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Reading through some Amazon critiques of "What's the matter with Kansas?" by Thomas Frank, and having been apart of this blog for awhile now, I would like to have a chat between myself, a self styled centrist-pragmatist, and you progressives.  Ah yes, I am that middle of the road voter, that rare bird in the Amazon that no political adventurer on safari has quite been able to find.  I am sitting at Starbucks on my laptop, enjoying a corporate latte and chatting with folks back home on my Icontraption, wondering whether or not I'll fit in a trip to Wal-Mart to do some much needed holiday shopping for those special centrists in my life.  I keep up with the news, or at least, I'd like to think so.  I'm too busy reveling in telling everyone how busy I am, enjoying my service sector job while all that dirty manufacturing is being done by peasants I'll never have to lay eyes on.  I hear flippant, vague things about people with signs occupying places too numerous to mention, and clicking on Youtube videos that don't involve animals doing cute or strange things doesn't quite pique my interest enough to spend the thousands of calories it would take to press my finger against the left mouse key.  I'm imagining that one of you progressives is sitting right next to me on an oddly green colored couch to see if you can turn the dial on my centrism.  Maybe we could have a lively discussion and get to know one another?

You see, I love "reasoned debates" with "facts" and generalizations make me squirm.  I don't like extremes; they send chills down my spine.  I'm not interested in your talking points or your generalizations, or your war against whoever the great evil bad guy is today.  I would react incredulously if you badmouth corporations; clearly, critiquing them means you're broad brushing them (somehow), and that means you are just partisan, and in my clique, that's a big no-no.  I'm at peace with the fact that a little Indonesian girl was paid 10 cents an hour to lose her arm to make me my clothes, thank you, but at the same time I sometimes worry about the future of American manufacturing and why so many people cannot seem to integrate into a sector of the economy that is rapidly being outsourced to India.  To be honest, sometimes talking with you, I find you to be an elitist.  You think everyone is supposed to just live in a picket fenced liberal enclave with independent bookstores and art shows every summer.  You say when I vote Republican I vote against my own economic self interest, but you don't take the time to prove that, and even if you did, there are still other voices in this debate and I will not be satisfied until all of them are heard, lest I not feel centrist.  Yes, maybe that corporation does sometimes stiff its workers or fight unions, but unions aren't always right, but I'm sure there is something nice they did I can cite that will somehow cancel that out magically.  Besides, I can just assume that we have rule of law and if they really did anything all that illegal the authorities would pick up on it.  

You argue with the point that Republicans are the sworn enemy of non-rich people as the basis, as if I'm supposed to just accept 30 years of American history.  Sometimes I feel you are just sharpening your partisan dagger to go to war against ghosts from the 70's.  Oh, and by the way, when you say rich people, I always think of Warren Buffet or the Starbucks CEO, and never Rupert Murdoch and his international crime syndicate.  In my mind, Chase gives back to the community, and banks, in a broader sense, are key to business growth, even if I don't realize that a market with no accountability leads to a small enclave of people engineering its ups and downs for their own profit.

You see, I can't even fathom a political party would have people in it that made people of modest means their enemies.  The Republicans reach out to hard working Christians who live in areas with a standard of living made possible by the cheap goods of corporations (and the food stamps people use, which JP Morgan makes a hefty profit off of).  You're always dividing people into classes; it's like you won't accept that people just have different skills and should be rewarded while others should be just left to the winds of fate.  Oh, was that a "Save the Children" commercial?  I'll give some money right now with my Blackberry.  Those poor, starving, AIDS-stricken African I was saying, poor people are poor for a reason in this country, and we live in a post racial society, so maybe Black people are using race as a poker chip in this game you keep perpetuating?  

So, progressives, I just cannot quite get on your bandwagon, unless you poll me on specific issues and find I agree with you on like 9/10 of  them.  You wail on corporations without knowing why, and you're always out there with your "liberal causes."  You say people suffer under Republicans, and that the poorest states in the union are red, but I'm sure if I looked at cities run by Democrats I'd find the same sorry state of affairs.  Every time I find some little thing to contradict your larger issue, it just makes me feel that you're that much more partisan.   You say the people of Kansas don't know their own economic interests or are scared by "teh gayz," yet I read this article by this well dressed man that said the states unemployment rate is lower than average, and I would never take the fact that its lower in population to heart.  Perhaps Republican voters in that state are happy with economic affairs and that that party speaks to them?  Well Mr. Progressive, I must go now and get in my car and head home. You've made your points and I'll reflect on them and get back to my life.  I do so enjoy reflection.

