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Is there still a center that can hold our political spectrum together?

Workers construct the viewing stands ahead of the inauguration
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Workers construct the viewing stands ahead of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.

“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,” William Butler Yeats wrote in perhaps his most famous poem, 1919’s “The Second Coming.”

Can the center hold in America? Is there a center that can be described or that has any chance of holding the old political spectrum together? And does anyone care if such a boring old middle-ground-compromise-seeking center exists and can hold the old political spectrum together or whether we have entered a new normal of all-out, partisan and ideological bloodsport in which, any time we have a partisan takeover, we expect to repeal everything done by the previous administration?

UC-Berkeley professor and lefty blogger Robert Reich, who served in the Bill Clinton Cabinet but supported Bernie Sanders last year, is criticizing Bill and Hillary Clinton for announcing that they will attend Donald Trump’s inauguration. Reich says their attendance heightens the risk of “normalizing” the Trump presidency …

 as if Trump were just another president and this were just another inauguration. He’s not. It’s not.

I think all of us have a public responsibility to sound the alarm about what is about to occur. This includes former presidents and former presidential candidates. At the very least, on January 20, at 12 noon eastern time, all of us should refuse to witness Donald Trump's oath of office -- turn off all TV sets, avoid any streaming video -- and instead observe a minute of silence out of concern for the future of American democracy.

I agree with Reich on many things, but not this. I’m sure the Clintons will have to swallow a lot of bile to go through the ceremonial role of attending Trump’s inauguration. My heart will be with the protesters descending on Washington to express their opposition to Trumpism (if such an incoherent mess can be called an “ism.”)

I also disagree with the Presidential Inauguration Committee/National Park Service decision to block the protesters from the National Mall on the day after the inauguration.

We are in a big, big mess. I have been arguing for years that our system of politics and governance is breaking down, but this is a quantum leap into the abyss. I see a lot of people trying to get ahead of the story, saying what’s going to happen next, but I am skeptical that anyone, including Trump, really has a clue and I would think members of the punditocracy would be tired of being wrong and admit that they can’t see the future.

 My daughter, who is one of the best people I know, will be with the protesters in Washington. I will be in the basement of my Mpls Manse, where the TV is. I will observe a moment (or several) of silence out of concern for the future of American democracy. But, sorry Prof. Reich, I will leave the TV on and hope against hope against hope that what we hear will be better than horrifying.

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Comments (97)

It might be worth quoting

the rest of the first verse:
"Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
-----
Compromise assumes that there are positions that no one likes but that everyone can accept. I see precious little of that right now.

I think we as a country can survive

school choice, lower corporate tax, simpler individual tax code, less regulations. I sure hope supporting the police, following immigration laws, making cities follow federal laws doesn't destroy us. I think that calling radicalized Muslims that have sworn to kill Americans, radical Muslims will not bring down the Republic. I'm not sure I will have to hide in my basement because the President of the United States wants to appoint folks who are not blind followers of the agencies they will oversee ( the old approach has got us to a point where the IRS can admit they targeted groups they opposed and no one gets fired, thanks DOJ). Trying to get a handle on a healthcare system that has been lied about to get passed, being lied about now (premiums have leveled out is touted, that is calculated by only adding the individual's portion of subsidized package not total cost to tax payer) and I am sure will be lied about in the future doesn't keep me in bed for days on end.

Somehow I think we as a country ( us bible clingers and gun holders) will be able to survive the Coastal elites, Hollywood stars, main stream media and liberals complete panic that a successful business man got elected to run the country. I am fairly certain the sun will come up on January 21, regular folks will go about trying feed their kids, pay their mortgage, fix their car, go to work and go about trying to make their community the best place it can be without thinking much about transgender bathroom issues.

Is this a serious comment

Or just really good satire? I honestly can't tell, Mr. 'Joe Smith' ;)

There's a lot to parse through in your comment, but a lot of your phrasing suggests to me that we don't have even the same basic understanding on quite a few different issues, and your phrases seem to be extremely intentionally echoing a lot of repeated talking points from conservative media. I'd like to discuss at least a handful of them with you, just let me know.

"There is no such joy in the

"There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto."---Cormac McCarthy

And

You apparently agree that the very reasonable cost for all of these advantages you cite is the simple abandoning of truth as we know it. It is clear fact that Trump lies at more than twice the rate of your normal politician. Paul Ryan, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Nancy Pelosi all have similar, historic, patterns and levels of spinning the truth to suit their advantage. Donald Trump represents a whole new ballgame in reality distortion. Three years ago Trump called for Julian Assange's execution and now seems to be considering him for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is a high price to pay for your cherished right wing goodies.

Get back to me in 4 years Joe

I'm 100% confident I won't regret my vote. I already know of several GOP voters who regret theirs and the guy hasn't even taken office yet.

Survival is a low bar

Yes, despite what happens in the next four years (barring impeachment) the United States as a country will continue to exist, and the minority of rural whites that you seem to feel are the 'real' Americans will not suffer (assuming that they can afford to pay for their own health care).
However, the majority of American citizens who do not fall into your class will experience real problems. But of course: NIMBY.
------------
And note--
The IRS quite properly targeted groups that were egregiously violating the law: claiming tax status as religious/educational groups when in fact most of their spending was political. They also investigated Democratic groups that fit the same profile.

The Answer to Your Question, Mr. Black

Is there a center that can hold? Mr. Smith has answered that question with a resounding "no." There is no longer a center, because there is no longer one America. There is a Manichean struggle between "the Coastal elites, Hollywood stars, main stream media and liberals" on the one hand, and "regular folks," described in what I assume is an attempt at irony as "bible clingers and gun holders" on the other.

There no longer seems to be any commonality of interest. The "Coastal elites, Hollywood stars, main stream media and liberals" can just take a flying leap. Their concerns don't matter. Governance is no longer about the common good. It's about payback for perceived slights.

Welcome to the America of Trump.

Agreed "No center"

Example: I have a Right Wing sibling that cannot agree on Webster as an equal unbiased source of definition for words such as conservative and liberal. As a left leaning independent, problem today is that center is so far right that left leaning still leaves you as a staunch right winger in today's political environment. As noted earlier we are in fascism land.

"I could stand in the middle

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters"

The first victims are the norms.

Engaging citizens to Strengthen the Policy Democracy Process

The republic democracy will survive through some rough times and addressing barriers or challenges of ideas and process. As I look at the situation which has evolved the problem is not lack of public policy options or solid proposals for addressing needs etc. the problem is the process and particularly the way citizens gather information, assimulate the thoughts, and evolve support or opposition to action which then can be evolved to a solution. Clearly the rapid change in technology of media and communication has driven the ability of the republic to adapt and move ahead. Most of the public policy thought is on the content of proposals- we have plenty of ideas-- the focus must be on how we communicate, discusss, share ideas and make decisions to benefit the community, state, nation etc. Public policy wonks need to get away from ideas for a while and focus on how to make things happen for the common good in the world and media environment of today.

Dave Broden

reframe the issues

The two parties have diverged so much on their platforms that there is little room for compromise. I think that to make progress, Democrats need to reframe the issues. Using health care as an example, the real issue is: how can we improve the health of Americans and increase lifespan at much lower cost?

This means, for example, reemphasizing physical fitness and improving lunch programs in schools, lots of inexpensive preventative medicine (like vaccination), treating addictions, and so forth. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to disagree!

This reframing could be very attractive - most citizens, if well informed, would tend to agree.

I have to ask: why does Costa Rica have the same lifespan as the U.S. (both about 78 years) but spends only $2 K/capita on health care?

Many other issues could be similarly reframed.

Doctors in Costa Rica make $2000-$4000 a month

Doctors in the United States make 187,000 median salary (from google). That is nearly 5 times the median salary for a doctor in Costa Rica.

The per capita health spend in the two countries is approximately the same ratio (9450/2000 = 4.7).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expendit...

The United States has the highest paid general practitioners in the world and some of the highest paid specialists.

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/how-much-do-doctors-in-othe...

