This immortal line – the key to the Republican nomination (With Mitt Romney having to play along to try to win the nomination) is from a column by Richard Cohen. It captures the spirit of the times, which I have said before is like the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Most of us orient ourselves with various ideological tribal loyalties. But sometimes things are serious. Sometimes one’s own side goes metastatic. Sometimes it’s the left, and sometimes it’s the right. Fortunately in democracies this kind of thing is self-limiting. Certainly if the right leaning candidates in Australia were as nutty as those left in the Republican race (with the exception of Mitt who does at least convey his reluctance to say the things he has to say to win the nomination), they wouldn’t even be competitive against the current government – which is saying something. It seems that betting markets think something similar will happen in the US – despite the much greater importance of motivating the base over there owing in part to voluntary voting.
So what a pity it was that Cohen couldn’t quite finish the column without a neutralist flourish (note I don’t use the term ‘centrist’ flourish).
So far, the Palin effect has been limited to the GOP. Surely, though, there lurks in the Democratic Party potential candidates who have seen Palin and taken note. Experience, knowledge, accomplishment — these no longer may matter. They will come roaring out of the left proclaiming a hatred of all things Washington, including compromise. The movie had it right. Sarah Palin changed the game.
Well yes of course a technique taken up by one side is then available to the other. But it’s not as if Republican idiocy and craziness is a sure vote-winner. The crazy dumb candidates don’t seem to perform particularly well at the voting machine. So what’s driving this is not electoral appeal (it’s not like micro-targeted direct mail or robot phone calls), but a deep pathology of the Republican Party that has driven out moderate and sane republicans – you know those who think the world was made more than 10,000 years ago, that climate scientists might be right, that pollution is bad for you, that there are problems that tax cuts to the wealthy may not be able to solve.
And here’s a newsflash for those who think Paul Krugman is some wild leftie. Read his stuff from before the Bush years. He hasn’t recanted any of his broadly centrist views – he’s pro free trade, competition, incentives to innovate and get rich. But he proclaims a hatred of all things Washington including compromise with crazies – and Obama’s delightful habit of compromising with himself before he even goes near the Republicans. That’s because he always was and remains a liberal centrist. Everyone is always saying how the Democrats have an equal and opposite craziness to the Republicans. Perhaps they do, and you just need to be close up to see it. But from this distance, people like Clinton and Obama look like centrists to me. In fact I can’t think of a single prominent Democrat influential within their party who isn’t of that mould.