The mind set behind Paul Krugman’s recent attacks on Barack Obama become clear from reading the excerpt from his book, The Conscience of a Liberal which appears at Slate. Krugman’s objections to Obama are over matters far greater than their disagreement over mandates on health care. The two have a totally different philosophy of government, and unfortunately Krugman wants to continue the philosophy of government best attributed in recent years to George Bush and Karl Rove.
While a majority oppose the Bush administration, different people do so for different reasons. Some of us have opposed Republican rule in recent years because Republicans practiced government from the extremes. Under their philosophy of government, the views of 49% of the country could be ignored if they could have the support of 51%. Paul Krugman and some on the left object not to this government from the extremes but simply object to the fact that it isn’t their extreme views which are dominant. Krugman writes:
Democrats, with the encouragement of people in the news media who seek bipartisanship for its own sake, may fall into the trap of trying to be anti-Bushes—of trying to transcend partisanship, seeking some middle ground between the parties.
That middle ground doesn’t exist—and if Democrats try to find it, they’ll squander a huge opportunity. Right now, the stars are aligned for a major change in America’s direction. If the Democrats play nice, that opportunity may soon be gone.
Krugman misunderstands why the Democrats won in 2006, as well as why they were out of power for many years before that. Voters rejected Republican rule largely because of how extreme it became. The problem with the Republican 51% strategy is that as soon as people disagree with parts of the platform there is no room for them in the party. Those who did not agree with Republican extremism in all its forms ultimately voted Democratic as the only option.
Krugman is mistaken if he believes that people voted Democratic because they support everything in what he characterizes as the progressive agenda. There is a middle ground between the two parties. There are also a variety of viewpoints. Many of us lean more libertarian, while rejecting the extremism and fantasy world view of Ron Paul and his supporters. We oppose the war and infringements on civil liberties, recognize a legitimate need for government in some areas, but do not see big government as the solution to all problems. Others might disagree with the Republicans for other reasons and decided to vote Democratic to register their protests. Many people are not ideological and simply recognize that the Republicans are taking the country on the wrong course.
If Paul Krugman’s advice is followed by the Democrats, us independents will quickly abandon them again. Government which only listens to the views of the far left is no better than government which only listens to views of the far right. Some independents will return to the Republicans, who will hopefully be willing to accept a wider range of viewpoints. Others will seek alternatives.
The frustration that government ping-pongs back and forth between two competing groups of narrow minded ideologues led to the Ross Perot movement, and explains the attraction of Ron Paul and Michael Bloomberg to some this year. Barack Obama has also tried to show some understanding of the views of such independents this year, causing him to repeatedly be attacked by Paul Krugman who realizes that if Obama listens to independents and even conservatives he will present a roadblock to shoving his agenda down the throats of all Americans. The result of Democrats following Krugman’s advice will be more hyper-partisanship as each side continues to try to push their agenda while ignoring the views of everyone else, and it won’t be long before there is an anti-Democratic backlash.