Dare we dream?

Actually, the item on "Morning Edition" that followed the one referenced in my last posting holds much greater significance, and is worth listening to if only for this: It makes a passing reference to the possibility that Ariel Sharon, under attack from within his own party over the Gaza withdrawal, was thinking about forming a new, centrist party to challenge both Likud and Labour — if Bibi is successful in his attempt to overthrow him. (Which he was not — this time.)

Now set aside for a moment whether including "Sharon" and "centrist" in the same sentence constitutes an oxymoron (I would argue that it does not, given some of his moves lately — if you’ll let me ignore some of his other moves lately). What interested me about that was this:

If the leader of a nation who’s very existence is constantly under threat — a place where differences between parties are about the life or death of the nation, not just abstract ideology — can seriously think about minting a new party that charts a middle way, then why on Earth can’t we do the same here in the States?

Imagine a party in which John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden or our own Lindsey Graham might actually have a chance of getting the presidential nomination — or which, in the past, might have nominated a Scoop Jackson or a Howard Baker. Now that would be a party that might cause me to question my universal disdain toward the very idea of parties.

15 thoughts on “Dare we dream?

  1. David

    Brad, Sen. Graham co-proposed putting a 27% tax on all goods from China. He also has stated that he could agree with raising the tax cap on workers social security. If it were not getting late I could go on. I contributed money to Lindsey to help get him elected but some of these positions — can I say yuck!!!!!!!! My hope is he is growing in the job and getting smarter every day. Lieberman sold his soul to be Algore’s VP mate. Plus I cannot stand listening to that nasal whine for 4 years. McCain gave us campaign finance reform so an all time record was spent on the last election. What a joke if that is supposed to be progressive legislation. All three are good and honorable men but hopefully none will lead the nation in 2008. A more interesting President would be Condi Rice. Why not?

  2. Mark Whittington


    Here’s that message from God that you are looking for: Is Jesus promoting something akin to the “centrist” (capitalist) way of thought?

    “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

    “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

    But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
    Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

    But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
    And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

    Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
    Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

  3. David

    Mark, Your compatriots on the left want to absolutely remove any mention or reference to our savior from everything from council meetings, schools, and even the Boy Scouts. Nice friends to have from the ACLU, Not!!
    Furthermore, read carefully what the scriptures say in using the word “ye”. Ye doesn’t mean the federal government, it means you. To adhere to scripture, “you” should give to the poor etc, as opposed to the liberals of today who like to tell everyone “else” to hand their money to the government and then the government can give it away. For the government to mandate confiscation of the citizen’s monies and assets and somehow equate that redistribution to charity is illogical.

    By the way, I am not inferring that you personally do not give of your own to charity.

    Brad – The problem I see with being governed by centrists is this: How would anything ever change. By definition centrists dont want to lean to the principles of the right or to the left. So, should the centrists ever form a party and attain power, for the most part nothing would ever change. I guess if we ever reach the day when citizens are overwhelmingly happy with the status quo, that could happen.

  4. Mike C

    Mark –
    Methinks Christ was talking about personal conduct, providing in fact excellent counsel for living a good and holy life. The essence of his message is that one must grow one’s heart and act with kindness and charity to all, especially the lowliest, in one’s daily life.
    But that’s no way to run a government. Christ was not speaking of institutions, of civics and politics. For a governor to give something of value, he must take it from someone else, no? That political concern for others manifested by redistributing wealth easily degenerates into kleptocracy. That’s been the weak point of socialism: the failure to consider human nature.
    To love the barbarians at the gate and invite them to the table is a little irresponsible for yea verily shall they take the table, consume all that is set upon it, seize all that is in the larder, remove what hangs in the cloakroom, hang whoever served at the banquet, fail to wash their hands after using the room of rest, pillage, rape, further plunder, kill even more innocents, and depart without so much as a whisper of thanks, for that is what the barbarians do and the wise governor knows that. The second rule of governing is to protect the populace.
    Brad –
    So what ties the guys together? In a parliamentary democracy there are many parties and coalitions are common. (According to NPR, Sharon was a founder of Likud, although the Wiki entry does not explicitly say that.) Sharon could probably form his own since he’s got broad support in Likud, but not in its central committee. He probably won because the committee saw the fracturing of the party as the only outcome if they backed Bibi.
    I guess I’m asking what platform they together or each individually would pursue, what is “moderation” and how do they sell it? Is it not likely that a meeting of moderates would end in fisticuffs after the appetizers ran out? I should point out that ideologically Nixon was a moderate (that’s not why I didn’t care for him).
    Or are you thinking more along the lines of personality cult — Sharon’s appeal is in part his resume, in part his personality – he’s got that charisma thingy, as does McCain.

