Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Thomas Friedman is wrong again

In Sunday's NY Times columnist Tom Friedman has another column demonstrating how to contradict oneself within a paragraph or two and misunderstand markets and politics at the same time. He is bemoaning the descent into political madness of the large part of the Republican electorate that rejects any tax or gun control measures out of hand. The folks who believe that restrictions on automatic weapons are a giant threat to freedom but support massive government intervention into the health choices of women. He roles out reasonable objections to their positions such as objecting to a minor symbolic treaty for weirdly paranoid reasons. or not taking advantage of President Obama's ill considered offer to make senior citizens pay for tax cuts for families with comes over $250K.

But Friedman continues to make the same objectionable mistake in writing about politics that he always does...because he either knows little about electoral political history and public policy or chooses to ignore the evidence. He claims the Republicans need a DLC, an organized force to try to bring them to the corporatist middle. Ignoring the fact that the Democratic Party already fills that space and that when it followed his much praised pattern it did not achieve 50% of the vote in a presidential election even during the two Clinton victories. He claims there was some substantial split in the party because of "pragmatism" that resulted in Ralph Nader allowing GW Bush to win in 2000. How wrong could he be? The problem was the the fact that Nader could have a substantial impact on a poorly run election by getting so few votes. There was no split in the party as there was no substantial constituency from within the party that supported Nader in his candidacy. Most all Nader votes came from states that were not competitive.

That aside, Friedman continues on his desire to have two parties with no differences. It is a shame he does not think that the US is ready for democracy. He argues for "market based solutions" to public policy decisions but not to politics? The best way to get the Republicans to moderate their positions would be for people not to vote for them and for the "market" to reject their product. But what space is their for the "right-of-center" policy he seeks? Isn't the Democratic Party already the "right-of-center" offering? On most any policy issue the Democratic Party is to the right of the mainstream of thought in other advanced countries. Isn't the real opening for a more social democratic party in the US leaving the middle for the Republicans?

The challenge is lack of consensus in contemporary American politics. With a fight to the death to protect Social Security and Medicare the divide between the parties is substantial but we should not mistake that for left and right. Rather the center right and the hard right.