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What This Country Needs is For the Interests of White Plutocrats to Finally be Represented

[ 72 ] September 1, 2011 |

People who see third parties as a solution in the American system naturally tend to speak entirely in evasive gibberish, but I think Matt Miller’s latest plea is a particularly perfect specimen:

If you think, as I’ve argued repeatedly, that we need a “radically centrist” third-party presidential candidate to shake things up, and to force both political parties to confront the myriad issues that their interest groups and ideological litmus tests bar them from treating honestly, then there are only two ways for that to happen in 2012. Like it or not, both depend on wealthy Americans investing in creative political change.

First, nobody should ever use the term “radical centrism” again. Second, the pain caucus policies the term seems to represent are in fact remarkably overrepresnted in the nation’s political discourse. Third, it’s (to put it mildly) unclear how having a Third Party representative selling a mixture of policies that have virtually no constituency will “shake things up.” Seriously, Rick Perry is going to suddenly embrace across-the-board tax hikes because a billionaire with no political support expressing unpopular ideas is running? I’m eternally baffled by people who think that politics works like a junior high debating society, with Fred Hiatt as the final judge.

Besides, I will once again note that a third party should “shake things up” by pointing out that I am completely right about everything. I demand the “Radical Centrist” ticket in Unity ’12!

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Comments (72)

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  1. Murc says:

    force both political parties to confront the myriad issues that their interest groups and ideological litmus tests bar them from treating honestly

    I’d like to know what these issues are, and how the parties aren’t treating them honestly due to interest-group politics and ideological litmus tests. No, really, I would. I would be FASCINATED as to how he thinks the Republicans and Democrats stack up on this one.

    Seriously, Rick Perry is going to suddenly embrace across-the-board tax cuts because a billionaire with no political support expressing unpopular ideas is running?

    Errr… aren’t across-the-board tax cuts already one of the two big planks in Perry’s platform? You meant tax hikes maybe? Or… I don’t even know, actually.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Speaking of across-the-board tax cuts, I was saddened to see that Jon Huntsman – usually seemingly the closest thing to a sane person on offer not only in the Republican Presidential field but perhaps in the whole party – has put forward a plan with a top rate of 23%, and no taxes on capital gains at all (and reduced deductions).

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        Capiial gains are after all non-filthy lucre.

        Wages are filthy lucre.

        If you’re going to carefully divide the poor into the deserving and undeserving, why not carefully divide income into deserving and undeserving?

        If you’re going to bring back feudalism, you might as well bring back scholasticism with it….

        • Njorl says:

          Capital gains are honest profits earned from thrifty savings and wise investment. Wages are the money extorted by workers just to get them to do their jobs. If labor would just trust capital to provide for its needs, then labor would never need to worry about money again. And capitalists should have “Droit de seigneur” over their laborers.

          • Davis X. Machina says:

            The funny thing was, eight hundred years ago, capital gains were suspect, because the power of creation, even of money, ex nihilo, was an attribute of the Deity.

            Laborers, on the other hand, were making things from other things, which is appropriate for mortals.

            • Njorl says:

              Few people realize that, alone among the fallen angels, Mammon has asked and received God’s forgiveness. Pursuit of luxury at the expense of your fellow man is now virtuous.

            • Holden Pattern says:

              I think that the way to think about is that while money is filthy when first earned by the sweat of the brow (even the metaphorical sweat thereof) and should be subject to very high taxes as punishment for the sinfulness of the getting, it is thus purified and the money earned by the money is glorious, godly and should not be taxed, just like churches aren’t taxed.

          • Davis says:

            No doubt coal miners were happy to live in company housing and shopping at company stores with company money. Liberty!

            • Murc says:

              I actually have a whole tinfull of my coal-mining great-grandfathers company scrip. The most remarkable thing about it is how cheapass it is.

              It has some anti-counterfeiting protection on it (milled edges, weird shapes, holes drilled off-center) but aside from that the engraving is so thin it could probably be worn smooth with a month of normal handling and they’re made of ‘brass’ that has so much tin in it I suspect wouldn’t meet the mettalurgical or legal definition. I suspect I could bend one in two with my bare hands.

              • Bill Murray says:

                I think a lot of tin would make it bronze or red brass. alpha brass or some generic low zinc alloy is probably more likely

    • Murc says:

      AAaaaaand you fixed the post sometime between when I started typing and when I hit submit. If you want me to look foolish, Scott, there are much easier ways.

