Centers, Middles, and Endings
Here's sliver from an article discussing a recent "strategy" report for Dems:
Still another meaning of "the center" is conceivable. It's possible to imagine a truly substantive center comprising calm, reasonable people who, whether they are in a majority or not, reject the violent or insane views of others, defined as extreme. "Center," in this sense, would mean something like "moderate." For example, in Germany in the early 1930s, there were sensible people who were neither Communists nor Nazis. Unfortunately, they were in a minority, as election results showed, and so were not in the center in either of the two previously mentioned senses of the word. (The Nazis were technically in the political center at the time.)
The report's thesis about American politics today, backed by many charts and graphs, is that the party faithful are more polarized than before, meaning that both Republicans and Democrats are more likely to support their party's candidate no matter what. But in such a contest, self-professed "conservatives," who make up 34% of the vote, will beat self-professed "liberals," who make up only 21%. Therefore Democrats, instead of appealing to their fired-up but fatally slender base, must frame their message to please the large pool of self-styled "moderates," numbering 45%. The technicians of the Democratic Party no doubt will be arguing for the next couple of years about whether or not a centrist strategy is really the path to victory. Though the report's two Democratic authors do not want the Republicans to win, they in passing give them similar advice: abandon the fringe, cleave to the center. (In light of recent experience, however, that advice rings hollow. Win by appealing to the center? Is that how Bush won reelection in 2004?)
More DLC claptrap, nothing we haven't been hearing since the Big Dog's time. But I want to add my voice to Mr. Schell and the TD folks, and talk about that "center."
First off, I want to reiterate what I said in a previous post, and remind everyone that Problem #1 is that ~%50 of eligible folks in this country don't vote. Get one fifth of that population to show up, problems solved. I don't think it is that hard to do, and I think basic, time-tested grassroots methods would work here. I've heard Dean is bringing back the old-style "precinct captain" idea, and I like it. Knocking on friendly doors on election day works.
Second, I want to agree with most intelligent people, and point out that any "middle" is not some homogeneous beast that thinks as a collective. There are libertarians, conservative Democrats, "Independents," Southern Dixiecrats, anti-abortion liberals, the highly uninformed, and the "My Partner Tells Me How to Vote" crowds in that middle, just to name a few. The idea that a single "centrist" message will appeal to all these people not firmly for or against Bush and today's Republicans doesn't make sense to me.
Finally, I want to express semi-formed thoughts about the comparison with 1930s Germany. Is that what this country is like today? Lots of us say so, for lots of reasons. But I was struck by the reminder that in that time, plenty of "moderate" Germans didn't like the Spartacists or the National Socialists, and just wanted a job, a place to live and reasonably priced food. For most of the decade of the 30s, iirc, these Germans didn't let the difficulties of the times get to them, and drive them to an extreme politically. I suspect we've got a similar thing going on in America today.
Turned off by radical rhetoric like mine, and equally uninterested in the obviously fake BS coming from the Rovians, I suspect many Americans are just tuning out. There's plenty of more important issues- paying for heat this winter, rising food and gas prices, finding a job and getting health insurance. If I had a family to support, I sure as hell wouldn't be online as much as I am, and probably wouldn't make time for the disturbing political news of the day if I did. Very little that the Dems are saying resonates, neither with radicals like me nor with people concerned about the basics. I can't think of the last time I read about a Dem idea that was simple, direct, and addressed a pressing need like the ones I just listed. I blame the SCLM in part, but still, the love-fest for Roberts would make any uninformed and stressed out Average American puke, assuming she bothered to tune in.
I have to make myself accept that I'm in a tiny, tiny %0.5 in this country, and that's my problem. But Dems have to understand that there's real opportunity, and here I'm speaking mostly of local Dems, as I have written off the nationals as a bunch of corporate whores. The German economy sucked, waaaay harder than ours does now, from the end of WWI until Hitler was firmly in power. That's more than a decade. And yet- not until it was "too late" did most Germans think of themselves as enthusiastic Nazis. For many years, "sensible" Germans just tried to get by. Imagine what history would be like if a third voice had emerged, and addressed the issues of the day with substance, and not rhetoric.
Our Dems remind me a lot of the Weimar government, only they're not in power. You already know what I think about the Bush Cabal. I guess I feel like it's up to that elusive animal known as "The People" to start demanding an end to the games. Since the SCLM has begun to perceive Rove's fall from grace and attendant loss of control over them, Middle America is starting to get a glimpse of what's really going on. Although I have no confidence in them, it's still the case that the national Dem leadership can take advantage of this, and win back a true majority.
Let us revisit the genius that was the Clenis: "It's the economy, stupid." Once again, his words ring true.