Recently consideration of America’s political landscape has resurfaced in these pages, motivated by Nevada County’s self-declared middle roader RL Bob Crabb who published a powerful condemnation of both the Left and Right upon which I expanded in ‘Oh, were it only that simple’. From that Bob took umbrage at me, RR, and our commenters, and then we were off to the polemical races on his blog and here.
Readers know that I am no fan of the middle roader (MR) approach to our country’s politics, especially when the L/R schism has become a broad chasm over the last decades. My beliefs about MR ideology have been covered in past posts, summarized most recently in ‘The Muddled Middle’(2012) and ‘The Muddled Middle – a revealing look’(2015). But that was then, and this is now when the chasm has widened considerably, and shows no sign of slowing down, let alone beginning to close. Let me explain.
But the MR folks are the most opaque of all, and for good reason. By the very definition of the ‘middle’, there is no profit in taking the time to solidify and disseminate their ideology because they are not in control of it. MR ideology must forever be the servant (slave?) of L/R ideological dynamics. For instance, if the Left takes a hard tack more leftward, then the MR must also go an appropriate ideological distance to the left else they’ll have to asymmetrically heap more criticism on the Left and be accused of having abandoned their MR position. The same thing happens in the other direction. Bottom line, as a MR devotee, you can’t put any ideological stakes in the ground that reveal your seminal principles. More to the point, except again for high level platitudes, the MR must needs remain unprincipled and nimble while equally criticizing the Left and Right.
And all this becomes more difficult for the MR when the L/R chasm is as wide as it is today. In that situation very few MRs can credibly pull off spouting ‘A pox on both your houses!’. Our good-hearted and well-intentioned local cartoonist has unwillingly (and unwittingly?) served as Exhibit A to make the case in point.
The fundamental flaw in selling the middle to widely spaced ideologues is found in the perspectives seen from both sides of the political road. Each looks at, say, a socio-economic problem and sees their solution as the utterly reasonable 2+2=4 while the other side promotes the unworkable 2+2=5. Enter the MR, who now says to both in the best Johnsonian fashion, ‘Come let us reason together’, and presents something near 4.5 as the reasonable compromise. Both sides, of course, look at that and see 4.5 as patently wrong, they each see that such a solution will not serve. Moreover, their publicized principles would be compromised to oblivion in the eyes of their respective constituencies. Why is that?
Well, each side knows that it can make a reasoned case for its 2+2=4. And they know that the other side’s reasoned case for 2+2=5 is the analog of the classic scene from a Ma and Pa Kettle movie (here) in which our backwoods stalwarts show how 25 divided by 5 yields 14, no matter how you come at the problem.
In such a polarized duel the MRs stand unarmed. They have a hard time making a consistent case for any specific solution, because it may have to have been moved this way or that since last time. Most certainly they can present no reasoned road to any solution should they be brave enough to venture forth because the unprincipled middle road will definitely have to appeal to the logical gymnastics of the Kettles. That is why the MRs can only peddle a peace that passeth all understanding.
(As a postlude, my position on all of the above can be savaged if not destroyed by a bona fide MR citing tenets of a belief system that can reasonably guide the intelligent reader from principles to policy. Else they can do no more than offer Rodney King’s plaintive appeal while carping at true believers on both sides from their proudly unsullied yet still muddled middle.)
[update] A commenter below reminded me that Nolan charts were introduced to RR readers some years back (2010) when we discussed more realistically dimensioned political landscapes (here). At that time I posted my own location on the left chart below. I retook the survey given by the different purveyor of Nolan charts (here) and got positioned as shown in the right chart. Hard to tell if I’ve shifted or we have some apples and oranges in the questionnaire and subsequent scoring algo. But for what it’s worth, both assignments are close enough for government work, and both illustrate why I call myself a conservetarian. Thought you’d like to know since we’re back again talking about political positioning.