  2. Warren Terra says:

    I liked August Pollak’s take on this same column when Thomas Friedman wrote it. Make that the second time Thomas Friedman wrote it. Well, the second time recently:

    Because, of course, the joke here is that (with the exception of the worst of the Pain Caucus nonsense), Obama and with him most Democrats in Congress are trying to push a very centrist agenda. But Broder Of Blessed Memory demands that everything is both sides’ fault, so the only answer is that we throw out our entire political system and replace it with a man in a cape and tights who looks suspiciously like Thomas Friedman (or, in this case, Matt Miller), only without glasses and standing up straight.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Um, dunno how it happened – must have typo’d something – but managed to mess up my comment something fierce. I’d blockquoted Pollak’s post, and written something after it, but in the comment as posted his words are missing and it looks like I’ve put mine in his mouth. Sorry.

      Should have been more like:
      I liked August Pollak’s take on this same column when Thomas Friedman wrote it. Make that the second time Thomas Friedman wrote it. Well, the second time recently:

      Shorter Thomas Friedman: much like I complained about a month ago in a column I was also mysteriously paid for, I continue to lament that both Democrats and Republicans fail to promote a constructive, beneficial agenda like the ones Democrats have been promoting.
      I’m honestly not sure who I’m supposed to be amazed at for just not giving a shit anymore: Friedman for writing a column where he simply pretends that Barack Obama doesn’t exist, or the Times for letting him do it. Twice.

      Because, of course, the joke here is that (with the exception of the worst of the Pain Caucus nonsense), Obama and with him most Democrats in Congress are trying to push a very centrist agenda. But Broder Of Blessed Memory demands that everything is both sides’ fault, so the only answer is that we throw out our entire political system and replace it with a man in a cape and tights who looks suspiciously like Thomas Friedman (or, in this case, Matt Miller), only without glasses and standing up straight.

  3. Slocum says:

    It should be “Donner Party Caucus” (Holbo) not “Pain Caucus,” regardless of Krugman’s Sveriges Riksbank Blow-Shit-Up prize in Economics.

    http://examinedlife.typepad.com/johnbelle/2003/11/dead_right.html

    • UserGoogol says:

      I’d say those refer to slightly different concepts. Frum was basically making the argument that hardship is good because it promotes moral virtue. The “pain caucus” refers more to the idea that austerity is necessary for the economy, that just need to swallow the bitter medicine and then everything will work out. The two arguments complement each other somewhat, but they’re aiming for very different goals.

  4. What interest groups or ideological litmus tests bar the Democrats from confronting any issue? The supposedly socialist president put social security benefits on the table. What the hell is this guy talking about?

    • DrDick says:

      Obviously, Obama has not come out in favor of abolishing all taxes on incomes over $300,000 and requiring workers to pay for the privilege of working, thus proving he is a radical socialist.

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        But property still isn’t theft, and no one is expropriating the expropriators, so he’s simultaneously an arch-capitalist.

        Adaptable fellow, this Obama.

    • David M. Nieporent says:

      What interest groups or ideological litmus tests bar the Democrats from confronting any issue?

      The party of government unions, that worships government, bars the Democrats from confronting the issue of shrinking government.

      I mean, we live in such a ridiculously-tilted-to-the-left system that an agreement that cuts absolutely no spending at all, but instead massively increases it, is called “austerity.”

      • Malaclypse says:

        I mean, we live in such a ridiculously-tilted-to-the-left system that an agreement that cuts absolutely no spending at all, as long as one deceitfully ignores inflation and population growth but instead massively increases it, is called “austerity.”

        Fixed.

  5. StevenAttewell says:

    This guy works for CAP? What a schizophrenic place that must be to work in.

  6. wengler says:

    Doesn’t radical centrist usually mean a Republican that believes in evolution?

    Oh hey look over there, it’s John Huntsman. Or look, there’s Barack Obama, bragging that public spending is down to its lowest level in 60 years, even as unemployment is at crisis levels.

    I’m cool with gays, but I don’t want rich people to pay the taxes necessary to support a modern society. I see we’ve run up quite the credit card bill with our wars and incessant corporate giveaways. You poors take care of that will you.

    Radical Centralist!

  7. Uncle Kvetch says:

    Irene’s passage through town last weekend was a salutary reminder of the fact that Bloomberg is the epitome of good ol’ fashioned big, activist government. I’ve got no problem with that, of course, and I was actually pretty impressed by the way the city mobilized for what turned out to be a fortunate near-miss. But then I’m a DFH.

    Elsewhere in the political sphere, candidates for president can call for the dismantling of FEMA without being hauled away in a straightjacket, and Very Serious People will stroke their chins in response and say “Hmmm, maybe he’s on to something.”

