25
Sep
08

Centrism for Dummies, i.e. “Progressive Corporatists”

In response to the column by David Brooks in The New York Times titled, “The Establishment Lives!” (Sept. 22, 2008), the Daily Kos had this sharp response, “Centrism as Mythical Pony.” It has to do with plans for a post-meltdown financial future, and the way some will slavishly adhere to the same old establishment, the same establishment that managed affairs to their personal advantage, and mismanaged the affairs of others in such fantastic measures. Here are some of my favourite passages from the Daily Kos article:

The “establishment figures” and “time-tested advisors” in general (with some ample caveats for people like Buffett) not only didn’t see this coming, or for the most part didn’t care, but had absolutely no qualms in damaging the “health of the markets” in pursuit of those very tenuous paper profits.

In terms of erecting a new establishment of experts and managers, the supposed middle ground of all options (which in American terms almost always means right wing):

These are the very people responsible for the mess. But Brooks thinks of them as Gods of Capitalism, because — well, why? Because somebody’s got to be the Gods of Capitalism, the people who know best. Doesn’t matter if they’ve botched things literally to historic proportions. Doesn’t matter if their “creative” accounting was the source of the problems. Doesn’t matter if the leveraging decisions and “wise” deregulations they have advocated through the Savings and Loan crisis straight onto this one have been proven not just wrong, but catastrophically so. It is important that we have faith in the markets, and having faith in the markets means — and is indistinguishable from — having faith in the very establishment figures that have run those markets into a ditch.

This is classic Brooksism/Broderism — a pronouncement that a “new center” or “new establishment” is ascending — but one that looks exactly like the old center, and contains exactly the members of the old establishment. But it’ll be great!

It’s the same as the Iraq War and everything else: the inevitable assumptions of Broder and other pundits are that:

1. Those in power are our betters, and know what they are doing, despite any and all plain-as-your-face evidence to the contrary, and

2. The “right” approach to any problem can be found by dismissing the most extreme positions on both sides and declaring that something in the middle is, in fact, the only wise course.

What is this “Brooksism”?

I can define Brooksism in a single sentence: it is the belief that partisanship is worse than incompetence, and holding an ideologically-grounded belief is worse than taking an explicitly malevolent action. It is a very Zen approach to politics: nothing peeves Brooks as much as the notion that somebody out there is upsetting the blindly nonpartisan apple cart of establishment figures and establishment ideas that should govern us with the dignity and authority of benevolent kings.

What also stands out is the way the dominant order continually tries to rehabilitate its most discredited sons and daughters:

What will it take for someone in the “establishment”, whether in the field of military operations, foreign policy, fiscal planning or anything else, to be recognized as a dunderhead or as acting against the public interest? How badly do you have to screw up the nation?

Of course it’s great to see American commentators write like this, and clearly this is another member of that small minority of Americans who can think critically, ask questions of their own society, and try to escape the cultural confines of that society. One day, hopefully soon, such individuals will likely make a bigger difference.

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