  5. Phillip

    It’s hard to imagine Jesus saying, “oh sorry about the misunderstanding, I was just talking about ‘ye’ the individual, of course governments have to operate on totally different moral principles from individuals…” Who is the government in a democracy? It IS us. And socially-conscious capitalism most certainly does consider human nature. In fact, that’s the whole point, Mike—completely unfettered capitalism, where all is allowed and profit motive the only consideration, does lead to some inequalities, exploitation of peoples and environments, injustices, etc. There are considerations of what makes a society, other than just a mass of individuals. Taxation is a perfectly legitimate topic for a democratic society to constantly debate—the society gains certain things from taxation, whether those are worth it is always debatable. Even you agree some taxation is necessary. No matter how little, it’s still “redistribution” as you put it. So we’re really just talking about degree.
    Thanks, too, for referring us to Wikipedia’s “kleptocracy” definition. If you look one paragraph down, you see Transparency International’s top ten “kleptocrats” of the late 20th-century…Gee, look who’s 1, 2, and 3: Suharto, Marcos, and Mobutu…three of the USA’s best buddies in the cold war days.

  6. Brad Warthen

    No, Mike, I’m thinking:
    1. These are men of reason. They are pragmatic types who think outside ideological boxes.
    2. Because of item one, the partisans can’t stand them. And to quote Tippy the Turtle from the old Saturday Night Live cartoons, I like to “bother those hammerheads.”
    Seriously, they are all serious, smart, dedicated people who care more about the country than about party or ideological cant. And yes, I still say that about Biden even though he acted sort of like a hammerhead during the Roberts hearings. He’s on probation, though, as to whether I’ll keep him in my party.
    I would have included Dick Gephardt in my original list, but then all the Republicans and conservatives would have objected that he was too partisan (since he was his party’s standard-bearer in the House for so long) and ideological (since he’s seen as the last of the old-line, HHH, organized labor types) — and I would have had trouble explaining why I disagree, because it’s kind of a gut thing. When he came to see us back before the primary last year (and before he dropped out after his poor showing in Iowa), I was impressed by him and surprised to be impressed. The impression he made on me, in the way he spoke on issue after issue, was of a guy you could trust. You could put him in charge of things, and he would do the right, smart things for the right, smart reasons.
    Anyway, how could you guess “personality cult” when I had Joe Lieberman on the list? What’s his cult following?

  7. Mike C

    Brad –
    My mom likes Lieberman, as do I.
    Around election time there’s always speculation about a third-party candidates. Any two of those on your list, however they decide who’s vice, would make for an interesting election.

  8. Brad Warthen

    That means you and your mom and I are the three who voted for him.
    I felt so bad for Joe, losing that badly. He had been so grateful that we had endorsed him — called to thank us that Monday, which he certainly didn’t have to do — but which I appreciated, since I had lost my voice the preceding Friday talking my reluctant colleagues into going along with me on it. I had talked for three straight hours.
    And then, the very next night, he had lost so badly he had to drop out.
    It was one of those instances that people who call our endorsement the “kiss of death” love to remember. What they like to forget is our 75-25 won-loss record over the last 10 years, and the fact that sometimes you have no choice (if you have any principles) but to endorse the guy who’s going to get creamed. This was one of those times.