(In case you're at all wondering, I have friends who sound like this and are self styled centrists or libertarians who don't get OWS or think that government loans warp the market.  When you make a single misstep in stating your case to them, they shrug you off.  I've been dying to figure a way to wrap our message in a passable way, that doesn't sound like it will just be government intervention that distorts markets and gets bad results, or senseless hatred towards people in power whose largesse we can summarily ignore.  As for myself, I'm the evil capitalist that sits at the lunch table with all the socialist kids.)  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Frankly...... (11+ / 0-)

    ...I pretty much stopped reading at the person you're describing (yes, I did skip to the end) not having a problem with child slave labor.

    I'm ok with turning off that kind of voters.  Fuck them.  They're actually evil.  If we have to placate that kind of people in order to win, then our society has already fallen.

  •  I understand (0+ / 0-)

    where you're coming from, but I don't think you made your point very efficiently, nor effectively.

    Moreover, I felt you were being disingenuous about folks voting against their own interest. I found the book Deer Hunting with Jesus addressed that issue more directly than Frank did.

  •  "generalizations make me squirm" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xxdr zombiexx, killjoy, bluesteel


    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:11:39 AM PST

  •  Who's the elitist? (13+ / 0-)

       I don't quite get the idea of progressives being elitist. When I was a kid back in the days of Nixon and Agnew we were supposed to be "Limousine Liberals" as a way of smearing us and dividing average working folks.

        I became a progressive populist (or the '70s term left-liberal) because I didn't see why our country should be pissing away our nation's resources and lives of people on trying to control the rest of the world. If independence and self-determination was right for our country then why not for other ones. Also of course I was concerned about being forced to fight in the wars in Southeast Asia. The draft had that way of focusing one's mind.  I was lucky; the U.S. got out of that war by 1973 (really 1975, but that is a digression) and I didn't turn 18 until 1976.  Growing up in those days made me skeptical of what our government "leaders" would tell us about the state of the world.

        On economics I became a progressive because I have experienced the downward mobility that is a part of modern American life (not all boomers are wealthy). A lot of that is because over time working folks have less power than in the past in relation to the owners of businesses. A lot of that is because of policy changes that have made it harder for workers to organize for better conditions (changes in labor laws, NLRB rules, etc) and the globalization of the economy where we are forced to compete with workers in countries where they are paid pennies and have no rights and there are no real safety or environmental regulations. You seem to have no problem with employers exploiting workers in China or Indonesia even though it contributes to job losses here and increases worldwide misery. Who is the elitist here?

        I believe that people who are more productive or talented should be able to make more money, but the modern economy is more like a lottery than a meritocracy. There has been the large increase in income inequality which is not mostly about brilliant people creating wealth through innovation and hard work but often by manipulating the rules of the game. I could go into the changes in the tax system that have benefited the big boys more than regular folks, but it is late and I am tired. I am a tax geek by trade (since 1991), so I could go on a long rant but I'll spare you now. If you want more detail maybe I can revisit it tomorrow morning.

         For most of my adult life I have not been able to get any affordable or comprehensive health insurance; I am too old for this shit but we live in a less civilized country than most developed countries. That is another reason I am a progressive populist and not a centrist: I believe access to healthcare should be a right and not a privilege. We have the worst health non-system of any developed country. It all comes down to the stranglehold that entrenched economic interests have over our political system. The "centrist" solution was to buy off the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and not even allow discussion of Medicare for All (Canadian-style single payer insurance with multiple private and public healthcare providers.) I stopped being an active Obama supporter when he screwed us on that one. (Don't freak out--I live in CA not a swing state and my small donations don't mean much compared to the big bucks from his Wall Street bundlers.)

         The essence of progressivism is not elitism but analyzing who is getting screwed and who is doing the screwing. It is about trying to work for the common good and creating a society that treats people with respect and dignity. There is room for common ground between us. The key issue is not what kind of coffee you drink or whether you prefer beef or tofu (I like both) but whether you are for the average people or the rich. Don't be fooled by the big boys trying to divide us based on cultural differences; we don't all have to be exactly the same. OK now I am really tired so that's all for tonight.

                Peace, Justice and Democracy,

                           Zack from the SFV


    Diehard Swingnut, disgruntled Democrat, age 53, new CA-30

    by Zack from the SFV on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:43:27 AM PST

    •  Meritocracy is gone. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MKSinSA, Zack from the SFV

      That is it in a nutshell.  