There are ways to remove overhead from the current system that could make the United States look more like the 2nd highest cost country (Switzerland) but we can't match other countries per capita costs without making doctors take a 25% pay cut. The Swiss system is mandatory non-profit high deductible coverage for everyone with premium subsidies along with for-profit supplemental insurance. The Swiss system delivers excellent results at a high cost that is still 33% lower than US costs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Switzerland

Doctors' Salaries

Blue collar workers have long been subject to foreign competition. White collar professionals for some reason have been protected from that. "Protectionist" is a pejorative hurled at those who wish some consideration be given to factory labor. It's not difficult to imagine a system that would allow foreign trained doctors into the US to practice medicine. US doctors salaries are noticeably higher than those in Europe.

What makes white collar professionals such as MDs such a sacred cow?

Free trade for thee but not for me.

C'mon, Frank - can't you weep a little for our poor doctors??

(just kidding) It would take a whole new ethos in our healthcare system for our balance of cost vs quality to measure better against other nations Americans tend to regard as inferior.

Take Cuba as just one example:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2014/12/22/cuba-cost-effective-hea...

I don't say our medical personnel are undeserving of their salaries; it's just that outrage at the idea they shouldn't be exempt from a haircut -along with other aspects of the system - is so bizarre.

Why doesn't it occur to some people that if a less-developed country achieves better results with lower physician pay, then it follows that high physician pay is not a critical factor in health care quality??

I don't have any problem with the USA having expensive doctors

If MD salaries were cut 25% you would see many of our best and brightest decide to go into hedge fund management instead. That would be a misallocation of resources in our society. I like that the best doctors in the world want to work in the USA.

It is silly to bring up a country like Costa Rica where the cost of living is much different. However, the US system ($9451 per capita) should be compared to other countries with a similar cost of living such as Switzerland ($6935), Germany ($5267), Australia ($4420) or Japan ($4150). We can freeze doctor salaries, cut $2000 per capita in costs and probably improve quality. We just need the political will to upset some of the largest political campaign contributors and remove the $2000 in costs.

There are plenty

of foreign-trained physicians in the United States; I had carotid artery surgery done by one of them at Mayo a couple of years ago.
They do have to pass state Medical Board exams to be licensed.

Relative To Other Countries

The barriers here are much much higher. Not only is the number of doctors allowed into the US tightly constrained, all of them must complete a US residency program. This applies even to doctors with many years of experience in countries with high quality health care systems like Germany, Sweden, or the Netherlands. Those countries have higher life expectancies and better health care outcomes at a lower cost. So who is afraid of competition now?

If that's not protectionism, I don't know what is. The result is that US docs earn an average of $250K, twice that of similar developed countries. (No, the same is not true for other occupations.) Specialists like cardiologists earn an average of $400K. The increased cost to US families is $700 per year.

The myth is that US blue collar workers just can't compete against foreign labor, but that highly trained professionals can. The reality is that wealthier individuals have an outsized impact onthe political system.

How?

Would you like to have a law limiting doctors’ salaries? People do have a choice and if they want to have a surgery cheaper, they can go to other countries and do it there… with the higher risk, of course, and little legal protection.

Data?

Please document your statement about relative surgery risks.

Mayo surgeons are on salary.

They do not get a one-off extra fee for surgery. Nor do they get more money according to how many (possibly duplicative) tests and procedures they order for someone.

That's why the "Mayo model"--salaried physicians working in medical teams for a patient--entered into the Obamacare model list for how we in America can reform our health care system. Problem is, there are too few physicians who value patient outcomes over their own incomes.

Widon't give Trump the satisfaction...

While I agree with most of your thoughts, I won't watch the inauguration, if only because Trump uses TV ratings as a measure of his self-worth. So my TV set will be off. I can find out what happened in other ways.

I think domestically we can survive a Trump presidency. My main concern is with foreign policy. Idiotic things have started wars, and if there's anything Trump is likely to do it's something idiotic. I just hope we survive whatever stupid thing he is sure to do.

We dodged a bullet in terms of foreign policy...

...When Clinton didn't win the Presidency.

Of course, Trump's foreign policy impact (in actual terms, not hysterical media terms) is yet to be known, so we bought a pig in a poke. But Clinton's foreign policy is and would have continued a disaster. So we'll have to wait and see if Mr. Trump's foreign policy is any better, on balance.

He seems to indicate a reserve concerning foreign adventures, which is sorely needed, so this could be a positive.

For a change

…I agree with Joe Smith – if that's really his name – though I'd dispute some of the talking points. I have a relative whose real name is Bob Smith, so I don't automatically assume that "Joe Smith" is something a MinnPost reader necessarily made up out of whole cloth.

As Joe suggests, I do think the republic will survive. At least, I think that in between moments of thinking this election and inauguration really do mark a turning point away from something we might call "democratic" with a small "d," and toward a neofascism that's been lurking just below the horizon since the campaign of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Like other commenters, I'm inclined to argue with some of Joe's assertions, but overall, the society and culture have proved their resilience over a couple centuries, and some other, rather severe, crises. I've already found myself thinking, "This, too, shall pass."

We have a president-elect who's emotionally a petulant child, intellectually a badly-educated adolescent, politically both brilliant and truly, astonishingly, lucky, and a Congress controlled by a political party in the thrall of a failed ideology that's being treated with the reverence of a religion. The Republican Party is, and seems likely to continue to be, the party of the 1%, whose belief – not entirely without merit – is that they don't need no stinkin' government. The identity politics of "establishment" Democrats has proved itself to be a poor defense, and an even worse articulation, of the common ground the society needs to have in order to make progress away from the neofascist tendencies that have recently bloomed publicly. Ayn Rand and the Golden Rule do not comfortably inhabit the same space, Republican claims notwithstanding.

I'm inclined to think, for what little it's worth, that there IS still a "center" in American society, but it's one that has diminished dramatically in both size and influence as extremists of both right and left (mostly on the right, but not entirely) have worked hard to dismantle it to their own advantage. I've read elsewhere in several places that, to survive and flourish, democracy requires an equally-thriving middle class, and that's the part of the society and economy that's been under attack, whether purposely or accidentally, for the past few decades.

I'm not knowledgeable enough or egocentric enough to claim any genuine degree of prescience about the future, so my conclusion about our survival is mostly a statement of good, old-fashioned American optimism, which may or may not be justified. That said, while most of Joe's bullet-point items may, in fact, turn out to be true, I'm also inclined to think that Mr. Ryan, Mr. McConnell, and Mr. Trump, will collectively make that survival far more difficult for most of us than it needs to be.

Center

Far as I can tell, Congress works very well in it's center, that is, revolving around corp, bank and billionaire greed. They appear to be at odds only about social issues, about which they bark a lot but do nothing, as it is mostly about divide and conquer, keep the people fighting amongst themselves, exacerbate division, and they are less likely to hold their leadership accountable.

First thing if we want to fix this, quit focusing on the other side. Focus on your favored leadership and hold that leadership accountable. As is we seem only to hold accountable the other side, which doesn't work, it only allows our favored leadership to act against the interest of the greater good.

I ain't watchin'.

I haven't seen anything that indicates Trump will say anything other than the divisive, extremist, racist, bullying and ignorant things he's been saying all along. And unlike some Republican leaders, I can't imagine he'll somehow lose his narcissism and general ignorance and start acting like a real adult. I could watch, but if he should miraculously say something intelligent and actually follow through on it, I'll hear about it down the road. I'm not holding my breath.

As to the notion of a center, the only definition of a "center" worldview I ever hear is a "willingness to compromise". That's not a worldview, that's just being an adult. The center is comprised mostly of people who are left on some issues and right on others and Republicans have done a masterful job of pulling voters to the right with fear and an engineered "Post Truth" strategy that poo poos even the need for facts and reality.

Forgive me if I don't want to pollute my day with any more of that kind of dangerous propaganda.

Centrists or radical protesters?

It will be interesting if the centrist protesters will protest or if they will suddenly turn into to radical, leftist, intolerant, anti-free speech, shut down artist that are thriving in the democratic party.

