Saturday, July 07, 2007

Swinging toward the Left

I see that cyber-buddy M. Simon takes issue with my assertion that the political center if gravity is moving left. My Digby post featured a blogger whose identity was unknown prior to receiving an award from Take Back America, a collection of politically active bloggers and activists working more or less together under the "Progressive" banner.

Before going on, the reader should check the links above to understand what I am about to say.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I take issue with these two paragraphs.


Her mistake is in thinking that Democrats got elected to implement Progressive (socialist) policy. They did not. They got elected because of Republican corruption.

The "progressive" argument is "rob from the rich and give to the poor". Which is how I understand it. Robbery was never a popular American value. Hard work is way more popular. By a great margin. In any case "rob from the rich..." has its selling points.

One of the oldest rhetorical flourishes in the book is framing a discussion with categorical themes that streamline and aim it in a direction certain to crash and burn to illustrate the framer's point. This happens twice in the above quote. The first time conflates Progressive with Socialist with a parenthetical tag. The second reduces a breathtakingly vast political landscape to a glib medieval proverb that everyone recognizes as the Robin Hood fantasy.

Taken together these two devices have the effect of pushing everything political through an economic filter. After filtration, all that is left is a discussion between those on the Left who want to steal and redistribute money (and by association power, influence and moral authority) from their adversaries on the Right.

Tempting as it is to argue how very misleading that red herring is, I want to point out simply that there is more at stake than the distribution of wealth, although the large and swelling gulf between rich and poor indicates part of a larger challenge. (I heard a guy the other day trying to put a clever spin on that disparity by saying delicately that "the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting rich," which made me want to choke on my drink.)

The time is coming when social, political, cultural and, yes, economic issues will no longer begin with spokespersons from the Left advancing an idea only to have it destroyed or co-opted by an assault from the Right showing how flawed and doomed to failure that initiative will be. There are too many elephants in the room that can no longer be ignored. Too many naked people running around at whom no one has pointed and said "Look! He ain't wearing no clothes!!"

Just this morning I have come across in my morning reading examples to make the point.

The president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence triggered a predictable surge of indignation from his opponents which in turn was met by the always useful defence of finger-pointing at the shortcomings of Bill Clinton. Boy, that'll shut them up. Everybody knows about that guy's moral turpitude, to say nothing of his eleventh hour pardon of a criminal connected with vast campaign contributions.

Well guess what. Trackbacks didn't stop there. With a bit of reading it is clear that there is plenty of corruption (let's call it for what it is...this is different from calling Progressives Socialists) to go around. The other President Bush's pardon of Caspar Weinberger and Reagan's pardon of George Steinbrenner haven't been forgotten. Sugarland wrote it up and Cernig noticed.

The incident triggered one of Greg Djerejian's most eloquent rants which concluded with...

... It is about an Administration that has repeatedly violated its trust with the American people, whether because of its utter lack of competence, its abuses of power, or its epidemic violation of our best traditions. It is an Administration that has sullied our national repute and standing with abandon. I am deeply pained and embarrassed to have ever supported them.

This is not about money.

Correction. I should have said this is not about stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. This is about money in the form of (ahem...) power and control, if I may use the terms.

It has nothing to do with Socialism and everything to do with Capitalism in its most disagreeable form. And the people advancing the idea that something stinks are not standing on the Right.

I wanted to bring up the issue of health care but I have run out of time and have to go to work.

The typical discussion I have heard for the last decade or so starts with the presumption that health care in America is the best on the planet and Americans should be pleased that we don't have to wait months for needed surgery as they do in other places with "socialized medicine." Example after tiresome example of the shortcomings of health care abroad is tallied along with individual cases of how we routinely fly in some critical and tragic case from the Third World to be beneficiary of our largess...think Extreme Makeover for the politically correct.

I'm sorry, but that argument is about to be blown to bits by a popular awareness of numerous ways that health care in America must be improved, starting with new and better approaches to insuring people who need insurance rather than allowing insurance companies to deselect populations who most need their products. Life insurance is a do or die crap shoot. But health insurance is a different matter altogether. One is optional. The other is not. But that is a discussion for another day.

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