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The one thing Dems and Repubs agree on: That the other is radical

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.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/07/2011 - 03:35 pm.

    Radical, indeed.

    I’ve seen cartoons of the 19-teens depicting the income tax as a status symbol. Having to pay income taxes meant you were earning a more-than-adequate living. Perhaps a modern-day equivalent would be to argue the necessity – as opposed to the luxurious stupidity – of taxing capital gains at a lower rate than income.

    I don’t know what the Minnesota-specific equivalent would be, though I’m sure there must be one. Mentioning that you have to buy insect repellant by the case because of the mosquitoes at the cabin?

    In Colorado, it’s complaining about the damage done to your garden by the elk. This means either (A) you have a second home in the mountains, where the elk roam freely and eat just about anything you’ve planted, including your fruit tree saplings, as well as any fruit they might produce; or (B) you actually live in the foothills yourself, a true exurbanite, and far enough away from the city that elk still roam freely through your property at dawn and dusk, munching happily on your lawn, garden perennials, the aforementioned fruit trees, etc.

    Either way, in most cases it’s a backhanded way of pointing out to your fellow party-goers that you’re just a little closer to nature and God than both suburbanites and genuine city-dwellers.

    That should fit nicely with several of tonight’s debaters.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2011 - 03:58 pm.

    Another boring attempt at false equivalency. There is absolutely nothing radical about the Democrats or Obama. I wish there was.

  3. Submitted by chuck holtman on 09/07/2011 - 05:16 pm.

    So if Charles Manson says that Mahatma Gandhi was a mass murderer, does that mean there’s nothing to differentiate them? I’m with Paul (#2): false equivalency of the stupidest kind. Besides, what does “radical” mean? In a world barreling toward the abyss, some sorts of radicalism are essential if humanity is to survive. Conversely, some sorts of radicalism simply hasten the plunge. And it isn’t that difficult to distinguish the two on the basis of things known as “facts.”

  4. Submitted by William Pappas on 09/08/2011 - 07:17 am.

    The facts are piling up just in recent history. Yesterday’s Minnesota republicans are today’s liberal democrats. Durenburger, only a little over a decade ago, was leading the conservative version of health reform. He is now to the left of Obama. Obama himself has slid farther to the right to keep up with the radical right wing shift of the Tea Party led Republican Party, something republicans are rightly proud of. Calling Obama anything else but a right leaning democrat is inaccurate. All of the evidence points to the radical nature of today’s republicans. Their actions in government are radical, no comprimise, destroy the debate and process methods. Their object is to completely reduce and alter the role of government in society. Their agenda can only be described as radical wether you believe in it or not. In contrast democrats are anything but radical attempting to comprimise, arive at consensus and effect small changes that will allow government to serve the people. That is not radical.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/08/2011 - 10:55 am.

    How about calling Obama a moderate Republican?

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/09/2011 - 10:26 am.

    I have no problem with calling Obama a moderate Republican.

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