If they try to shut down the inauguration like they have shut down highways, trains, shopping malls, police stations, pipelines, etc. the Red State domination will continue.

The headline misshapes the question.

There are three assumptions ubiquitous to everyday political writing that are unmatched in the lazy negligence with which they are invoked.

The first is the “center” as the sweet spot of pragmatic wisdom reached by averaging out the equally unreasonable folks out on the right and left.

It is derivative of the second assumption, that of the “polarized” electorate, the proposition that there are two "sides" and that folks have moved out in opposite and equivalent distances from the magical center. Add these together, divide by two, and voila, you've found where we should be.

And the assumption of the polarized electorate rests on the third assumption, that of essential symmetry - that those on one pole must have the same vices of extremity as those on the other, and in the same measure. (And that nothing that one side does can be criticized, because it necessarily is just a single manifestation of something that is done to precisely the same extent by the other side.)

These assumptions are pervasive, they occupy the field, yet I have never seen any mainstream attempt to justify any of them, and indeed there is no a priori reason why any of them should be accurate. I’d suggest that they exist in unquestioned form foremost because they together they constitute the model that best serves the establishment interest of managing society’s political discourse within the boundaries that ensure that the existing concentration of wealth and power will not be disturbed.

I suggest a different picture. I see 60 to 65 percent of the population that forms a bell-shaped distribution on a center point. Based on my own, normative definition of the center (as representing the optimal balancing of private and collective economic prerogatives and optimal balancing of private and collective risk-sharing), this center point is somewhat right of center and ranges from the slightly left to fairly far to the right (most folks acquiesce in a concentration of private economic power because the prevailing discourse has urged them unthinkingly this way their entire lives). If we limit our view to this 60 to 65 percent of the population, this is the traditionally conceived sense of civic society where there is a consensus as to basic democratic values, and a variation in how folks think about achieving them.

Since the late 1960’s, one party has pursued an intentional electoral strategy of manipulating existential and economic fear to shift folks toward authoritarianism. This has led over the decades to the present day, where there is 35 to 40 percent of the population that has qualitatively broken away so that it no longer occupies a place on the bell curve of those whose views are ways that they give meaning to democratic values. Rather, it occupies a place that rests on authoritarian values. Under this construct, obviously the notion of a center becomes fully incoherent. What is democracy plus dictatorship, divided by two?

There is a center for two-thirds of the population, and it could be sustained because it is bell-shaped and not polar, and because it rests however imperfectly on shared fundamental values. But the question is, can our society be held together when a third of the population now favors authoritarian values over democratic ones (and when that third now has nearly absolute control over our federal institutions of collective decisionmaking)? This question is pressing as we see, each day, a further denigration of knowledge, fact and the requirement of reasons. This degradation may or may not be engineered from some place, but the fact remains that it is a cornerstone of authoritarianism. If there is no means by which alternative policy positions can be evaluated, then there is no basis for social decisions apart from who has the power to make them.

Direction

In the last 25 years, the center has moved significantly to the left (just think of all the stuff that is real (same sex marriage, $15 minimum wage in many places, etc.) now which was not even in dreams 20 years ago)… But the left wants to move even more to the left while conservative, per their definition, do not… and are vilified for that by the left.

Mr. Brandon, will you please describe the real problems that “the majority of American citizens” will experience?

Mr. Dibello, how did Obama’s NOT starting wars has worked so far, in your opinion?

Well:

Seems by those statements equal rights regardless of race color creed sexual orientation etc. is not a Republican virtue: Where do you suggest we cut those rights off?
PS: Gays have been wanting equal rights for a lot longer than 20 years
$15 Minimum wage: Seems poverty for the working class is also a Republican virtue. Perhaps we go back to the early 1900's tactics and just beat and shoot those folks that want a living wage, fair enough?
How well do those virtues match up to the preamble, declaration of independence and the constitution.
Evidently you haven't been paying attention to the right ward movement of the country since the last 40-50 years! Abortion restrictions, lack of gun control, rich getting richer, poor poorer, gerrymandering, debt vs tax collection, religion taking precedence over equal rights, union busting, reduction in regulations, which really means: a coal company/industry etc. gets to pollute and everyone else pays the environmental and associated health costs.

I don’t see how what I said

I don’t see how what I said has anything to do with Republican virtue. I was just stating the facts that we have things now that seemed impossible (and were rarely even talked about) 20 years ago. And, speaking about Trump’s voter and their virtue, many states that supported Trump voted for minimum wage raise (which doesn’t make it right, of course – why $15 is a living wage, not $20?). And neither does it have anything to do with the Constitution which never guaranteed minimum wage (or even employment)… By the way, Soviet constitution did…

As for “right ward movement,” are you saying that there are fewer environmental regulations now than 50 years ago? That fewer people support abortions? Less gun control? And unions are busted because people don’t see the reason to be there… And poor are not getting rich DESPITE more and more government programs designed to help them…

Just for a beginning

More difficult and expensive access to health care.
A continuing decrease in real wages for the middle 90%.
Reductions in real dollar Social Security and Medicare.
Republicans have vowed to cut taxes (at least on the rich and corporations), increase defense spending and reduce the deficit for at least the past 20 years. Where is it going to come from?
Innumeracy gets you only so far.

no such thing

There has never really been a "center," in our politics. We create that illusiion for people who simply haven't made up their mind how they feel about issues, or for people who have mixed politics (social conservatives who are liberal on foreign policy, etc). What IS missing now is what used to be called "the loyal opposition." Decades ago, the losing side could still be counted on to work for compromises that benefit both sides and the country as a whole. No more. Now the winner takes the ball and runs as far to the right (or left) as fast as they can without looking back. No compromising. The losing side snipes, undermines, and essentially is at war with the other side until they win an election, and then the roles are reversed.

No center

There is no center because the system had been built to reward those who are willing to use every bit of authority they can gather. Only with that authority can reward those who supported them. In general (which is what matters in elections) people don't vote for someone who says they will use the authority of the office they are seeking to compromise. People vote for the person they feel will be the strongest advocate for the ideas that match their own personal views. This rewards those politicians who have authoritarian or uncompromising tendencies and the rhetoric to go with it. The fact politicians are dealing with large groups also explains why they all get away with hypocrisy, inconsistencies, ignorance and out right lies. All of this might be detrimental to a personal relationship but large groups of people aren't consistent, they are hypocritical and they don't believe in a single truth. Political discourse is the most corrupt and debased form of human interaction by its very nature. The rational or reasonable center exists but it exists in the 50% or more that don't vote and don't engage much with the dogmatic crazies who think laws and systems based on popularity have anything to do with morality or justice. The more faith we put in and power we give to this system the worse off we will all be.

The division continues and it

The division continues and it serves the interests of those who will have the reins of government to intensify that division going.

Just like the most recent NRA mailing--not celebrating the achievement of their dream team in DC-- instead claiming threats to the gun-owner are higher than ever. How else to hang on to their fevered members and claim a few more years of their dues and fealty ?

How seriously is there going to be any civility when the President-elect refers to the Senate minority leader as a "clown" (in public writing even--after all Twitter is a written record !) for pointing out the obvious roadblocks to the mythical smooth and instant "repeal and replace". Look forward to at least 4 years of extreme vitriol--this time directed from the party-in-power to the minority party. We have elected the same sort of guy who shouted "you lie" during Obama's state of the nation.

And look forward to the bare-knuckle, in-the-mud campaign next time and don't spend any time wondering about the ethical conflicts any more--naked self-interest is the road of the future.

Whatever one chooses,,, to draw a line or...or bury

one's head in the sand on Trump's-day when he crowns himself' king'?

Protest is the first or is it the last civil resource of a nation in partial denial of what can happen even here?

Call it Survival Day for Democracy which can still survive if dissent is publicly represented , even be they walled out from one so grand attempt to register one's voice of dissent?

Use it or lose it, that is while such civil liberties still exist?.

Mr Black's daughter does rightfully make him proud...but what if you Eric, joined her on what could be one last venture in public protest; that which may be closed off tomorrow when Trump takes over and silences those citizen voices?

Trump's words "You're fired" takes on many other meanings under the misplaced power of such a fellow?

