Monday, January 24, 2011

Robert Kuttner on Mr. Obama's Centrism: Get Ready for "Triangulation II"

Robert Kuttner gets the centrist game exactly correct: as the political trend has moved relentlessly right for almost half a century now, the center moves right as well.  And so when people talk about being centrists (because it's always far more comfortable and rewarding to go along with the prevailing trend of power and to please and be rewarded by the powerful), what they're actually talking about is letting those on the right control.  While marginalizing the left.

Here's Kuttner's take on Mr. Obama's centrism, which we'll see on full display in his State of the Union address:

If you liked Bill Clinton as Triangulator, you will love the era of Triangulation II. The danger, of course, is that the man at the apex of the triangle fares better than his party.

He is now Mr. Reasonable Centrist -- except that in substance there is no reasonable center to be had.

A well funded and tightly organized right wing has been pulling American politics to the right for three decades now. And with a few instructive exceptions, Democrats who respond by calling for a new centrism are just acting as the right's enablers.

What exactly is the beneficial substance of this centrism? Just how far right do we have to go for Republicans to cut any kind of deal? Isn't the mirage of a Third Way a series of moving targets -- where every compromise begets a further compromise?

"Well funded" is the operative phrase in Kuttner's analysis: on the almost total exclusion of any viewpoints of the political left from American media now, due to the power exercised by the corporate owners of all media outlets, see Robert Parry at Alternet today, commenting on what happened to Keith Olbermann.  As Kuttner notes, the skewing of our media to the right and the control of the media by corporate interest groups give the political right "enormous capabilities to control the national debate."  Using media spokespersons as mouthpieces, the political right creates diversionary crises--death panels one week, the ground-zero mosque the next--that leave liberals scrambling to respond.  Diversionary crises that distract us from the real business of the corporate managers of America, which is continuing to enrich themselves and the tiny circle of Americans that own the vast majority of the country's resources, at the expense of middle- and working-class people.

When the response of liberals to these manufactured crises is timid and inconsistent--as it often is--the media then use the manufactured controversy to heap scorn on the political left, marginalizing it further.  And reinforcing the power of the right to control the conversation--moving the "reasonable" and "moderate" center even more to the right.

Parry rightly notes that this trend is not going to get better anytime soon.  The ultimate game plan is to consolidate the control of the corporate sector over the American political process.  It will not stop until that control is complete, or until someone, somewhere begins to call the bluff of those playing the centrist game.

But how to do that, when progressive voices are almost totally excluded from the conversation of the center?  And when the faith communities of the nation, which used to take seriously their obligation to speak truth to power and defend the least among us, actively collude with the dismantling of social networks designed to assist the poor, while screaming (along with those on the political right calling for the dismantling of these networks) that the only issue in which the vulnerable deserve attention is abortion?

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