    The notion that Bloomberg could ever hope to get national political traction in a climate where even Democrats pay lip service to the vacuous nostrums of Reaganism is beyond hilarious. Just imagine him in a debate with a teabagger like Perry or Bachmann, patiently explaining the critical role of government in getting people to eat fewer trans fats.

  8. Pith Helmet says:

    I’m eternally baffled by people who think that politics works like a junior high debating society, with Fred Hiatt as the final judge.

    You don’t follow life in the Village much, do you?

    I am also baffled by people whose sole interaction with people outside their high-income bubble consists of chats with immigrant cab drivers and random people on public transportation in DC somehow get the idea they understand what 99 percent of the American public want.

  9. By gum he’s right! Here’s a creative idea to get the wealthy involved – Sell the right to vote to the highest bidder! A perfect marriage of the Free Market and Democracy!

    Seriously, what the fuck gives here? [Follows the link...]

    Christ, he looks like his buttplug is a mite frosty.

    There is, of course, no guarantee that cash alone will give us the right stuff. What we need is a new and much improved version of what Ross Perot modeled in 1992. (I’m working on what the stump speech should sound like so that interested parties won’t have to start from scratch.)

    [Blink, blink]

    Yet here’s the problem: Some wealthy patriots in the “far center” who might consider running for president or supporting such efforts think philanthropy is a better way to spend their time and money.

    ???

    Are you SURE this isn’t finely tuned spoof?

  10. Mark says:

    The dumbest thing about this is that workers and the poor actually don’t have their interests properly represented, yet these guys never write that we should have a Workers Party, or a Labor Party, or that people should support the already-existing Socialist Party.

    I’m not saying it would be a good idea or a bad idea to help build those parties, but obviously if we need a third party at all what we need is a leftist party, not some Polite Plutocrat Party.

    • Bighank53 says:

      The poor, the workers, and the other plebians don’t have any money, so who cares? Haven’t you been reading any Rand?

    • Triplanetary says:

      That’s what I was going to say. That the Village is still married to this idiotic notion that the Dems and the GOP stand on two opposites poles of the political spectrum is astounding. They have no idea what liberalism even is anymore.

      Essentially, there’s no room between the moderate fringe of the GOP and the moderate bulk of the Dems to squeeze in a “radical centrist hurf de durf” third party. You can either go left, or you can go even further right and make a third party that advocates ethnic cleansing and genuine serfdom. But there’s no need to bother with the latter; the GOP will get there if we just give it a little more time.

  11. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    While I agree that the talk of a “radical centrist” third party is empty nonsense, the fact remains that the pain caucus has been extraordinarily effective at packaging their bad-ideas-without-an-electoral-base as the only sensible policies to pursue. Indeed, this has become close to conventional wisdom among a lot of “mainstream” pundits.

    So while these calls for a third party can’t–and won’t–go anywhere, they do a good job of presenting conventional and bad ideas as bold and utopic, adding to the sense that Washington’s biggest failure is its refusal to embrace austerity more wholeheartedly, and reinforcing the view that both major parties are equally responsible for the problems in our political system.

    There’s a method to this madness.

    • Steve LaBonne says:

      And it’s extremely disheartening that it works so goddamn well.

    • DrDick says:

      That is because these policies appeal to our media and policy elites, who personally benefit from them.

      • Walt says:

        That is part of the explanation, but I don’t think it’s all of it — I know ordinary middle class people who naturally fall into this “the truth lies somewhere in the middle” thinking. Somehow the psychological stance is intrinsically appealing.

        • NonyNony says:

          It’s appealing in the way that all laziness is appealing. You don’t have to work very hard to think if you can just conclude that there are folks on one side, folks on the other, and therefore the truth must lie somewhere in the middle.

          I find myself falling into that trap for things that I don’t care/know much about. “People on both sides are pissed – must be doing something right!” I’m old enough now that I’ve started to cop to the laziness and try to stop myself, but I recognize the appeal of just not giving a shit and assuming that it must be okay since everyone is mad about it.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Why does the “radical centrist” utopia look depressingly like an even more hopeless status quo in which America doesn’t bother trying to achieve anything anymore?

  12. bobbyp says:

    We already have ‘radical centerist’ parties: Democrats and Republicans. I am of the opinion that is one too many.

  13. Hogan says:

    I’m working on what the stump speech should sound like so that interested parties won’t have to start from scratch.

    there is simply no better vehicle for advocacy than a presidential campaign.

    Senior fellow? SENIOR FUCKING FELLOW? That dumbass owes me one large will to live.

    • Malaclypse says:

      there is simply no better vehicle for advocacy than a presidential campaign.

