Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stuck in the middle with Milt

Leatrice Joy, Walter Long, and William Boyd in Paul Sloane's Eve's Leaves (1926).
World-famous Young-Hegelian dialectician David F. Brooks has some great news ("The Future of the American Center")—you know that election they just had this month? The center won!

What’s about to happen in Washington may be a little like the end of the Cold War — bipolarity gives way to multipolarity. A system dominated by two party-line powers gives way to a system with a lot of different power centers. Instead of just R’s and D’s, there will be a Trump-dominated populist nationalism, a more libertarian Freedom Caucus, a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren progressive caucus, a Chuck Schumer/Nancy Pelosi Democratic old guard.
The most important caucus formation will be in the ideological center. There’s a lot of room between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.
I think it may resemble the end of the Cold War more in the way the vultures of privatization circle in to gather up the spoils of victory, led by the president-elect, to make sure there's no rent money left lying around on the battlefield, but maybe that's just me.

Then again, former conservative vulture Dr. Bill Kristol seems to have moved in on the carcass of the No Labels movement, in partnership with former liberal vulture (and No Labels co-founder) Dr. Bill Galston, who is possibly Dr. Kristol's only rival for the title of America's Wrongest Columnist, I dare you to click that link if you don't believe me. Dr. Bill and Dr. Bill have issued a manifesto

No Labels Values: A New Center in American Politics

...Our form of government, in short, is fundamentally sound. Not so our parties and our politics. It is in this spirit that we make the case for a New Center, one that does not split the difference between Left and Right but offers a principled alternative to both. Its core tenets—Opportunity, Security, Accountability, and Ingenuity—can respond to the challenges of the present and chart a path to the future.
—laying out how they plan to run the government without support from the president or the congressional leadership of either party, and David Brooks couldn't be more excited about the prospect. And who can blame him? I too have been distressed by our conventional politicians' failure to support Ingenuity.

As exemplified by Kristol's and Galston's proposals for the principled but non–difference-splitting alternative to Left and Right by bringing together the innovative, cutting-edge ideas of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan:
In the depths of the Great Depression, FDR called for “bold, persistent experimentation.” Ronald Reagan, who voted for FDR four times, emphatically agreed. The American ingenuity that has produced a stream of world-changing inventions can also reshape the way we govern ourselves. If our budget process no longer works the way it was intended, we can fix it. If our political parties have forgotten how to cooperate and even how to govern, we can do something about that too.
I guess that's the type of ingenuity you'd expect from the people who labeled themselves "No Labels"! Though there was a problem with that, as Brooks himself has pointed out:

The most active centrist organization, No Labels, began six years ago in opposition to polarized, cutthroat politics. The problem with the group back then was that there was no future to a political movement whose first name is “No.” You have to be for something.
I don't know why that's not the problem now, since it still has the same name.

But under the leadership of its undeterrable co-founder, Nancy Jacobson, No Labels has evolved. It created a package of reform ideas to make Congress and the executive branch work together. It created an active congressional caucus, called the Problem Solvers Caucus, which now has 80 members, divided roughly evenly between both parties.
In fact they've created that Problem Solvers Caucus several times, in January 2013 (when there were 25 members planning to grow to 100 by the end of the year), July through September 2014 (when they claimed a membership of 90), and March 2015 (when they hoped to convene "dozens"). They are particularly good at creating Problem Solvers Cauci, having accumulated so much experience at it. Though the number of problems they have solved through their congressional activity in the past four years would seem to be a fairly small number.

It’s an uphill climb, but this is a fertile moment. The Trump/Sanders era is going to create new opposition blocs, filled with people who never thought they would be working together.
Or separately, as is the usual habit of opposition blocs. Brooks is so excited he's ready to drop that White Working Class on which he lavished so much compassion over the past year:

Moreover, the future of this country is not going to be found in protecting jobs that are long gone or in catering to the fears of aging whites. 
And he's got a pretty ingenious idea of his own, for not splitting the difference between those equal and opposite No Labels idols, FDR and the Divine Ronald:

There is a raging need for a movement that embraces economic dynamism, global engagement and social support — that is part Milton Friedman on economic policy, Ronald Reagan on foreign policy and Franklin Roosevelt on welfare policy.
Can't decide whether to have a New Deal or take down the ever-threatening Soviet Union (all the more urgent now that it doesn't exist and Russia's government is to the right of Generalísimo Franco, who is also still dead)? Unsplit the difference with a dash of leave-it-to-the-market Uncle Miltie Friedman to make sure you can't pay for either one! I'm sure a centrist approach like that will appeal greatly to all those centrists like Dr. Kristol. Thesis-antithesis-BANG, beyotches!

Boyd with Elinor Fair in Cecil B. DeMille's The Volga Boatman (1926).

In other local news, the Overton Window, reported missing some months ago, is said to have been sighted by beachcombers in Bermuda. Today's Brooks is bad enough that our friend the New York Crank, who normally scorns such low-hanging fruit, feels compelled to weigh in. As for Drifty,
even I, America's Leading Brooksologist, never imagined that David Fucking Brooks could manage without oxygen tanks and Sherpa guides to climb as far up his own ass as he climbed today.
And reminds us that one of America's most popular politicians, a tireless advocate of bipartisan technocratic solutions to our problems (in contrast to Dr. Kristol's concept of centrism as "whatever was conservative in A.D. 2000"), has actually been president for the last eight years, opposed by David Brooks at every turn.

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