      When I, as a liberal, talk about levleling the playing field again, that is what I mean.  It is manifested in so many ways.....CEOs and golden parachutes as their companies go bankrupt, frontrunning the stock market, insider trading not punished, laws only for the non-uber-wealthy, with one or two wealthy people taken down every decade for looks, "Who you know, not what you know" and "money buys justice" has been taken to new heights in this country.

      Call it cronycapitalism, or the good ol' boy network, or outright bribery, but it's got to stop.

  •  You are not a "centrist" (9+ / 0-)

    First, a primer on the reality of today's political landscape.  There is no extreme left to speak of that hasn't been completely marginalized by the Democratic party at least since the mid-1990s, when the DLC and its corporatist agenda became the driver in the Democratic party.  There are now two right wing parties:  a slightly right of center one, and an extreme, over-the-cliff radical, batshit crazy right wing party. And we have a Democratic president who is governing (domestically at least) slightly to the right of Richard Nixon.

    What are today portrayed as "extreme" left positions were, 40 years ago, mainstream positions held by the vast majority of voters of both parties.  Belief in the importance of  a social safety net, of the need to protect the environment, believing in the necessity of a robust regulatory structure to oversee banking and securities trading, belief in the right of workers to collectively bargain, in the importance of the public education system, and on and on.  We're at a point that we look back on Eisenhower, and he looks, from our 2011 vantage point, more like a Democrat than a Republican!

    Show me where a single elected Democrat is pursuing anything that can remotely be considered "extreme" except in the characterizations put forth by Fox, et al.?

    Following the '94 midterm elections, the DLC managed to convince Democrats that in order to win elections in the future, they needed to move to the right (supposedly towards the center).  And each time the Democrats moved a little to the right, the GOP moved that much further to the far right.  And yet the GOP still characterizes Democrats as being extreme leftists.  President Obama resurrects what amounts to a rework of a Republican health care reform bill from the '90s and the GOP calls him a Socialist.

    Voters like you, who resolutely bury your heads in the sand and refuse to make an honest assessment of how extreme the GOP has become, during a period in which Democrats, if anything, moved into territory once occupied by moderate Republicans, exacerbate the problem.  You assume that some position that sits roughly between the two parties is inherently virtuously moderate.  But in this case, when the political discourse begins slightly to the right of center and ends somewhere over the horizon to the right, to suggest that a position roughly in between those two points is "centrist," or that it somehow represents a point of moderation between two "extremes," is simply absurd, and reflects a certain illiteracy with respect to the longer view of American political discourse.

  •  THere is no such thing as a political center (6+ / 0-)

    There are popular ideas and unpopular ideas and when you realize that they do NOT exist on a mythical numberline (because it IS mythical) then the concept of a center - which people like to consider a "bullseye", I guess - vanished. Political thought exists as more of a tag cloud.

    What I find with all the people preoccupied with "centrism" is a praise of MEDIOCRITY.

    You see, I love "reasoned debates" with "facts" and generalizations make me squirm.  I don't like extremes; they send chills down my spine.
    Facts are fun things. How many times have we had awesomely argued and factually tied-down discussions at DKos only to find the arrangement of facts was just wrong. Anthony Wiener, for example. All the breathless "He didn't do anything and here's why" post. All wrong. Factually argued,. but WRONG. Happens all the time.

    Whenever I hear "centrism" I think of a short-haired man in a pink buttondown oxford shirt and freshly polished shoes in line at Starbucks getting a decaf latté with skim milk and fake sugar. And a little ice because its so hot.

    I think of penny loafers.

    I think Toyota Camrys and Ford Tauruses.

    I think of TV.

    UGH....sends chills down my spine.

    If we stick with people's love of the mythical number line, there is still no center to actually be had - you get leftwards ideas and rightward ideas.

    Centrism is praise of mediocrity, praise of middle middle of the road, sacrificing excellence for "avoiding any extremes" that cause "chills".

    The only thing really existing in the middle of the road is white lines, bad drivers and dead possums.

    Thank god it doesn't really exist.

    •  And here's where you can just step off (3+ / 0-)
      So, progressives, I just cannot quite get on your bandwagon, unless you poll me on specific issues and find I agree with you on like 9/10 of  them.  You wail on corporations without knowing why, and you're always out there with your "liberal causes."  
      Wimpy Loser.
      •  Hey Zombie, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nowhere Man

        You didn't quite make it to the end of the diary did you?  While it's not quite snark (although it had a snarky quality) it was somewhat clear, in my mind, that the diarist wasn't stating his/her real opinion and the paranthetical last paragraph clearly states just that.

        The "wimpy loser" comment was a bit overboard and should perhaps be retracted.  