Yes, the division continues.

The Minnesota senate with a one vote republican majority just yesterday loaded its committees with a two to three person republican majority in winner take all fashion. All this despite unctious remarks about "working together".

I dislike Mr. Trump...

I dislike Mr. Trump as much as you do. My problem is that I dislike pessimism even more. I would guess that the smartest liberals/Democrats/progressives are making friends with the volatile and changeable President-elect right now, the better to influence his decisions.

Though I can't recall ever voting for a Republican, I suggest, Mr. Black, that the unrelieved negativity of your column is neither edifying nor entertaining.

And then there's

reality.
Maybe the immediate outlook IS negative.

Centrism is actually tearing us apart

Political spectrum's are artificial constructs that provide absolutely no useful political or social guidance. On the contrary "centrism" is the most irrational and incoherent mentality an adult can adopt, and to the extent that too many Americans have moved to the "center", they've been tearing us apart.

The truth is that the glue that binds societies and nations together is safety and prosperity. In liberal democracies like ours that safety and prosperity emerge from self governance. Self governance is about making good if not the best choices, and implementing good and preferably the best policies and THAT requires sound reasoning.

Centrism rejects sound reasoning on the basis of an artificial ideological spectrum. The truth is that in the real world the best answers and solutions rarely if ever emerge from betwixt a the best solution and the worst solution. In the real world you either land the plane in the river or everyone dies, you don't look for an abandoned frontage road in Manhattan because that would be in between a proper runway and river. In the real world you don't store half the food and water you need to survive because that's in between having enough and having none.

Centrism rules out the best answers not based on merit, but simply because they emerge from one end or another of someone's spectrum. Obamacare is the centrist response to doing nothing or expanding Medicare to cover everyone. Did Obamacare bind us together?

The more we've strove for the "center" in the last 40 years the more divided and disparate we've become. Why? Because by rejecting all the best policies and solutions as products of extremism we've kept perfectly manageable problems that have been destroying lives and livelihoods on the table for decades. It's the persistence of decay, inequality, poverty, sexism, racism, intolerance, and anti-intellectualism that have wrenched us apart, and that persistence lay on the lap of "centrism" that can only produce half measures at best.

Trumps ball and the Clinton's

My problem with the Clinton's is that they don't seem to have any socio-political commitment beyond their own self indulgence. Millions of Americans who supported HRC have been struggling for weeks in despair trying get heads and hearts around Trump being president. They're organizing a million woman march on DC to protest Trumps legitimacy. They're defiantly declaring that Tump isn't their president. They're vowing to oppose him at every turn. And those same people that Clinton used in her self indulgent bid for the presidency are now being thrown under the bus so they can go to a gala.

I realize that this is a dicey situation of sorts for the Clinton's but what does it say about their commitment to oppose Trumpism and their appreciation for their supporters when they just blow it all off and go to the ball? I think this is just another example of the kind of lame leadership you get or would get from HRC. Were HRC to say that she's forgoing her invitation out of respect for the millions of supporters who are struggling with her defeat, only republicans would accuse her of being petty. And isn't that a small lump she should be willing to take on behalf of her supporters?

Wrong Clinton

As a former President, it is appropriate for Bill Clinton to attend the inauguration.

The Center

I think we are talking about the wrong "center" here. The ideological "center" is something that can be defined only in the most vague "one from column A, two from column B" terms. "Centrist" is a commonly used media term to describe an unoffensive politician without delving too deeply into her ideology. I would bet that a plurality of Americans, if asked, would self-identify as "centrists." If there is such a thing as "centrism," I don't see why it deserves any more concern than any other point on the political spectrum

The "center" that I think we should be discussing is the "center" of our national identity. The United States is not a country built on an ethnic identity, but on some ideals of Americanism. Since we're being all literary and everything, what with quoting Yeats, we can call it our "organic unity:" The parts working to form one cohesive whole. That unity is, or should be, a common belief of all of us.

I see that unity as being in danger of falling, perhaps irrevocably. The country is looked as as a zero-sum game--if you get something, it must mean I am being denied something. There are no differences of opinion, there are hostilities--You are not my opponent, you are my enemy. American exceptionalism is turned into intramural hostility.

Trump and Trumpism feed off that hostility. It is identity politics as a bludgeon. There are "real" Americans, and there are the enemies. There is no debate, there is, at best, derision and gloating. There is no working for mutual benefit, there are points to be scored and victories to be won.

Are Americans still "We, the People?" I'm coming to doubt that we are.

I actually have to disagree

I know centrists who like to think they're a majority but the truth is they're likely a minority. If you really nail people down they tend to come out on one side or another of most issues, and most people would try to choose the best solution to any given problem rather than search for a "happy median". When people get their car fixed, they want it fixed, not kind of fixed. People want the best health care they can get, not poor health care in between no health care and the best health care. People don't want semi-corrupt public officials rather than totally corrupt public officials. Etc. etc. We have many clear majorities on most of our big issues, the American public was never really enthusiastic about Obamacare for instance, which was a centrist compromise. A majority of Americans are now in favor of a national health care plan like Medicare for All, that's not a compromise of some kind, it's a liberal agenda.

The problem with "centrism" isn't that it's supported by a majority, it's that the idea is keeping us from pursuing perfectly doable and rational policies.

Right now the largest bloc of Americans refer to themselves as independents, but that's not the same as being centrist, and in any case while it's the largest bloc, it's still not the majority.

I Agree

I think people will identify themselves as centrist without any real thought to what that means. The term is so overused that it has become meaningless (kind of like "moderate"). There is an aversion to being thought "extreme" that leads to the idea that in politics, as in no other field of endeavor, the "happy median" is the goal.

Is there such a thing as "centrism?" Who knows?

I have to agree in general

I have to agree in general with Mr. Udstrand that centrism is in most cases the most unreasonable solution to the problem (an example of that is a two term limit for the presidency: one would make sense because it will free a president from campaigning and political pressure to be re-elected and no limit will allow people to keep an outstanding president if there may be one; two term limit doesn’t have any positives except being a compromise) but that is the only way democracy may function (empires do not need centrists). Plus, of course, I would guess that my logical and reasonable solutions to all problems are the opposite to what Mr. Udstrand will come up with.

By the way, what are people going to Washington going to protest there?

Me n Ilya agree on this?

If that doesn't prove my point nothing can.

Our meeting of minds also reminds me of a recent conversation I had regarding "centrism" wherein I pointed out that contrary to centrist assumptions, they are actually less open minded than partisans may be. Ilya and I may identify as conservative and liberal rather than centrists, and we may have different if not opposite solutions for various problems, but I'm guessing we would both rather figure out which one of us has the best solution and apply THAT solution rather than reject both of our solutions out of hand as the product of radicals. In that sense we may well be more open minded than a centrist because no matter which "extreme" a good idea emerges from, we can still get behind if it's a good idea. We wouldn't want to turn a good idea into less good idea simply to accommodate some location on a spectrum of ideology.

Yes we can

I think I agree again - I strongly believe that there is (almost) always the best solution and it can be found among reasonable people willing to listen and trying to understand facts and logic if those people have the same basic foundation (like that people should be free to make decisions, for example), which is not always the case for very extreme who do not have common foundation with each other. So centrism is not an ideology or specific position on the political spectrum but rather an ability and willingness to accept any position so long as it is supported by evidence and logic; as a result, a centrist may support some points from the right and some points from the left and in this meaning of the word I am definitely a centrist. So the problem is not the actual ideas and beliefs of the left and the right but that they do not want to even consider the ideas from the other side.

Of course, having said all of the above, there are cases when compromise is indeed the best solution, the one that may include positives from both sides. And again, a centrist would be looking for those best solutions regardless of where they come from.

By the way, one of the musts for finding the solution and even for trying to find that solution is free and open exchange of ideas so long as they are expressed respectfully. Preventing people from saying something because someone may be offended is a guarantee that the best solution will never be found.

