YES, PAUL, THESE PEOPLE ARE DESTROYING AMERICA, BUT THEY'RE NOT REALLY A CULT OF CENTRISM
Paul Krugman blogs about the debt crisis:
... it's increasingly obvious that what we're looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.
And no, I don't mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.
No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.
... what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent -- because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship....
What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism....
I agree that these people bear a great deal of the responsibility for our plight, but I don't really think they're a cult of centrism per se. If Barack Obama had taken office and pursued a genuine left agenda -- large tax hikes on the wealthy, nationalization of failing banks, a return to Glass-Steagall, single-payer health care -- I can guarantee you that any continued economic weakness wouldn't be blamed on "everyone." It would be blamed on liberalism. And the same would go for a debt crisis.
The cult only says that "everyone's at fault" when Republican extremism is at fault. That's because the cult's real problem isn't a lust for centrism -- it's an aversion to acknowledging that Daddy GOP beats us. It's the kind of denial that takes place in households where there's domestic abuse.
The anti-'60s backlash (which has now gone on about four times as long as the period to which it's a reaction), combined with GOP ref-working of the "liberal media," has left us with a political culture that really can't bear the thought that Republicans are consciously acting in ways that are detrimental to the country. If this culture isn't "wired for the GOP" (as Josh Marshall says), it's certainly wired to be in denial of what's wrong with the GOP.
At all times, the system accepts the notion that Republicans are good and decent and well-meaning, even in failure (see, e.g., George W. Bush). At all times, it accepts the notion that what Republicans are advocating is within the pale. If Republican extremism becomes so blatantly obvious that it must be acknowledged, extremism on the other side must be found (or invented, or blown up out of proportion), so Daddy GOP won't be charged with abuse -- the story we agree on is that "everyone" was fighting. And we just go on living that way.