Saturday, November 22, 2008

The "Center-Right" Pushback on the Left

I'm getting a kick out of how much radical left bloggers are outraged at the notion of a "center-right" nation, a point of fact conservatives have been quick to offer upon the election of Barack Obama to the presidency on November 4th.

As Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council
summarized after the vote:

Look, America is a center-right nation. Barack Obama and the policies he reflects are not reflective of the nation. I think he offered, you know, what he called change, and Americans were ready for change. You know, Republicans have not governed well, and America was looking for a new path, and Barack Obama offered that. Now, his success is going to depend on whether or not he can govern as a moderate, as he campaigned, or whether he is going to be a liberal, as his record would indicate.
Perkins' point is objectively true.

The conditions in the United States at the founding of the country differed dramatically from the history of feudal development in the European continental democracies, where the original theories of socialism originated and where political systems prior to the Industrial Revolution evolved from the Middle Ages into highly-authoritarian, statist govermental institutions.

Perhaps the most important determinant of America's anti-socialist path was the nation's development in the absence of a feudal legacy. There was no aristocratic or monarchical authority in the American colonies in the 18th century. Gordon Wood, for example, in his book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, noted how the essential economic and political equality of the average American - from the city merchant to the frontier explorer - mitigated any nascent agitation emerging from some oppressed lumpenproletariat we might envision in a Charles Dickens novel. The American man saw unbounded opportunity, and the rugged individualist ethic trumped class-based indentifications, and thus worked against the support for a militant trade sector that might lead to a revolt against the capitalist classes. With abundant land and raw materials, the normal "crisis of capitalism" expected in the Marxist model could be delayed indefinitely.

So here we are today, and the left now sees American capitalism - and the GOP "oppressor" class - as repudiated by the election of a (surreptiously) far-left Democratic candidate. Prominent lefty bloggers hope to delegitimize any suggestion that the country's political culture is founded in a frontier heritage of inherently center-right invidualism, with its suspicion of concentrated, centralized governmental authority.

Dave Neiwert, for example, argues this today:

If anyone were betting on it, I would happily wager that the right-wing talking point that "this is still a center-right nation" was being ginned up and distributed to every conservative talking head on the planet within 24 hours of Barack Obama's election victory, if not before.

I mean, it's coming out of the mouths of
nearly every single right-wing pundit who's managed airtime since Nov. 5. It started the next day, and has only gained volume since.

And of course, it's
so risibly false that it really tells us much more about conservatives and their grip on reality than anything else....

Of course, this is just the latest wingnut meme. It tells us, though, that the Republicans' longtime operating motto - "If you can't beat 'em with brains, baffle 'em with bulls**t" - is very much still with us.
Wingnut, eh?

The fact is that anyone who disagrees with the hegemonic discourse of the left is a "wingut." The leftist don't argue logically or consider facts or history. They excoriate and intimidate those who would utter heresy against their postmodern talking points.

Is Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek (a prominently left-wing journalistic establishment) a "wingnut"?

Hardly.

Meacham recently
laid out a historically grounded case for an enduring American political culture of centrism, where he warned Barack Obama and the Democrats of over-interpreting the election as a "mandate" for radical change: "It’s Not Easy Bein’ Blue: America Remains a Center-Right Nation — A Fact Rhat a President Obama Would Forget at His Peril":

So are we a centrist country, or a right-of-center one? I think the latter, because the mean to which most Americans revert tends to be more conservative than liberal. According to the NEWSWEEK Poll, nearly twice as many people call themselves conservatives as liberals (40 percent to 20 percent), and Republicans have dominated presidential politics—in many ways the most personal, visceral vote we cast—for 40 years. Since 1968, Democrats have won only three of 10 general elections (1976, 1992 and 1996), and in those years they were led by Southern Baptist nominees who ran away from the liberal label. "Is this a center-right country? Yes, compared to Europe or Canada it's obviously much more conservative," says Adrian Wooldridge, coauthor of The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America and Washington bureau chief of the London-based Economist. "There's a much higher tolerance for inequality, much greater cultural conservatism, a higher incarceration rate, legalized handguns and greater distrust of the state."
Instead of calling people who make this argument "wingnuts," folks on the left would be taken more seriously if they made the case that the old consensus in favor of free markets and individualist groundings has been shattered.

It most likely has not, and the fact that Barack Obama has already
shifted to the right of the political spectrum, hoping to gain popular legitimacy beyond the Democratic Party's hard-left faithful, is a powerful illustration of America's rightward tug.

3 comments:

Francisco said...

I get a kick out of it too how people on places like the Daily Kos and Huffington Post are going beserk over his Cabinet picks. I don't who they wanted, but so far his choices have been fairly moderate.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Francisco.

Dana said...

Which campaign promise did Mr Obama hit the most in his campaign ads? Well, at least here in Pennsylvania, it was his tax cuts for the middle class promise. He kept telling us that his plans would provide larger tax cuts than would Senator McCain's, and, as of 4:33 PM EST, those promises are still on his campaign website, including his tax cut calculator, which just told me that I'd see a cut of $1,436 while, under Senator McCain's proposals, my tax cut would be only $100.

On taxes, he ran to the right of John McCain. Of course, we all knew that he was lying through his scummy teeth!