Two-term amendment was not a centrist notion

== centrism is in most cases the most unreasonable solution to the problem (an example of that is a two term limit for the presidency: one would make sense because it will free a president from campaigning and political pressure to be re-elected and no limit will allow people to keep an outstanding president if there may be one; two term limit doesn’t have any positives except being a compromise==

The two-term limit was pushed by Republicans who did not want to see another four-term FDR presidency. Its first application bit the GOP: Dwight Eisenhower could not run for a third term. Dems rejoiced when Kennedy defeated Nixon (by a hair).

What is a Centrist?

A Centrist is a safe zone for the political uncommitted.

Centrist is the yellow stripe down the middle of the road.

...or as Thumper's mother in Disney's Bambi" often said, "If you can't say something nice, say nothing or very little at all."

Thank You!

I resemble that remark! I am neither committed to the crazy idealists on the left nor the crazy idealists on the right! I think you are both out of balance. Like the Yin and the Yang, good way to think about life. .

Hard for me to believe

I finished reading a book today. (O boy). A book by Thomas Frank titled "Pity the Billionaire." Written in 2012. It was good to read as reminder about a lot of events over the last 8 years I'd forgotten about re: the rise of the tea party and the completely absurd ideology of the right.

What impressed me most about Frank's book was his summation which might well have been a prediction about the November election:

"But the scenario that should concern us most is what will happen when the new, more ideologically concentrated Right gets their hands on the rest of the machinery of government. They are the same old wrecking crew as their predecessors naturally, but now there is swaggering, an in-your-face brazenness to their sabotage.We got a taste of their vision when they reconquered the House of representatives in 2010- in the name of a nation outraged by economic disaster., remember-and immediately cracked down on the Securities and Exchange Commission, the regulatory agency charged with preventing fraud on Wall Street. . . . And during the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011, they came close to bringing on the colossal train wreck that they always said we deserved."

There's a lot more and it's good. Much of Frank's book is about making the case that the right seriously believes a complete breakdown, an apocalypse, a total "liquidation of business, a liquidation of labor, etc." in former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon's words, is a good thing, that it should have happened in 2008-2009 and that it should now happen again. I'm not sure that the people who voted for Trump, etc. believe this, but there are a lot of elected people in Congress and the Senate who were elected who do and their supporters must also. They believe completely despite all facts and evidence to the contrary that a free market is self-regulating and that any government intervention is wrong. How they reconcile this with the bailouts and all the other free lunch programs for capitalist big shots is Frank's story. But it does square with the large number of confused people I encounter in life and on these comment pages. I'm just depressed to realize that he's absolutely right. We're probably in for another hair curling financial crisis or depression if we don't get into another war first.

So your saying....

If we compromise with these guys and meet them half way... you know... in the center, all will be well? :)

Where is the danger

The danger of the ideology from the left is much higher than the ideology from the right (I am talking about economic ideology in this particular case). There are no examples in history when a country imploded due to “too much free market” while there are plenty of countries that did just that because there was no free market. No reasonable people believe that “any government intervention is wrong” while plenty of people believe that government may (and should) solve all problems.

Too much free market?

Actually there is an example in history when a country imploded from too much free market. That would be the USA. In 1929-1933 and then again 1981-present. It was called "laissez faire" Laissez faire doctrine governed the US with some exceptions as railroad regulation, bank regulation, public utility regulation and some commodities exchange regulation until 1933 but that was about it. Most of that was at the state level too.

The thing is: the laissez faire economy of the pre-1929 era really did not exist either. Why do you suppose the Sherman Antitrust Act was enacted in 1890 and the Clayton Antitrust Act enacted in 1914? The economy was dominated by monopolies and big business through financial concentration in Wall Street which controlled prices and output and crushed labor. Monopolies like GE, Exxon-Mobile(Standard Oil), IBM, and a host of other monopolies were formed in this 'free market" era. And still do, clogging the arteries of commerce. And the federal; regulations that occurred after 1933 were trial and error experiments some of which also failed, or were held unconstitutional, like the National Recovery Administration and parts of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. But a lot of it worked, like the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Communications Act of 1934, the Public Utilities Act of 1935, the Banking Acts of 1933 and 1935, and on and on. Then there was unemployment and social security and some welfare acts that assisted the very needy. A number of these are still with us: the SEC, the FCC and the FERC, the FDIC from the Banking Act of 1933. All of these helped this country recover from the failure of "too much free market".

The US only started having problems with this when the two parties-and Frank shows in his book how complicit the Democratic Party leaders were in this in the late 1970's- decided to "deregulate" in 1978. Culminating in monstrosities like Clinton's Commodities Futures Modernization Act and Gramm-Leach-Baily which repealed secs. 16 and 22 of the Glass-Steagall Act. Then there was a collapse of antitrust enforcement. And actually collapse of antitrust thinking after the Chicago School captured the nation's antitrust doctrines.

The left has no "free market ideology." I suppose I'm a Leftist" because I understand there is no such thing as a free market. Insurance is a good example of a completely monopolized industry, supposedly "regulated" at the state level but really to protect the industry against competition. Which actually probably would destroy it. But it's also created monopolies which screw the public.

What Thomas Frank has shown in his book something I already knew. He put it into words. The Right has developed an ideology that believes in a free market even when the facts show it clearly does not exist. This is why anything in terms of health insurance the Right comes out with is certain to be a debacle and only make matters worse for millions of Americans. Because it will assume, contrary to all evidence that some free market pixies are going to magically make things come out all right. For those who have a problem, it will be their problem because in the alternative universe of the Right, the outcome will be just an unfortunate example of "losers" . Just like what happened after 2008, when those who lost their homes in foreclosure after having been sold fraudulent ARM mortgages were 'losers" whom the government shouldn't have helped and whom the government never did help.

The difference between the "left" and the new "Right" (because historically conservatives used to support things like strong antitrust enforcement) is that the Right has made an ideology and an idol off a nonexistent free market. The left understands that free markets never occur in reality, that all markets are imperfect and that government, strong government, is needed as a "countervailing force" against the very unfree market monopoly forces that otherwise prevent even these from working.

As I said, no reasonable

As I said, no reasonable person would want to abandon all government regulations and people who say that believe in free market do not mean laissez faire. Of course, in 1929 America survived which cannot be said about the USSR and Venezuela (sure, it may have another year or two…) So what is your opinion about the other side of laissez faire – government will solve all the problems?

Solving all problems

People who say they believe in free markets "do not mean laissez faire"? Are you about that?
Why don't you ask your conservative friends? Because it sounds pretty much the same to me. But actually worse. Like "laissez faire" on steroids.The Right wing has many friends on Wall Street with resources beyond anyone's imagination who are quite happy perpetuating the myth of "free markets" while they continue to get their bailouts and doles.

Interesting that you say that "in 1929 America survived." Actually, that America did not. They say the past is another country. I think that holds true here. We moderns cannot imagine this country in that time. I can only say that from my personal experience growing up in a family in the 1950's and 1960's, the Great Depression was as recent for my grandparents and parents as the 1990's are for us today.

I cannot speak for all "leftists" but I don't think I've ever heard anyone ever claim that the government can solve all our problems. I'd be very surprised if anyone on the "left" in the US imagines anything like Stalin's or Mao's five year plans which seemed to work in the 1930's but were found later to have been abysmal failure.

But the only thing that prevents us from trying what has proved successful in other western industrialized countries is the fear that somehow it's "socialist." Western Europe's adoption of a number of welfare programs that have not broken "capitalism" or the "free market" should be proof that the citizens in the US do not relinquish their fundamental rights by accepting these benefits which improve many people's lives. But it's not to the "free market" right wing ideologues.

Of course, I cannot tell you

Of course, I cannot tell you with 100% assurance what other people believe and mean but I do not mean laissez faire when I talk about free market and I am closer to Libertarians than Republicans. A reasonable person understands, even if he or she wants to go back 200 hundred years ago, that it is neither possible nor practical. Have you heard that term from the right? But I do hear “socialism” from the left all the time and that is why I am saying that we need to be concerned about that much more than laissez faire capitalism. As for “many friends on Wall Street,” the left has many friends there too, just think of the Clintons…

America survived the Great Depression by not changing the form of government and not going through extreme violence. Sure, it was difficult, very difficult but yet no military coup or lack of toilet paper. And by the way, it wasn’t really FDR who ended it but the WWII.

