On Russ Steele’s NC2012 there is a comment stream in which people are groping for some middle ground. I have contributed to it by asking what would one do with such a middle ground, were one to be discovered. The point being that it’s highly likely that there is no profitable middle ground to be had between today's historically polarized ideologies. By ‘profitable’ I mean one that suggests a consensus in adopting a plan forward. Historically we are now beyond that point.
To the body of evidence that supports this proposition, I add Edward Lazear’s 14jun12 WSJ essay, ‘Whose Fault Is Today’s Bad Economy?’ He summarizes his excellent development with his starting paragraph –
Picture this scenario in baseball: Pitcher Smith replaces a starting pitcher in the fourth inning, when his team is down by three runs. The team scores two runs in the next inning, almost tying the score. But in the sixth inning, Smith gives up five runs, putting his team hopelessly behind. After the loss, Smith tells reporters that he did not pitch well in the sixth inning because the team was behind before he entered the game in the fourth.
It’s worth a read and makes an excellent case for stopping the endless exchange of pointing at the actions and policy maneuverings of pre-2009 Republicans and Democrats.
As another measure of the gulf that divides us, take a look at a succinct and extremely revealing description of what the self-described progressive faction characterizes as proper morality within which markets must be “framed”. Recall, that collectivism always marches under the banners of morality which, for a bunch of atheists, is surprisingly always an absolute that emerges from God(sic) knows where. In ‘Economics and Morality: Paul Krugman’s Framing’ Lakoff and Wehling of truthout.com argue –
The collectivist view of the conservative approach to markets is reduced to –
Conservatives hold a different moral perspective, based on an idealized notion of a strict father family. In this model, the father is The Decider, who is in charge, knows right from wrong and teaches children morality by punishing them painfully when they do wrong, so that they can become disciplined enough to do right and thrive in the market. If they are not well-off, they are not sufficiently disciplined and so cannot be moral: they deserve their poverty. Applied to conservative politics, this yields a moral hierarchy with the wealthy, morally disciplined citizens deservedly on the top.
Democracy is seen as providing liberty, the freedom to seek one's self-interest with minimal responsibility for the interests or well-being of others. It is laissez-faire liberty. Responsibility is personal, not social. People should be able to be their own strict fathers, Deciders on their own - the ideal of conservative populists, who are voting their morality not their economic interests. Those who are needy are assumed to be weak and undisciplined and, therefore, morally lacking. The most moral people are the rich. The slogan, "Let the market decide," sees the market itself as The Decider, the ultimate authority, where there should be no government power over it to regulate, tax, protect workers and to impose fines in tort cases. Those with no money are undisciplined, not moral and so should be punished. The poor can earn redemption only by suffering and, thus, supposedly, getting an incentive to do better.
These arguments and observations match the 19th century prescriptions of Marx and the 20th century diktats of Lenin to a tee - communism on cat’s feet.
So now, dear Reader, your job is to define a plausible common ground; and failing that, just postulate that one exists and try to come up with one or more policies (say, on healthcare, energy, transportation, immigration, …), acceptable to both sides, a policy that will work and serve as a way we can go forward together.