  9. Mike C

    Phillip –
    We can and should certainly discuss what Christianity, Islam and others have to say about how we organize ourselves into a civil society. The question becomes how much influence should religion have on our politics, economics, science, ethics, law, etc. To be specific, what impact should religious belief have on science when discussing stem cells, abortion, and evolution? What impact on economics, nuclear engineering, and driver licensing?
    First, can we agree that applying religion to the secular domain often seems inconsistent, selective, or irrational? One reason that happens is that research or observation can refute the influence; the heliocentric theory is a good example. But that’s just a possibility because sometimes a belief remains despite substantial evidence to the contrary – religious prohibitions on inoculations or lifesaving medical treatments fit that bill, with deadly consequences.
    As for government and politics, our founders set the US up as a constitutional republic, establishing processes for amending the foundation of our system; it was religious sentiment that passed the 18th Amendment in 1919 and good old common sense that led to its repeal with the 21st in 1933. Along the way we’ve worked our way into a capitalist, free market economy of sorts, a system that seems to fit well with the constitution’s respect for life, liberty and private property.
    Folks use religion to make moral arguments to justify or refute this or that economic policy because economics is simply the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. To an economist, the real evil of redistributionist policies is not that they’re unjust, but that they’re inefficient. A program to provide income support mothers with children might be considered efficient as compared to some other means of support, but could produce morally unsound consequences, like AFDC did. As for what’s unfettered about today’s capitalism as practiced in the US, it’s pretty durn well regulated by the gummint and the plaintiff’s bar.
    I’ll still maintain that Christ’s message was about personal behavior and goodness, and had little to do with government policy. He did treat class and tribe, but in the sense of those distinctions not mattering a whit, what counted was action like that of the Good Samaritan. And don’t forget that Caesar rendering bit. Had he wanted to deliver a treatise on government, he’d have found a different audience.
    As for your list of kleptocrats, I note that during war, in this case the Cold War, one works with whomever one can. But your aim is a little off.

    Mobutu and France were an item since the days of De Gaulle. During his term as France’s Finance Minister, Giscard d’Estaing established a personal tie with Mobutu that lasted for years, leading to the 1973 military partnership between Zaire and France and frequent visits of the heads of state to each other’s countries. It was only after the French Ambassador to Zaire was killed in 1993 that France joined the US and Belgium in putting pressure on Mobutu. .
    – You’re closer on Marcos, but despite the snide remarks of the Krugster, it was Reagan and SecState George Shultz who finally threw in the towel and started prodding Marcos to embrace democratic change and got Marcos to move out to Hawaii.
    – As for Suharto, he had bipartisan US support and we did not do much to change his ways, but he did love his family.

  10. Lee

    Centrists are non-intellectuals, who cannot figure out what to do, until they listen to thinkers on both sides, and follow their emotional path.
    All real debates are between individualists and committed statists. Centrists are watered down, mealy-mouthed statists.

  11. Brad Warthen

    Have to beg to differ there, Lee. Centrists — which is actually an inadequate word; I would say "unaligned" if the word hadn’t been abused in the U.N. during the Cold War by petty little countries who were really aligned with the Reds against us — are the only people who actually THINK about issues. They’re the only ones who have to. Other people join parties, or subscribe to ideologies, and have their positions on issues handed to them, and all they have to do is parrot the party line.

    I wrote a column on that subject a while back, which you can read here
    if I’m successful in creating the link to the file.

  12. David

    Brad, I now have to take Evan Bayh off of my list of votable moderate Democrats. His vote against Roberts tells me he is posturing to the hardcore left to get some backing in 08. Not a man of principle. Jim Jeffords even voted for the CJ. It would have been great to see, for a rare occasion, a real sense of unity in the US Senate. Now we have Howard Dean and Schumer already talking filibuster and the next nominee hasnt even been named yet. This will get ugly, I predict.

  13. Phillip

    78-22, i.e., getting half of the Democrats to vote for Roberts is not bad as far as unity goes. Sure, it’s not the 96 or 98 votes that Scalia or Ginsberg got, but it’s not 52-48 like Clarence Thomas either. I’d agree that there is some posturing, or “positioning” going on…I suspect that given his weakened position in recent weeks post-Katrina, Iraq poll numbers, indicted and under-investigation Republican congressional leaders etc., Bush is not going to go super-hard-right on this next appointment. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the next appointment will not be an ugly fight and the numbers will end up looking much like this, maybe a little closer.


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