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Posted by MGKrebs in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Sat Oct 14th 2006, 09:03 PM
I have been thinking about "centrism" some and why there seems to be some tension surrounding the subject. This is my amateur observation and I welcome further input and differing viewpoints. Please excuse me if this has been discussed before and I just missed it.

To me, the political spectrum consists of a range of ideologies, for the most part fixed or at least internally consistent. Somewhere toward the left you would have socialism, and moving to the right we find gradually diminishing variations of populist democracy. Somewhere toward the right you would find Libertarianism and, moving leftward, traditional conservatives and variations of smaller central government advocates. Of course there are myriad variations and shades and mixes of ideas, but they all have fixed positions on issues that don't change much over time. Many issues (although certainly not all) can be placed somewhere on that spectrum because we can identify and define whether something is closer to one ideology or another.

My thinking leads me to believe that centrism may not really belong on this spectrum at all. Centrism, as I understand it, involves trying to ascertain where "the middle" is, and crafting a message to respond to that middle, and identifying "the middle" means identifying where on the fixed spectrum that most so-called "swing voters" currently reside. The thing is, by definition, swing voters haven't bought into a particular ideology, so as a group they may be all over the place on that spectrum depending on the issue. Trying to find the center therefore is sometimes more like finding an average since few may actually occupy that center on any particular issue. I don't think you can really say that "centrists believe in X". I would suggest that it has little meaning except in the context of an election or polling. In other words, it is only able to be defined relative to something else. If the left is here and the right is here then the center is here.

That's not to say that centrism isn't a legitimate point of view, it's just that perhaps it's more constructive to think of it as a tactic or a strategy rather than an ideology. So when we have discussions about winning elections, centrists and ideologues aren't necessarily at odds. Someone who considers them self pretty much a socialist may recognize that utilizing a centrist strategy when it comes to universal health care may be more successful than advocating government takeover of the health care industry at this moment in time. By the same token, a centrist would hopefully recognize that ideologues aren't necessarily "wrong", it's just that for them, elections are only one mechanism for achieving the policies and furthering the philosophy. The philosophy will still exist next year and next decade, and there will be more elections then (hopefully!) and there are other means to further the philosophy besides elections anyway, as Lech Walesa might argue.

I think this might illuminate a little common ground leading to a more productive debate. I think it is when we try to discuss centrism as a political ideology or insist on ideology without regard to election strategy that we have difficulty resolving the discussion. They are two different things. I feel like I can be a liberal, and be true to my ideals, and accept that sometimes, in some races, the candidate I am most aligned with is not going to fulfill every aspect of my liberal philosophy. My support of this candidate does not mean I have abandoned my philosophy, but merely indicates that this is the best that can be done at this time. At the same time, I also believe that we have to be able to do more than one thing at a time. There must be some candidate somewhere who stands up for the ideal- for the principle- regardless of the odds. Perhaps the discussion should be more about when and where to apply a strategy or stick to an ideology rather than whether one or the other is empirically right or wrong. The goals of each are actually subtly different. Centrism is designed to win elections, ideology advocates specific policies. Ideologues would be well served to sometimes accept small steps toward their position, and centrists could benefit from recognizing that winning without substance might make it harder to win next time.

We all ultimately have the same goal- a better world.

Thanks to the proprietors for providing the forum to discuss stuff like this.
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Posted by MGKrebs in Latest Breaking News
Wed May 10th 2006, 11:55 AM
Why isn't it an OPEC problem? Or a Red Crescent problem? Or an African Union problem?

The UN can speak- and act- with moral authority on many issues; health care, poverty, environmental protection, and election protection are some of them. Intervening in large scale conflict is just not very often within the UN's capabilities. I don't believe the organization is even designed to do that. If you just try to imagine what it would take to have an organization that would have that kind of capability, I hope that you would see that that would be a very dangerous and scary organization to have.

The UN is better suited to try to PREVENT wide scale violence before it occurs, and obviously, the organization is not always successful at this. But mostly, the UN as an organization operates in areas where consensus can be achieved. Violent conflict, once it breaks out, by it's very definition is unlikely to be addressed through consensus, especially when it probably involves removal of a government. I think it is unfair and unrealistic (and maybe even imprudent) for us to expect the UN to be able to do that.
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Posted by MGKrebs in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Sun Mar 26th 2006, 03:53 PM
(I am not happy about this. I desperately want there to be some good news from Iraq. But we don't need to be lied to or "spun". We can't really move forward productively unless we have the truth.)

RNC talking point:

"ABC's Jake Tapper: "With the newfound freedom of speech here, more than 100 television and radio stations have been licensed ..." (Jake Tapper, Op-Ed, "Where Comedy Isn't King," The New York Times, 3/20/06)
Tapper: "This has resulted not only in more news and public affairs programming, but many new entertainment shows." (Jake Tapper, Op-Ed, "Where Comedy Isn't King," The New York Times, 3/20/06)
Tapper: "On radio, every day the Rashid station offers a four-hour show called 'DJ Rashid,' which brings listeners music, comedy and various contests." (Jake Tapper, Op-Ed, "Where Comedy Isn't King," The New York Times, 3/20/06)

More from the same article the RNC cites:

"We had been on the set for less than an hour when Mustafa got a phone call that clearly upset him. Grabbing Abed-Jasim by the arm, Mustafa took him aside and told him that gunmen had assassinated Hamid, the entertainment-division chief, outside his Baghdad home just minutes earlier.
The director told the cast and crew. Shock and grief turned to terror. Everyone on the set immediately became restless, anxious. Eyes moist with tears began darting about the street. Iraqi TV is widely perceived as being pro-Shiite and pro-government; the Sunni-leaning Baghdad TV had just had one of its anchors shot and killed a few days before. Not that any of the violence in today's Iraq needs a reason.
Mustafa told the crew to break down; within minutes everyone had jumped into cars and minivans and fled. My crew and I weren't far behind. Iraqi TV put a black band of mourning on the top left corner of its screen and spent much of the rest of the day covering Hamid's funeral.
It is American journalists' duty to try to look at the broader picture in Iraq - telling the stories about those brave souls who seek to restore normalcy and laughter into the daily routine here. But there is no denying that the horrific violence will often make that task impossible.
(Jake Tapper is a correspondent for ABC News.)

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