreme, misinformed, misguided by radio talk show zealots, etc -- well, now the bill has passed, and the pragmatist bloggers, after an initial, bland response, which showed neither elation nor regret, are now becoming quiet. I haven't seen a good old conservative-bashing post in a while. The bill is passed, and for those who felt the Tea Party had too much influence on sausage making, well, the Democrats have the power -- they won, and they're going forward. So, now, what have the pragmatists to say? Our healthcare system has been altered and now we'll have to see what happens. We're assured that the alterations aren't drastic and are actually free market-friendly -- we'll see.
Now, the only thing left to do for the moderates is to find another way to marginalize the base and weaken the influence of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, etc. Radio talk show hosts on the right have been in part a big issue for the moderates. Most of the criticiism surrounds the commentators' hyperbole and over-the-top rhetoric. As an independent, I have no problem wth the talk show hosts -- I understand their role as they see it, and when I listen to them, I listen just as open-mindedly as when I listen to Jon Stewart or Bill Maher. The hyperbole and satire either hit home or they don't -- sometimes it becomes shrill and other times it's funny and biting. I must admit, I lean toward this type of off-the-wall back and forth moreso than the dry, bland pundit-speak -- if I want an in-depth analysis, I go to academics who have written such works regarding political matters or social concerns -- then I usually read both sides of an argument, or third or fourth views if they are available. But, for the wonderful rabble and satirical wit-matches I listen to the players with a flair for the dramatic and a good sense of humor. Palin isn't known for her humor, but the rest are good, American-style political entertainment wih a touch of gadfly mischief. I love all of it.
The moderates believe the talk-show hosts on the right are dangerous because many people who are not fully educated on the issues get their ideas from these spokespeople and don't have the ability to filter out the hyperbole. The moderates fear that ordinary people will take the over-the-top rants literally and that this will create public rage and fear which could lead to something destructive. I don't share their concern. This type of satircal, biting commentary is traditional in America.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said -
"What we need is a rebirth of satire, of dissent, of irreverence, of an uncompromising insistence that phoniness is phony and platitudes are platitudinous."
Yes, we do -- we need more not less. The problem with the moderates is they don't like what's being said, but the satire and rants from both sides keep any one phony actor from bloviating without a good laugh at their pomposity. When Lord Acton said -- "The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the party that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections." -- was there great concern that people would react to this "evil" by taking to the streets in arms against the new "tyranny"? Why do people understand the older hyperbole as containing grains of truth, yet gasp at the literal interpretation of a Beck or Limbaugh? But even today, some people laugh at Maher while wringing their hands over Coulter. It all seems hypocritical and melodramatic.
Independents who are truly non-partisan are likely to be turned off by the double standards. The constant attacks from the moderates toward the radio talk-show hosts must surely be seen as over-blown and shrill. I could take quotes from H.L. Mencken and make him look radical and hyperbolic, but to what purpose? The public knows how to filter, and the few who are so ignorant they will believe anything, well, what's to be done? The only way to avoid certain people misunderstanding media commentary is to give everyone a script which is dumbed down and perfectly clear. It's ridiculous to make so much fuss over radio talk-show hosts, or tv personalities. I trust the intelligence of the Amercan people and their ability to make their own judgements.
My main concern with the moderates' participation in recent political discourse is that it's been mainly critical of conservatives with very little criticism of progressivism in general or Obama in particular. I understand that the moderates want to separate themselves from social conservatives and the Tea Party movement, but what do they actually stand for and against? I'm not certain. I've read some moderate blogs which criticize the amount of spending, but very little criticism over what the spending is for -- it seems the moderates are saying several things -- Obama's a better choice for president than the option of McCain with Palin as VP, that the economy was in critical condition and something had to be done, and that the status quo in healthcare was unsustainable, so something had to change. The moderates appear to find little fault with Obama except his tendency to give too much control over to Pelosi and Reid, and the more far-left faction of the party, regardiing setting policies. The moderates invested in Obama as a protest against McCain/Palin, and they are riding this investment hoping that Obama moves to the center.
As an independent I see Obama as a progressive true believer who is politically manuevering for the institutionalization of progressive ideology. If you believe in a powerful government role in the economy and the free market, then you will find this reasonable, even though you might balk at extreme forms of government intervention. Someone who believes in limited government and the power of the free market will be appalled at what's happening. It appears moderates have adopted the modern idea that free markets have failed in many ways and are no longer sufficient in a complex, modern society, therefore government intervention is necessary -- we just need to guide this intervention wisely, they say, so that we don't kill the goose laying the golden eggs.
This is the tragic flaw in the moderate position -- the belief that statism can be practiced moderately. This flawed idea has led to the downfal of the Republican Party and the ascendance of the Democrat Party -- if statism is necessary, then Democrats do it better than Republicans, because there are still Republicans fighting against statism, whereas the Democrats are dedicated to the statist approach. The Republican conflict regarding statism sends a message that they aren't committed to limited government and a free market. This lack of any conviction to limited government and a free market by any, or not many, among the political class has opened the door for special interests and their lobbyists to take over government so that the best connections and alliances have won. The part of the public who have failed to lobby for their private interests, individual rights and hands off of businesses, are now finding themselves without representation in Wasington, D.C. The Republican Party has not defended the private sector against plunder and attacks from anti-free market forces.
So, now, we find ourselves with a battle between statists and anti-statists -- and in the coming elections the battle will be over the independent vote. This independent is voting for limited government and a free market -- the pragmatists have been misguided -- the idealists are taking a stand.