Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Rump Left: Proudly Half-Assed

[Cross-posted on AmbivaBlog]

The Radical Centrist muses over why the Left is so much more intolerant of centrists than the Right, as he welcomes a new member of that beleaguered species, the center-left, to the blogosphere -- a group blog with the appropriately awkward name of Donklephant. (By the way, Donklephant has the best post I've seen on the murder of journalist Steven Vincent in Basra.) Quoting Michael J. Totten's report on the Left blogosphere's savaging of Donklephant, The Radical Centrist uses a pungent metaphor:

We certainly do need to see some former and current Democrats openly speaking as centrist, in the same way we need to hear from the moderate Muslims. The extremists are getting way too much air time. . . .

That the Left seems the more intolerant of centrist[s] is because at the moment, the Left is intolerant of everyone. They have become dangerously paranoid and it shows. The Right has been abusing its part of the center for decades, so the level of rancor has mellowed a bit. The conservatives also have been winning lately, with the help of centrists, so things are a bit easier on that flank. I can personally attest . . . that conservatives who are very supporting of former liberals becoming centrist, have a very different response to centrist leanings within the Republican ranks. All in all, though, we've been trading barbs for all my adult life and have evolved a more comfortable relationship.

I've been waiting for the sensible Democrats to show up and be counted. . . . but the more vocal Democrats these days are unable to see any nuance in their opponents . . .
The unbalanced Republicanism of our government right now may be due to the Left's intransigence, bordering on irrelevance. A one-legged person may be lame, but can at least get around with a crutch. A leg that hops off by itself may have a leg to stand on, but what does it stand for?

(Hat tip: CommonSenseDesk.)

UPDATE: David Schraub of The Debate Link, a student at Carleton College in Northfield, MN (he calls it the "best college you've never heard of," but I've heard of it; my cousin went there in the '60s, and loved it), gently takes issue:
I think what is obviously true is that the left is more tolerant of rightwingers turned centrist (for example, Andrew Sullivan and John Cole) than they are of liberals who appear to be drifting off to the center (for example, the DLC). For example, I've seen The Daily Kos link approvingly to John Cole on several occasions, while bashing the DLC on, well, more than several occasions (despite the fact that the DLC is probably more liberal than Mr. Cole). The reverse is also true--Republican partisans are far more kind [to] supposed moderate Democrats than they are to moderate Republicans. This makes perfect sense, after all: we like people who seem to be moving in our direction, and are upset with those who appear to be moving away from us. But I don't see any partisan slant to the phenomen[on].
Having said that, he goes on to say he thinks more Democrats than Republicans are tolerant of centrists:
[W]hile I've seen bona fide liberals praising Bush (for specific policies, of course) on several occasions, I have yet to see any comparable praise from a mainline Republican commentator of a mainline Democrat. The moderate wing of the Democratic party is far more powerful than [its] equivalent within the Republicans (DLC stomps Rockefeller Republicans). How else do you explain pro-life Harry Reid (and his predecessor for that matter, Tom Daschle)? Neither of them are all that liberal, objectively. Nancy Pelosi certainly is, but Steny Hoyer isn't. What you have for Democrats seems to be a fair mix between the left and center of the party. The big Republicans in congress, by contrast, are Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Rick Santorum, Jon Kyl, and Bill Frist--all toward the right edge of the party . . . Moderate Republicans never even see the light of leadership day.
A post well worth reading.


At 12:03 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

Well, I'm a far-leftist, and this is what I think about that:

The atmosphere in politics right now is toxic. The prevailing attitude is, "You are either philosophically identical to me, or you are my enemy and must be destroyed." From my point of view, this atmosphere starts with those on the right, but I can admit that I may have a little bias in this area. I'll certainly not disrespect anyone for contending that the left polarizes as well. But I will point out as a pre-defense, much has been written about our current President's black-and-white world view, and I think this goes a long way towards establishing the tone.

I also call myself a moderate. Why? My values are still very leftist, but I believe that I am willing to talk with friends on the right to try to figure out what we have in common, and what our best option is, together. Through discussion, we usually find that though our values are the things that divide us into two camps, we're more similar than we would have thought at first. (Or maybe it was the process of talking things out that helped us change our views.)

My least favorite thing about the left in this country is very similar to your criticism about disdaining the center: Republicans are able to form coalitions around their most important goals, and work to get those done. But it seems like most leftists will not accept you unless you are pro-choice AND pro-labor AND anti-war AND anti-sprawl AND anti-big-oil AND anti-Halliburton AND pro-minimum-wage-increase AND ... The list goes on and on. In this sense, we are more black-and-white than GW Bush, which is saying a lot. And I think that attitude is poisonous.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Sam Nicolas said...

Interesting post. Rush Limbaugh yesterday attacked Republican Moderates calling them a threat to the Republican party. He said, "The Republicans can squander their lead if they turn it over to moderates. That's the lesson of this election yesterday" [referring to the Ohio second congressional seat special election, won by Jean Schmidt, described by some as a moderate Republican.]

I posted the relevant portion of the transcript of Rush's show in today's Daily Belch.

Sam Nicolas

At 2:42 PM, Blogger gljunket said...

Easy for me to agree that the far-left is less tolerant than the far-right (Jerry notwithstanding), but no doubt that's clouded by decades of my bias. The value though, is the common sense, open-minded attitude, and promising Centrist coalition forming so quickly through this blog. Obviously it's meeting a real need.

At 1:27 AM, Blogger Clint Carrens said...

I agree that the left's intolerance far surpasses that of the right's. This is evident not so much by how they criticize centrist policies but by how they chastise any of their own who attempt to find common ground with centrists.

Take Hillary Clinton, for example. At the Democractic Leadership Council's annual convention, Clinton called for a truce between the Democratic party's warring liberal and centrist factions. Leftists lambasted Clinton, claiming she was selling out the party's liberal wing.

As long as liberals continue to consider their agenda as sacred and unbendable, their party of choice will continue to lose political power.

This is not to say that conservatives are a beacon of complete tolerance these days. Social conservatives, the emerging base of the Republican party, think they own the government's leadership, and any steps that leadership takes away from their agenda warrants mafioso-style responses calling to bring down these wayward officials. This type of attitude could push conservatives into the same waters liberals now occupy.


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