Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kirsten Powers: Fool

Browsing through the online opinion section today, I came across this article by one Kristen Powers titled, Election signals decline of old school liberalism. The title pretty much says it all, so I won't quote any lengthy bits of it. Powers is a Democrat, but you wouldn't know that by reading the article. As hard as it is to believe, even after winning an election with a unified Democratic party and an increasingly divided Republican party, there are still some Democrats who just can't help but do Karl Rove's bidding.

Powers' argument, needless to say, is that the election was a repudiation of "old-school liberalism", whatever that is, and a validation of centrism. Aside from a bunch of anecdotes, her only evidence of this is the fact that a slim majority of newly elected Congressional Democrats will join the centrist Blue Dog Coalition. Okay, so there were some moderates elected. How exactly does that spell the demise of liberalism? How many liberal Democrats lost their seats? Zero you say? And if at least some of the newly elected Congressmen were true blue liberals, are there now more or less of these characters in Congress? I'll give you a few minutes to think that one over.

And as for those anecdotes, what is the most prominent one she mentions? Why it's the election of Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania! As if this one isn't already tired and overplayed. (She even repeats the myth that Casey's father was barred from speaking at the '92 Democratic convention because of his pro-life views.) Yes, Casey is pro-life. But from what I can gather, that is about the only "conservative" stance that he takes. And the Senator that he unseated was possibly the most radical anti-abortionist out there, which means that Casey's election was actually a net gain for the pro-choice movement. As for the rest of the Democratic party, it's still solidly pro-choice, as is a safe majority of the public at large, and I can promise you that there will be not one single anti-abortion bill passed by the 110th Congress. So how exactly does Casey's spittin'-in-the-wind abortion stance even matter? If you want to talk about the demise of old-school liberalism, you should at least pick an issue where the liberal stance has met its demise.

What's even more annoying about this is the fact that "pro-life" is not a centrist position. It is a right wing position. I'm not sure that there can be a centrist position on abortion, because it's mostly an either-or type of thing (you want it either legal and available or illegal and unavailable), and aside from playing semantic games and exuding platitudes, there's not much middle ground to be had. So is Powers saying that being a centrist Democrat means adopting a position held only by a minority of Americans and championed by the right-wing fringe? If so, that's precisely why people like her get so richly and deservedly derided by the left. If moderation means being a far-right Republican, no thanks.

Here's another example: Powers is of the opinion that Democratic party has been suffering under the "secular left's political dominance". That's news to me. Given that the last two Democratic presidents and nearly every Democratic member of Congress are openly religious, it's not really clear what this "secular left" is or where it resides. What is true is that there is a difference between how liberals and certain strains of conservatism view the relationship between church and state -- like our founding fathers, liberals support church-state separation, whereas the Theo-cons want to use the state to advance their sectarian theology. By celebrating the demise of old-school liberalism, Powers apparently thinks that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had it fundamentally wrong, whereas Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have it fundamentally right. She probably doesn't really believe that, but this is exactly what's implied when she regurgitates the ridiculous fiction that the Democratic party is somehow hostile to religion. Powers is either too stupid to know the difference between reality and religious right propaganda, or she thinks that being a centrist means supporting theocracy. And to make it even more silly, her solution to this non-issue is for Democrats to wear their religion on their sleeves. Note to Powers: appearing in Church for a campaign commercial and blabbering about God is not an ideological stance, it's shameless politicking. Any asshole can do that. And if you really want to be a hypocrite, you can compare yourself to Jesus like Tom DeLay did, but that doesn't translate into policy very well.

On the other hand, perhaps her conception of centrism means adopting some sort of patch-work ideology where you arbitrarily select various right-wing and left-wing positions without any regard for what those positions are. That's the kind of squishy, opportunistic centrism that inspires absolutely no one. And it's schizophrenic too. You could end up with two people who disagree on absolutely every issue and yet they would both be called centrists. That's what's ridiculous about holding up pro-life or anti-gay marriage Democrats as wonderful exemplars of centrism. These people only make the Democratic party more centrist in that they average out those Democrats who are pro-choice and favor gay rights. But of course that average doesn't result in any coherent middle ground, it just makes the party appear to be without any guiding principles. I don't know if Powers paid any attention to the last 3 elections, but this is a hammer that Republicans have very effectively wielded against the Democrats. I for one am very much against ideological rigidity, but that doesn't mean you can be both pro-choice and pro-life at the same time. You can't. And you shouldn't.

And finally, in what has got to be the dumbest part of this article, Powers points to the re-election of Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont and proclaims that "even in blue states, voters like centrist politics". Its this kind of thing that makes you wonder where the woman parked her brain. Putting aside the fact that Lieberman is an incumbent and had all the advantages that go along with that, it's rather telling that that the Republican party didn't bother to support their own candidate. As a result, he got maybe 10% of the vote, leaving the vast majority of Republicans and conservative independents to vote for Lieberman. Democrats, however, went solidly for Lamont. This is not a case of centrism winning out over liberalism, it is the exact opposite. Lieberman, as a popular incumbent, should have been able to win reelection very, very easily. What nearly unseated him was a challenge from the left of his own party, while the right was too afraid to challenge him at all. That could have never happened if Connecticut was trending away from the left.

To wrap things up before I get even more irritated, the fact is that the Democratic Party has always been, at least within the last several decades, a center-left party. That a few centrists get elected here and there is no huge surprise -- in fact it's the way things should be. It's not indicative of an ideological shift among Democrats, but rather business as usual. The irony is that while there are indeed some left-wing Democrats who are unreasonable in their complaints about the party's centrist leanings, Powers is unreasonable in the exact same way but coming from the opposite direction. Like the lefties who get upset about any hint of a right-ward drift, Powers is attacking those who think that the Democratic party (not to mention the nation as a whole) would benefit from a more solidly progressive agenda. That makes her Karl Rove's best pal.