Sure, no one on the left will talk about Stalin or Mao as an ideal but there are plenty who defended the USSR and now defend and praise Castro and Chavez and their approach. There are many people who claim that government is more efficient than private business and therefore should be trusted with telling us what to do.

And speaking of the Western Europe, they are where they are just because they do not spend anything on defense relying instead on America and because they are very homogenous. And even they, starting from the south and moving to Scandinavia, are beginning to experience difficulties and are slashing benefits. The system that gives something for nothing without limitations is not sustainable in the long run.

Defending socialism

The "left" including myself, defend socialism because the "right" likes to lump anything they disagree with as leftist" and "socialist" anyway. People like myself who supported Sen. Sanders were very glad to hear him praise socialism and proudly assume the mantle of Social Democrat. One of the main criticisms Sen. Sanders had was of the Democrats, like the Clintons and President Obama, who are also by the way wrongly included among the 'left", is that they do not deal at arms' length with Wall Street and its tycoons. The result: we had a 2008 crash largely designed in Washington, D.C. by deregulators going back 30 years that bailed out the malefactors on Wall Street and elsewhere around the country without hardly anything being changed. Yes, there is the Dodd-Frank Act, an overly complicated and lame mess that left the basic causes of the crash unfixed. And the positive changes it did create, the Consumer Financial Protection Board, will be abolished by the new Congress and President because Wall Street hates it.

People on the "left" like myself accept the concept of a free market as an unattainable ideal, not an idol to be worshiped. To have a free-er market needs protection in the law against all restraints of trade. Because those who operate in free market cannot be trusted to use their guile and market power to protect the market or the public. The free market, as I said, is not self-regulating and not self-correcting. People get hurt so we need laws to protect people against the abuses which hurt them. That's the greatest danger to this country today, not some vague threat of "socialism" which no one seems to be able to define.

And that threat is especially great where the free market and private enterprise have become ideologies and idols. "Privatisation" where public resources and responsibilities are turned over to "private enterprise"' with the assumption it will be done cheaper and more efficiently has been tried here and abroad. But, as we know from where it's been used in the US and Western Europe and Russia, has ended up costing more and making a few big shots rich or richer at public expense. That's the idea behind "vouchers" for example. This is "shock therapy" which was forced on Greece. We already know Reaganism and Thatcherism have been spectacular failures. That won't stop the geniuses on Capitol Hill from giving it one more go because it's not results but ideology that counts. That's why "free market ideology" is a far, far greater threat to the US today.

What's called the "left" these days is by definition without any ideology which is its strength in maintaining a pluralistic, free society. Just because some on the "left", like Michael Moore who believes we might have something to learn from Cuba's delivery of health care, is hardly like arguing we need to adopt Cuba's entire economic model. It's also different from the "left" criticisms of the use of US military and economic power to meddle in the affairs of these sovereign nations to protect usually undefined and vague "American interests" there. The "left" is too well aware that the "interests" claimed to need defending are powerful Wall Street financial interests who feel they have a right to own and exploit these nations' resources.

Sanders called himself a

Sanders called himself a socialist; did he do it just to counter the right’s accusations? If you supported him, you should be able to explain how a Danish model will work in America and why Socialism always fails. Also, is it true that banks cannot charge ATM fees because of “consumer protection?” How is it fair? Sure, there should be laws protecting the public but if, as you say, “those who operate in free market cannot be trusted,’ what gives you assurance that government can be trusted to adopt fair laws and otherwise do the right things? This is exactly what I meant when I said that people on the left trust that government can do everything better than private sector, a concept has been disproven many times over. So how do we know that Reaganism and Thatcherism were failure? And remember that before Greece was forced into “shock therapy,” its leftist approach of government hiring more and more people and giving away money failed miserably, which is why that “shock therapy,” pushed by Germany, by the way, not the most right wing country in the world, became necessary.

Are you serious when you say

Are you serious when you say that the left do not have an ideology? When they don’t even want to let others who disagree with them be able to say it? Look what is going on on college campuses… As for Michael Moore, remember he said that people in America have to lock their doors and people in Canada don’t… but maybe he needs to visit the Red America and rural America where people do not lock their doors…

Socialism!

You don't hear it from the left, it is a smear campaign from the right. No where in the constitution does it say America should or will be a free market. Which means, there is no Political basis to suggest that somehow anyone that suggests government regulation is; Anti-American or anti constitution. What folks like to conveniently forget is Adam Smith also had a 2nd book, Moral Sentiments, which "provided the ethical, philosophical, psychological, and methodological underpinnings to Smith's later works, including The Wealth of Nations.
In short if its not good, fair and just for the masses it is immoral!.

I heard it all the time

Constitution doesn’t mention free market but neither does it say anything about government’s providing welfare. Free market is not a law by the people but the only system which historically provides for the societies’ needs. And sure, we can hear “Socialism!” from the left – remember Sen. Sanders?

Ilya you are wrong!

The Preamble to the constitution: The objective.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

There are a number of very successful socialistic European countries.
China.
Denmark.
Finland.
Netherlands.
Canada.
Sweden.
Norway.
Ireland.

Nope

The preabble doesn't say anything about providing welfare - just promoting the general welfare - totally different.

Now let;s look at the countries you listed. First, China and Canada are not European. Second, China is indeed Socialis but I would hardly call it successful considering lack of freedom tehre. Third, the other countries you listed are not really socialist (private property still exists) and their succes is based on relying on American military defence and homogenity, as I have mentioned before. Plus, even they are starting to have problems..

Actually We'll Get the Financial Crisis First

THEN the inevitable war as those in control seek to hold onto power in the next midterms,...

despite the wreckage their first two years in power have caused.

Ignored in all these comments is that this shift,...

to strictly ideological,

far beyond right wing,

facts be damned,

"we're the only news source that will tell you the truth and don't you DARE listen to anyone else,"...

has been a decades long project on the part of wealthy interests and conservative political ideologues,...

begun after LBJ passed the "great society" programs,...

primarily carried out through creating ideologically conservative think tanks and legal societies to provide bogus underpinning for the completely selfish, self-serving, and self-agrandizing things those funding them were trying to accomplish,...

those ideas disseminated, like a long-incubation-period infectious virus, through newly-created media outlets and personalities (weasel news and Limbaugh, for example),...

(most people don't even realize they've been infected)...

by buying up existing media outlets (does ANYONE remember the much more conservative direction taken by WCCO AM radio after it was bought up and out by CBS? - the same thing happened ALL OVER THE COUNTRY),...

by manipulation and intimidation of existing media outlets,...

(the continuous and bogus claim of a "liberal" media which was, in truth, ONLY "liberal" because to conservative ideologues, truth DOES seem to have a liberal bias,...

because it consistently reveals that what they're claiming is NOT true),...

and by the manipulation and intimidation of "public" media through threats to funding.

This shift is NOT natural or organic,...

it has been a concerted PROJECT carried out with definite intent,...

but, sadly for our nation, carried out by those who lack the self awareness to realize that,...

if and when they get their hearts' desires,...

they will risk the complete destruction of our nation and themselves.

The REAL question which remains is this:

Is there a way to counter this very purposefully created ideological shift,...

when so many people are now so brainwashed into believing bogus conservative ideology in ways that border on an intellectual addiction,...

and so many now believe the verifiable truth is NOT true simply because it disagrees with that ideology,...

or is Trump's election nothing short of the iceberg already scraping down the side of this,...

once-titanic nation,...

leaving the inevitable sinking already accomplished,...

and those of us who care with nothing left to do but try to be sure the right people are on the lifeboats,...

and play "Nearer My God to Thee" as this ship slips beneath the waves of history?

On the off chance someone has already pointed this out...

Center of what? Most centrist would locate themselves between Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan as if THAT'S the center of a any ideological continuum. The problem that center only exists on a distorted political landscape that is devoid of serious liberals. Democrats like the Clinton's, the DLC and neo-liberals in general have been pushing American "liberalism" to the right for decades. Even Bill Clinton ended up admitting that he was an Eisenhower republican.

