Paul Krugman Misses His Own Answer To His Question

Paul Krugman has asked a question he did not believe there was an answer to and then, without realizing it, answered it twice. At his blog he links to Chris Bowers’ dismissive post at Open Left on the contemplated presidential run by Michael Bloomberg and then asks, “Seriously, why does anyone think this makes sense? I read a lot of polls, and they suggest that the center of public opinion on the issues is, if anything, left of the center of the Democratic Party. This seems to be a solution in search of a problem.”

The first answer comes from reading Bowers’ post, which uses a pack of straw man arguments to dismiss the whole idea, showing no understanding of other viewpoints. If this is the mind set of today’s Democrats, I desperately want an alternative.

The second answer is found in his column in the Monday New York Times. Krugman compares the two parties and finds there is no common ground. Each party is now is dominated by a set of ideas with no room for compromise and no middle ground. This is exactly why we need an alternative.

The current two party divide might be fine for those who hold one of the two sets of views held by the major parties, but not all of us entirely share one set or the other. In 2004 the Republicans were speaking of a permanent majority and by 2006 they were being voted out. There was not suddenly a decision by a block of far right Republicans that they were wrong on everything and therefore they would become Edwards/Krugman style Democrats, making for a new populist majority as Krugman believes exists.

In reality many people including independents, moderates, and “Starbucks Republicans” realized that the Republican policies were wrong. In a two party system that meant voting Democratic, but that did not mean we all agreed with every position of the Democratic Party. Many of us want out of Iraq, want a restoration of a rational foreign policy, want to restore the checks on balances on government which have been eroded, and want an end to the abuses of civil liberties. Many of us also see a need for government action to solve some problems. This includes health care reform to solve some of the problems in the insurance industry, but not necessarily destroying the industry or creating mandatory programs. This also includes dealing with environmental problems such as climate change which are beyond the ability of the free market to resolve.

This does not mean we accept big government solutions for all problems. The knee jerk offering of a government program to provide assistance in every circumstance by people like Edwards is just a transparent method of seeking voters and is simply a mirror image of Republicans offering tax cuts we cannot afford to receive the votes of their constituents.

We also enjoy the products and services provided by the supposedly evil corporate America. Many have good jobs thanks to corporate America. Many of us have built substantial nest eggs thanks to investing in corporate America. This includes many middle class Americans who have taken advantage of such opportunities. A candidate such as John Edwards who makes corporate America the enemy will not receive the votes of many of us who helped the Democrats take control of Congress in 2006. This does not mean that we would naively allow corporate America to do everything and anything it wanted to increase profits. If we were that kind of monster we would be Bush/Cheney Republicans.

Krugman wrote that “the center of public opinion on the issues is, if anything, left of the center of the Democratic Party.” I imagine that would be somewhere around Barack Obama looking at the choices this year. If Obama is the nominee, then Krugman is right that here is no need for an independent alternative. However if the only choice is Edwards style populism or a return to Republican rule, we desperately need another alternative. I certainly don’t know if this independent group will provide the alternative we need, and I’m realistic enough to doubt I will agree with them on all issues. I certainly fear they will be somewhat more moderate than I am on social issues. However I am willing to listen to what they have to offer, rather than dismissing their views as Krugman does or distorting their views as Bowers does to attack them.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Chris Andersen says:

    The flaw in the “unity” argument is that it assumes the “middle ground” is between the parties. Thus the need for bipartisanship becomes defacto.

    But what if the “middle ground” is not between the parties? What if the “middle ground” is, as Krugman suggests, to the *left* of the Democratic Party? In such a case, a “unity” platform that splits the difference between Republicans and Democrats would, in fact, move the government further away from what the country wants. It is a solution in search of a problem.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    “It is a solution in search of a problem.”

    No, I already outlined the problem in the post above. This might not be the right solution, but there is a problem.

    “What if the “middle ground” is, as Krugman suggests, to the *left* of the Democratic Party? ”

    That is not what Krugman said at all. He wrote that the middle ground is “left of the center of the Democratic Party.” Left of the center is quite different from being to the left of the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party nominates someone like Edwards who is to the left of the party, then there is room for someone in the middle.

    There’s another problem with Krugman’s analysis which I got into peripherally in the post. The whole left to right spectrum is a flawed way to look at the issues. Placing the Republicans on the right and Democrats on the left and then seeing the alternative as the center would only make sense if there was one set of views on all issues.

    What this analysis misses is that people might be liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues or vice versa. There are also other ways to divide the candidates including their views on civil liberties issues, church-state separation, and foreign policy.

    The point is not splitting the differences between the Democrats and Republicans. The point is having another option of sets of positions if neither the Democrats or Republicans offer a choice which many of us find acceptable.

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