TWO BEGRUDGING HALF-CHEERS FOR THE CULT OF CENTRISM?
Paul Krugman is talking about the cult of centrism again today:
...pundits fantasize about some kind of "centrist" uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides....
So what's with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it's coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it's not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.
But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out -- a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you're not willing to say that, you're helping make that problem worse.
I agree with that. I agree with his disdain for the notion that a third-party presidential candidate will save us. And yet if there is such a candidate -- oh, let's give this theoretical construct the fictional name "Mike Bloomberg" -- I can see two reasons why it might be worth voting for him, if polls show that he can win.
Reason #1 is that he presumably won't be a registered Democrat. This means that the ref-worked "liberal media" might cut him a break for a bit longer than it would if he were a member of the Icky Dirty Hippie Patchouli Party. Our hypothetical "Mike Bloomberg" might have exactly the same policies as Barack Obama, give or take a few, but (apart from differences in negotiating skills -- and it's hard to imagine theoretical "Mike" being worse than Obama) just having an eentsy bit more leeway to act, simply because he'll never be envisioned in sandals and love beads, might give him more room to maneuver. We might get his centrism rather than a massive far-right pushback, as we so often get with Obama (and, before him, with Clinton).
Reason #2 is that our low-information electorate isn't going to blame all incumbents for the horrible state of the nation in November 2012, nor is it going to blame the actual guilty parties, the my-way-or-the-highway GOP. It's going to blame the party of the guy in the White House, because it thinks he's in charge. It's going to say, "We have to vote for the other guys" -- which means big Republican gains and, if the nominee isn't too crazy, a Republican president. The one thing that might save us from the latter fate is a way for these low-information voters to vote for another "other guy." So, yeah, Bloomberg might save us President Perry, and I'd take that.