Look, living wages, universal health care, responsible environmental stewardship, affordable education, equality, and public infrastructure are all basic basic basic liberal agendas and priorities. But remember it was liberals, democrats, not conservatives that rejected that agenda when they kept Sanders off the ballot. When your "liberals" have a choice between an Eisenhower republican and a New Deal democrat, and they pic the republican, that tells you your liberals are not so liberal as hey pretend to be. Something in between THOSE liberals and reactionary conservatives cannot be the real center of the spectrum.

The practical effect of this centrism is it traps us within a conservative universe that relies on magical thinking and stereotypes as if that's a reasonable compromise. This may be a "median" of some kind but it can never be a: "Happy median" and it surely cannot be a "glue" that binds us together.

Fatal flaw

What we are seeing now is the manifestation of the fatal flaw within a big "L" Liberal democracy as applied to a large and complex population.

Democracies require a public that can be somewhat informed of the items on which they are voting and have a good chance of understanding the effects of various options. The size and complexity of not just the government at all levels but of the country as a whole make that simply impossible. Even well informed and intelligent specialists in various social fields of study have trouble predicting outcomes in and to assume the public as a whole will be as good or better is simply not rational. Instead people vote for party brands as proxies. Collections of emotional qualities that are easily manipulated, corrupted and detached from any rational or scientific validation. Political beliefs become religion, based on faith and part of people's personal identity.

Democracy also requires some level of consensus, obviously. The larger and more complex the subject being voted on the more stable that consensus needs to be. A country the size of the United States requires relatively long periods of stability as the systems in question are massive and often have long reaction times and nearly infinite variables which make understanding cause and effect extremely difficult if not impossible.

The combination of the two above factors has a lot of terrible side effects and little chance of anything but a dramatic and destructive ending. As the power of government increases (along with its complexity) so does the value of holding that power. To hold power one needs to build consensus and consensus means destroying the "other", to eliminate diversity. That can be done with either carrot or stick. Promising to use the power to reward those who agree or by using it to inflict pain on those who disagree. This is helped if the rules on wielding power are reduced or eliminated to the degree possible so that rewarding supporters and punishing those opposed is easier and carries less stigma. All this results in conditions where corruption is not just overlooked but integral to the system working.

An other side effect that is more insidious yet is the cultural impact. Politics, like religion, has convinced people to have faith in irrational stories by promising something they can't deliver and blaming pain on the "other" or a believer's own "sin". Faith by its very nature is irrefutable and as such makes any rational measurement or discussion impossible. The political faithful take on the same qualities as religious believers. There is spectrum that on one end has the casual believers, those who find it easier to go with the flow or hedge their bets in the spirit of Pascal's Wager. On the other side are the holy warriors. The absolutists who hold no quarter, who's identity is completely and utterly built around a set of political ideals and are willing to destroy in order to have those ideas realized. They are able to justify dehumanizing anyone who disagrees as an impediment to utopia and undeserving of the riches there.

As the stakes grow and more power determined by popularity the negative side effects will grow as well. There will be more value in generating more and more of the dogmatic holy warrior types, the irrational destroyers. In a big "L" Liberal democracy these people are the key to holding and wielding power just as in any system with a strong central authority. Where power requires consensus those who want power will always look to destroy diversity.

People aren't a fatal flaw in the concept of democracy

While your individual observations are correct, the conclusion is debatable. You're basically saying that liberal democracy would be a great idea as long as people aren't involved in any significant way, or put another way, liberal democracy is impossible.

Now to be sure, a lot of Americans, especially conservative ones, and libertarians, conceal the dirty little secret that they actually don't believe in democracy. Be that as it may, here we are, living in the oldest liberal democracy on the planet.

To the extent that we have a crises of sorts in the US today, I don't think it's a crises of complexity or diversity, on the contrary, I think that diversity is and will be our biggest asset and strength. A simple homogeneous population didn't save Nazi Germany for instance. Historically when the US has entered periods of crises (which it has many times) diversity and complexity typically help resolve problems rather than paralyze. Our current crises isn't a crises of complexity, in fact most of the big issues we face have perfectly good and workable solutions (Medicare or All for example) sitting on the shelf. We just have a political establishment that refuses to implement solutions that don't service the elite. The problem isn't our diversity or complexity, on the contrary the problem is oligarchy, and this isn't a new feature of a liberal democracy with a large and diverse population. Look, the average Roman had no idea how aqueducts worked, but they got them built. Very few American's had even a rudimentary idea how to get a person to the moon and land them on it, but we did it. Democracy doesn't require widespread expertise regarding every issue or challenge, but it does some capacity for rational thought. Our capacity for rational thought has been degraded in recent decades but not by diversity or over population, rather we've been living through an era of anti-intellectualism, and it's probably the 4th such era we've lived through. We'll get through this one.

Left-Center-Right

The problem, Eric, is that what you see as 'the Center' has drifted so far left that you cannot see the center from where you are. In this past election, the people actually in the center said 'Enough!' and yanked things in another direction. You may not like it...it may not even be good, but they HAD ENOUGH of Obama and 'Hope and Change'.

No....

Any political spectrum that considers Obama and the democrats to be at the "left" rather than the middle of a the spectrum is a distorted spectrum. Trump voters didn't move anything to the center, they moved further to the right of the center.

Now, the may not have realized they were doing this, they may have thought they were moving to the center, but that assumption emerges from the distorted spectrum, not ideological reality.

At any rate I actually don't think voters were thinking about spectrum's, they were/are just frustrated with the paralysis. American's are simply tired of this elite leadership that has completely failed to move the country forward for decades. One thing both Trump and Sanders's voters/supporters agreed on was that they want their government to start working again, and they want it to work for everyone, not just the elite. Whether it's building a wall or creating decent jobs. In this way those who think the impulse to vote for Trump reflects some kind of victory for conservative/republican politics are in for a big surprise. Republicans function on the theory that American's don't actually want a functioning government, they think government is irrelevant. Trump voter clearly want the government to make America great again, and that's not a passive request, they want stuff to get done.

1) I am am a Republican, but

1) I am am a Republican, but no fan of Trump. But he is what you got for your (Obama's) efforts.
2) No way Obama is a centrist. It you think he is, then you prove one of my points. Farthest left in my memory, and I am 64 years old.
3) Agree with your comments on 'elites'. BIG problem with THAT--in BOTH parties. Here Bernie is actually a little bit right.
4) You ought not equate making the government bigger, more powerful, etc. with moving the country forward. Government does not create jobs--the best it can do is create an environment in which they happen. And this is a place where a lot of Trumpers will end up being disappointed. He was like Obama in that way...'Make America Great Again'. Might as well say 'Hope and Change'. As Soucheray would say: 'B' as in B. 'S' as in S.
5) Finally, it is a measure of just how bad Hillary was as a candidate. The county I live in (Mower) had not voted for a Republican since at least Eisenhower, but went for trump 50/41. A lot of Trump voters I know were not Trumpers, they were just 'Never Hillary'.

"Farthest left in my memory?"

Consider the Presidents from the past in the context of their times. Ending legalized racial discrimination in public places may not seem particularly leftist now--it's a no brainer for most people--but in the early 1960s, it was an idea found at the left end of the spectrum. Medicare is a sacred cow now, but when it was proposed, it was regarded as the thin end of the wedge, leading us to socialized medicine (physicians, in particular, were adamant in their opposition). What seems obvious now was creeping Bolshevism back in the day.

Correct

No matter how much "wealth transfer" the Conservatives / Capitalists agreed to... It has never been enough for the Left. Our point exactly, it is the Liberals who keep moving Left, while the Conservatives are pretty stable.

It is hard to negotiate with someone who keeps moving the goal posts.

You Lost Me

I'm not sure why ending racial discrimination is part of a "wealth transfer."

Once upon a time, environmental protection, federally protected voting rights, and equal rights for women were part of the Republican orthodoxy. What happened? The country had enough of that sort of thing?