        Ironically enough, on the substance of the diary, I resemble the person that is being satired.  I'm the "conservative" registered Republican that is either moving leftward in my thinking or I am merely standing still in my thinking and the country is lurching rightward.  It's all relative I guess but the country is dysfunctional and one of the limited ways to fix it is to overcome our own personal failings and learn to communicate better.

        Be well.

        We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

        by theotherside on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 04:39:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Read your reply. (3+ / 0-)

          Looked over other comments.

          I appear to not be the only one who "missed the snarky quality"

          I read and re-read - didn't see any snarky quality to it but I DID find and respond to what I consider to be the usual middle of the road fetish I find in a lot of people here.

          No apologies, no retractions. It's praise of mediocrity.

          I cannot accept such drivel.

          •  And where is the diarist? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Zack from the SFV

            OK, I know this was posted at 1:22 AM my time. But this looks like a diary-and-run to me. Say some inflammatory shit, maybe it's snark, maybe not... then disappear and let us argue about it. I'm hoping the diarist might make an appearance and explain.

            I'm with you, dr zombie.

            Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from men who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Robert M. LaFollette

            by stcroix cheesehead on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:55:52 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It is complete snark (0+ / 0-)

              Utterly.  I thought that was clear :P

              •  I wanted to see the (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Nowhere Man

                progressive reaction to much of the mindset I am privy to on a daily basis.  I have a lot of self styled "moderate" or "centrist" friends who don't really get what that means and have a values system much like the one I'm caricaturing.  If you want to make progressive values translate to people outside your bubble, I was trying to see if anyone could do that.  I mostly get put downs.

                I don't agree with this caricature, but at the same time, if you don't know how to argue with people like this, it is hard to get them on your side.

              •  Oh no. I'm sorry! (3+ / 0-)

                I totally lit into you thinking this was real. I didn't read the last paragraph. You should make the snark more clear, some of us read these things before we've had our morning coffee.

                And honestly, NOTHING is obviously snark anymore. Not when corporate media gives republican nutbags all the air time they want to spout crazier things than any of us could possibly dream up.

              •  Then I would recommend the "snark" tag. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Zack from the SFV

                Just sayin, of course, YMMV.

                I did read the last paragraph, and it was still not clear it was snark.

                Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from men who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Robert M. LaFollette

                by stcroix cheesehead on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:42:26 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  I was caricaturing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nowhere Man

          many of my self styled centrist friends and giving many of the arguments that they give.

          They love cheap goods and I'm supposed to love them too without thinking of the human suffering that went into making them.  On the one hand, they tell me I should enjoy the goods and human suffering is a part of life.  On my hand, I say if your kid lost his arm in a machine, you most likely wouldn't be saying it.  

          We talk about thinks like SB5 in Ohio, and they're programmed to think both sides just give talking points, without realizing that one side is filled with falsehood after falsehood.  

          My point is there are plenty of people like theotherside who have heard our points and haven't necessarily flocked to our side of the fence.  You have to deal with people as they are, not as you would want them to be.

      •  But he hates generalizations (0+ / 0-)

        Because when he uses them, people call him a hypocrite. Go figure.

  •  And if 'facts' actually mattered in politics (6+ / 0-)

    we would not recognize this country.

    And marijuana would have been relegalized in the 1960s.

    Facts don't mean anything in politics: money and power does.

    Lies mean more than facts in politics.

  •  Here's the link to "The People's View" a box (0+ / 0-)

    more conducive to your sort of thinking:

    "Shoot the wounded, leave the dead, and the devil take the hindmost" is simply too long a title for a political party. Hence, "Republican."

    by Superskepticalman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 03:50:38 AM PST

  •  Do NOT conflate pragmatism with centrism. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And you are not a centrist.

    Ds see human suffering and wonder what they can do to relieve it. Rs see human suffering and wonder how they can profit from it.

    by JTinDC on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 04:42:49 AM PST

  •  You lost me at this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stuart Heady
    I'm at peace with the fact that a little Indonesian girl was paid 10 cents an hour to lose her arm to make me my clothes, thank you,

    and this

    poor people are poor for a reason in this country, and we live in a post racial society, so maybe Black people are using race as a poker chip in this game you keep perpetuating?  

    I think you're a troll. You're not really looking for "discussion". You're here to bait people.

    If you're at peace with abusing children so you can be comfortable, if you think that "poor people are poor for a reason", and can write it in this snide tone you're using, then we have nothing to discuss, unless you perhaps forgot to add a snark tag to your diary.

    Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from men who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Robert M. LaFollette

    by stcroix cheesehead on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:01:48 AM PST

  •  Your wingnut friends (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    I have friends who sound like this and are self styled centrists or libertarians who don't get OWS or think that government loans warp the market.  When you make a single misstep in stating your case to them, they shrug you off.  
    You cannot reason with them.

    Give it a rest.

  •  I hear you. You got yours, damn the rest (2+ / 0-)

    Why should you get your pannies in a knot when your life is so comfortable?

    Because your next. Your job, your house, your comfortable life- it is being lost by the strata below you. When that's been milked dry, why wouldn't the greed come for you next? You're not even trying to protect yourself. Just 'It's not happening to me so it must not be a big deal'.

    Society fails when it stops caring for the least able. They fall out of society, leaving the next least able and so on- until there is no one left. Unless people change it.

    But that takes work. It means taking your head out of your ass and using a bit of compassion and empathy with those warning you. It means you have to make some changes, before changes come to you.

    Perhaps what a few of your friends need to hear, no?

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 06:38:27 AM PST

  •  From someone who would otherwise agree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with you.

    This diary is a major fail.

  •  A question (0+ / 0-)

    When did the staff at Comedy Central start to write diaries?

    Dedicated to the GOP debates: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Hunter Thompson

    by NyteByrd1954 on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:57:30 AM PST

  •  You're not a 'centrist' (0+ / 0-)

    You're center Right to Right.  And if there there intelligent liberals out where you live, you seem unaware of them and poorly informed about how they really think and see things.  You seem to work off Leftist caricatures and stereotypes.

    A lot of us have, apparently, been in this game a lot longer than you have and have a bit wider of a perspective.  It's a complex country and best modeled as having three interwoven competing societies and three parties, two of which are in an unhappy marriage and term themselves the Democratic Party.  You seem to think you've made a clever discovery that there are contradictions within what is termed Democratic; to most of us that's about the oldest of hats there is.  You haven't made a similarly clever discovery yet about how the Republican Party is conservative in name but quite deliberately destructive of the economic ways of life of very conservative people.  Arguably with their consent, amounting to an interesting form of social selfdisintegration or suicide.

    To put it bluntly, the country has been net evolving to where social democracy is the most efficient and adequate form for forty years.  It's been one reactionary rebellion wave under Republican banner after another against the incremental modernizations of the country for the past 40+ years, at roughly 8 year intervals.  We have perhaps another smaller one or at most two of them to go after the Tea Party.  And then that set of arguments is pretty much over.

    To be a liberal is to be on history's winning side, which is what conservatives and Rightists are not despite many election victories which allow their dreary "ideas" to be tested in practice.  To be, and be aware that you are, on the winning side of history is inevitably 'elitist' in the jealous eyes of those who sense they are not.  We simply can't change the sore loser psychology of the right side of the ideological spectrum.

    •  I love the serious tone people are getting (0+ / 0-)

      This is complete snark.  But I wanted to see how progressives respond to some of the stuff my centrist friends say to sort of see how the conversation would go.  I'm getting tons of righteous indignation! :P

  •  Centrism is not pragmatic (0+ / 0-)

    Only strategies that work can be called pragmatic. You may think it is pragmatic, but if it doesn't work, it isn't. Your centrist strategies have not worked. We have tried your way for thirty years. It has not worked. It is not pragmatic.

    Trying the same old failed strategies is not pragmatic. Trying something, anything, new is more pragmatic (i.e. more likely to succeed) than trying the same old failed strategies.

    Your characterization of progressives misses the mark on all levels. You are setting up straw progressives and knocking them down. Intellectual criticism of corporate structure and practices look nothing like your inane generalization of "whaling on corporations." You do not love facts and reasoned debate. You love only facts that support your predetermined conclusions, unreasonable generalizations, straw men, poisoning the well, and probably a whole host of other logical fallacies as well. You are a liar and a hypocrite.

    You are not a centrist. You do not get to claim the center as your own. You are closer to the lunatic right wing fringe than the center.

    We are the center. You are the fringe. All the lies and propaganda in thew world won't change that fact. You don't get to write the narrative because you are the minority and minorities don't get to write the narrative, didn't you get the memo? We are the majority and we write the narrative. Your beliefs are myths and fairy tales. Our beliefs are truth.

    Don't like that little reversal the universe is handing you? Wish you were still the majority, and eligible to write the story however you like? Too bad. Get used to living like the rest of us have had to live, with other people writing the story of our lives, telling us our own story is a laughable myth.

    It's not your world anymore. Your brand of conservatism is dead, but it's shambling corpse doesn't know it yet. Now you go and have yourself a nice day!

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