Paul Waldman’s weekly “American Prospect” column begins:
“If Democrats and Republicans agree on anything, it’s that the other side is radical. Each party looks at the other and sees people driven by a dangerous ideology that would prove disastrous were it to be realized.”
Definitely has the ring of truth. And it hasn’t always been the case.
Waldman, who is a lefty, channels his inner Republican and looks at Obama and this is what he sees:
“Listen to the Republican critique of Barack Obama, and you’d think that Che Guevara snuck into the White House while no one was looking, then quickly nationalized the steel industry and herded millions of Americans onto collective farms. Democrats look at Obama and see a centrist who fetishizes conciliation to the point of capitulation, winning a few liberal victories here and there but largely accommodating himself to the status quo and knuckling under to Republican bullying. Republicans, on the other hand, look at him and see a maniacal socialist, schooled by 1960s radicals and bent on destroying America.”
But most of the column is devoted to viewing the righties and Waldman concludes that they are the real radicals in the picture who are divided mostly between those who want to repeal every major enactment since the Great Society bills of the 1960s, those who want to repeal back to the New Deal and those who want to go back to the 19th century. (The current Repub presidential frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who makes his national debate premiere tonight, is placed by Waldman among those who want to repeal the entire 20th century.
The way the game is played now, the key is to present your own side as moderate and accuse the other side of radicalism. When was the last time any American candidate with serious political prospects identified himself with the word “radical.” I nominate Minnesota Farmer-Labor Gov. Floyd B. Olson who said in 1934:
“I am not a liberal. I am what I want to be — a radical.”
The big radical proposal that Olson pushed through as governor was a state income tax.