Article Of The Week
Thomas Frank, author of The Wrecking Crew, What's The Matter With Kansas, One Market Under God, and other books, also writes a weekly column at The Wall Street Journal, which would be akin to The Nation magazine asking Newt Gingrich to be a regular contributor.
In his column, "Obama Should Act Like He Won," of January 14, 2009, Frank demonstrated once again that he has figured it out- or, in the phrase, now trite, of Anita Hill's feminist supporters- "gets it." He writes
The reason centrism finds an enthusiastic audience in Washington, I think, is because it appeals naturally to the Beltway journalistic mindset, with its professional prohibition against coming down solidly on one side or the other of any question. Splitting the difference is a way of life in this cynical town.
The function of this "Beltway centrism" (a cousin of the politically correct "bipartisanship"), Frank noted, "has not been to wage high-minded war against 'both extremes' but to fight specifically against the economic and foreign policies of liberalism." Tongue pressed firmly against cheek, Frank cites as "centrism's achievements" NAFTA, repeal of the Glasss-Steagall Act, and the Iraq war resolution. Liberals have demonstrated dysfunctional flexibility while "conservatives pressed laissez-faire through good times and bad, soldiering on even in years when suggesting that America was a 'center-right nation' would have made one an instant laughingstock."
NAFTA, the Gramm-Bliley-Leach Act, and the acquiescence of the mainstream media in the run-up to Gulf War II are only a few of the examples in which the media has practiced a centrism intended to repudiate liberalism. Yet, much of the public, attention diverted by abortion and gay rights, clings to the myth of the "liberal media," oblivious to the conservative orthodoxy to which the media hews on the less bewitching issues of foreign policy and economics.
Writing six days before the new President's inauguration, Frank observed "there is no branch of American political expression more trite, more smug, more hollow than centrism." This would be two weeks before approval of the Democrats' stimulus bill in the House after elements which had apparently offended Republican lawmakers were eliminated. When the bill passed- with unanimous Republican opposition- Frank's uncomfortable conclusion that "centrism is a chump's game" was, at least for now, vindicated.
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