      Which is why Lyndon LaRouche is in no way shape or form a punch line.

  14. R. Porrofatto says:

    When one party is center-right, and the other party is extreme whacko right, how exactly is a radically centrist party going to slip into that little slice between them? It’s like trying to park a Ford Expedition in a 5-foot space. Then again, maybe this radically centrist party would be more like a super-luxury rich people’s version of a Smart Fortwo: overpriced, without much power and liable to crush your skull in any confrontation with a big SUV. Okay, this is a ridiculous, unsustainable metaphor but it makes as much sense as Matt Miller’s idea.

  15. david mizner says:

    Well the current administration is radically centrist. Is the problem that the President is only a millionaire and not a billionaire?

  16. Henry says:

    Jews and elites are over-represented already. This country has tens of millions of idiots that are entitled to representation, for that reason alone I am glad to see Perry and Bachman running.

    • Malaclypse says:

      This country has tens of millions of idiots that are entitled to representation,

      Look, they held the White House for eight of the last eleven years. Is that not enough?

    • Brian says:

      Who said anything about Jews? Or is this just another anti-Semitic LG&M commenter thing? And elites, whatever that means to you, are by definition over-represented. So that adds nothing.

      • CJColucci says:

        I suspect that the comment was tongue-in-cheek, but it wasn’t quite outrageous enough to be clear.

        • Njorl says:

          It’s annoying how crazy you have to be to be funny nowadays.

        • witless chum says:

          Jews are actually overrepresented in politics by percentage of the population. Michigan sure wasn’t 100 percent Jewish from 1996 to 2000, or 50 percent Jewish since.

          It’s just that most people who care enough about this fact to point it out are antisemites, given that it’s a pretty meaningless fact.

  17. timb says:

    I’ve listened to a podcast featuring Miller for years, and he has been claiming ownership of the pain issue for a decade. His real problems are, apparently, with unions and Republicans.

    Hell, I never thought of hating them both! is that what radical centrism is?

  18. MikeJake says:

    Radical centrism…that’s when David Brooks goes skateboarding, right?

  19. Jim Harrison says:

    By the usual criteria, the supposedly leftist critics of Obama are mostly centrists, not only in terms of their policy preferences but in terms of their class membership. One irony of the current political situation, which may or may not eventuate in meaningful consequences, is that casting such moderates as leftists is likely to radicalize them. Something like that happened during the Vietnamese war. After you have been denounced often enough as outside of the mainstream, you begin to wonder what’s so frigging wonderful about the mainstream.

    • Mark says:

      By the usual criteria, the supposedly leftist critics of Obama are mostly centrists, not only in terms of their policy preferences but in terms of their class membership.

      How is “centrist” a social or economic class?

      • Jim Harrison says:

        I probably shouldn’t have put it so baldly, but the folks I encounter on supposedly left-wing sites seem to come from social backgrounds–professional work, knowledge industries, small business people–that have traditionally produced voters who support middle of the road politics.

  20. bcgister says:

    If he wants a radically centrist candidate, I’m assuming he’s voting for Obama: I can’t think os anyone who has gone to such lengths to find common ground with the opposition (centrism.) It seems fair to call that kind of bridge burning, nonpartisan stance “radical.” Hence, Obama is the candidate that Miller is looking for,

  21. Kadin says:

    New Zealand had the original radical centrist. He was a dick.

  22. homunq says:

    Dude is on crack. But that doesn’t excuse the cheap shot at third party advocates. Here’s a sane plan that involves third parties:

    1. Supporting voting reform becomes a litmus test for being “anti-establishment”.

    2. Tea-party-like movements (that is, pseudo-anti-establishment movements based firmly in one party) on the right and/or left elect a majority who pay lip service to voting reform.

    3. Voting reform passes.

    4. Progressives can split off from the Democratic party and make their own party. (Same thing happens on the right, but I don’t care.)

    5. It becomes clear how “Republican lite” (“radical centrist”) ideas have no actual base. Such people still often win, but only as a compromise, through second-choice votes.

    6. The media has to treat progessive ideas seriously. People realize that most progressive ideas (apart from immigration-related ones) are actually common-sense and mainstream.

    7. People who agree with me start to win.

    8. Utopia!

    OK, it’s a stretch, but ya gotta find your hope where you can get it. And believing that the system as currently constructed will ever be up to the challenges the nation (and the species) faces is getting even more ridiculous than my byzantine plan.

  23. [...] primary challenge, in other words, is basically the lefty equivalent to Americans Elect Radical Centrist Unity — a useless non-answer to the wrong question. Share and [...]

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