Clarification

I was explaining the significant fiscal shift to the Left. That is much more undeniable, clear and quantifiable.

As for the social aspects, please remember that a large number of women vote GOP. And a large majority of White women voted for Trump over Clinton.

I think most of the Republican and Democratic voters want voter rights, environmental protection and equal rights. Like with the fiscal policy the question is how far Left is far enough? After 50+ years of passing more and more laws and regulations, has government become too burdensome and costly? Where is the point of diminishing returns?

I agree that some Voter ID restriction laws seem excessive, however the idea that one does not need to show a basic ID or license to vote seems silly on the other extreme.

How Far Left?

"I think most of the Republican and Democratic voters want voter rights, environmental protection and equal rights." So why has the Republican Party reversed its commitment to the Voting Rights Act (passed, as we are reminded frequently, largely through the efforts of Republicans)? Are they going to fix the obvious judicial overreach of the Shelby County decision?

What have Republicans done for environmental protection lately? Apart, of course, from declaring that global warming is a Chinese hoax, or moving to neuter the EPA?

Why did the Republican Party drop its support of the Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed by the Republican Party? Are women treated equally enough now?

"And a large majority of White women voted for Trump over Clinton." Fifty-three percent, which is a majority but not a large one. I notice you mention only white women, but I will speculate that was only to make an accurate point.

Great Title

I like your question. How far Left?

How many new laws, regulations, costs, restrictions, protections, burdens, bureaucrats, wealth transfer tools, etc will ever be far enough Left to satisfy the Liberal citizens of America?

Please remember that each of them come with benefits and costs. And currently they are costing ~37% of our GDP and many domestic jobs. (ie regs and taxes make it more expensive and complicated to operate a business here)

As for equal rights laws, quotas, etc. These may drive to less qualified people being selected. That is a cost to government, businesses and society whether you want to admit it or not.

Regarding voters rights. It is a balance between making voting easy and secure... Not easy by any means.

Equal Rights and Whatnot

Here is the entire text of the proposed equal rights amendment. Please tell me where you see anything here that could lead to quotas:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

'Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

'Section 3. This article shall take effect 2 years after the date of ratification.

"Regarding voters rights. It is a balance between making voting easy and secure... Not easy by any means." By "easy" I presume you mean "something that is feasible for all citizens to do." When you consider that the concerns about voter security that are raised are just thinly disguised attempts at thwarting this goal, the balancing becomes easier.

Let me riff on the "how far left" idea, and ask ":how far right?" How many Republicans from the old days--not just Arne Carlson, but figures like Rockefeller, Javits, Edward Brooke--would find a home in the Republican Party today?

Republican stalwart Bob Dole sat in his wheelchair watching the Senate he served in for so many years reject the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, because, you know, UN (at whose founding we saw Republican Harold Stassen).

How Far Right

That is an interesting question...

My fiscal goals are that the total government expenditures are kept at 33% of GDP on average.. A little less during good times and a little more during down times. And we start paying down the national debt.

Regarding laws, regulations, etc. Probably many fewer and equally effective.

Taxes: much simpler with similar revenues.

Freedoms, equality, etc same as today.

Change welfare in some way so it encourages learning, working, 2 parent families, etc.

Not sure what the other Republicans want.

The Spectrum

The left-right spectrum is about more than fiscal policy. Not everything can be monetized.

Comments

That is why I added the comments regarding other things.

The other aspect of the Nolan diagram is the amount of governmental control. And unfortunately both parties like to enforce their view of "fair / moral / correct" through laws. Who you must hire, Who can have an abortion, Who should pay money in, Who should get money out, etc.

Obama is centrist despite your age

"2) No way Obama is a centrist. It you think he is, then you prove one of my points. Farthest left in my memory, and I am 64 years old."

Again, the political spectrum your working with is a constricted spectrum that omits liberals. Any REAL political spectrum would put socialists on the left and reactionary republicans on the right. Obama is smack in the middle of that spectrum. Obama isn't even really that far to the left of your restricted spectrum, he's well to the right of Sanders and FDR for instance.

Now as a president, he may further to the left than any president in your lifetime, but that only because we have no "left" and we certainly have even really had a strong liberal president since FDR and to some extent JFK.

Obama has been a strict centrist, he blew the biggest opportunity liberals have had decades in order to reach across in search of bipartisanship instead of promoting a liberal agenda. Obamacare for instance is basically Richard Nixon's health care plan with a few updates... hardly far to the left.

Facts and Data

These folks disagree.
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/barack_obama/400629

I think it was the GOP who kept Obama as centrist as he was during his Presidency. Without them it would have been a different story.

Agreed

We went from right to ultra-right, Or did someone miss the Steve Brannon memo?

Agreed

As I often note, I would say that going from government collecting and controlling 7% of our GDP to 37% of our GDP over a span of 100 years clearly supports your point.

Secondly, Clinton was Left of center as a Senator and she had to reach further Left as a candidate.
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/hillary_clinton/300022

I really do not understand the rationale of others who think the right has become more Conservative. It seems to me that they have just had enough of going along to get along.

So what?

Shouldn't the answer be are we better off or worse off? Wise investments or dumb investments. Seems if we can purchase a product or service through Uncle Sam, the state, county city, town ship etc and get a better and cheaper than doing it through a private enterprise, it is automatically a, (Bad) deal? Evidently an educated public is a bad thing - 6%, a healthy public is a bad thing - 8%. (Agreed, the pension program is far to generous, especially for politicians, haven't heard a word from the right on what they are going to do about one of the big numbers?) Minneapolis metro has some of the best quality of life in America, we also pay for this with our taxes, is that an automatic bad thing?
Running water, sewers, road repair, yes even art in public places, stone arch bridges, football/baseball stadiums,

Lets not forget this number is city, state, County, fed etc.

Government Pensions 7% GDP
Government Health Care + 8% GDP
Government Education + 6% GDP
National Defense + 4% GDP
Government Welfare + 2% GDP
All Other Spending + 9% GDP
Total Government Spending 36% GDP
Federal Deficit + 3% GDP

Seems from this perspective: Any government expenditure past what we did 100-150 years ago is dumb and wrong: Space program, CDC, freeway system, etc. etc. etc....... Sorry: That my friend is a hard one to swallow. Especially in what is considered the greatest and richest country on the planet!

The Challenge

The challenge is not Highways, Space Programs, CDC, Defense or the normal historical operation of the US government entities. These have not significantly increased the budget as a percent of GDP. I am pretty sure that people on the Left and Right support spending on these.

The big shift is who should decide what you save, what you spend, how you invest, where you invest, which charities you should support, etc.. And when or if you will ever get that money back. Of course I am describing FICA and other taxes that one must pay. These huge amounts of money that government pulls in and then decides who will receive the money and/or services back.

And of course a huge bureaucracy of public employee bureaucrats that must hired to manage the collection, management and distribution of your money... :-)

http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/past_spending

The answer is in front of us:

Its called the US tax code. And it was developed by our representatives senators and of course the lobbyists. Not sure where you are going John other than to consistently complain. It sounds like you are on the high side of the equation here in America, but constantly complain you are getting short changed.
Not sure anyone is saying we can't do better, I doubt there is any private company that is 100% efficient with their $ either. We all bare responsibility for what we have, and with 300 Mil people it dosen't seem likely we are every going to have it our way.

"Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country." FDR
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Left Right

This comment string started with Dennis stating that it is the Liberals have drifted far Left. And Paul as is often the case disagreed with this and went on to restate his opinion that the GOP is against a functioning government.

All I have done is present data that supports Dennis. And makes the case that one can have a full functional government that does not include all of the mandated insurance and wealth transfer programs that our current system contains. I mean the USA was incredibly successful for 150+ years with none of them.

Sorry if you perceive my comments as complaining, personally I am blessed and fine with my tax burden. I am only concerned about the never ending desire on the Left to decrease personal choice /responsibility and give it to the public officials. Especially since they keep spending more than they bring in and their efforts have apparently contributed to an all time high number of poor single parent households. Which I think is bad for the children and our country.