Alert readers may recall that bumper-sticker entrepreneur Thomas L. Friedman has for some time been begging the president to adopt the slogan of nation-building at home. Today, in gushing over the "exhilarating" news about our new health care law, Friedman frets that "we still have so much more nation-building for America to do." Then he pivots straight to the crazy:
That is why I want my own Tea Party. I want a Tea Party of the radical center.
Uh-oh. What is this mythical radical center of which he speaks?
It advocates: raising taxes to close our budgetary shortfalls, but doing so with a spirit of equity and social justice; guaranteeing that every American is covered by health insurance, but with market reforms to really bring down costs; legally expanding immigration to attract more job-creators to America's shores; increasing corporate tax credits for research and lowering corporate taxes if companies will move more manufacturing jobs back onshore; investing more in our public schools, while insisting on rising national education standards and greater accountability for teachers, principals and parents; massively investing in clean energy, including nuclear, while allowing more offshore drilling in the transition. You get the idea.
Yes, I do get the idea, in part because I've heard these exact same phrases uttered over and over again by noted non-radical-centrist Barack Hussein Obama. And what the people who actually care about the gap between political word and deed have learned over these past 14 months is that if the president and a majority in Congress owes favors to teachers unions, the rhetoric of "investing more in our public schools, while insisting on rising national education standards and greater accountability for teachers" creates the reality of breaking all records for spending on the education status quo while doing next to nothing about the stranglehold that teachers have on their own hiring and firing. The president is "massively investing in clean energy," just like Jimmy Carter did, and we are still waiting for those 5 million green jobs to trickle down. The new health care package was in fact sold by proponents as including "market reforms to really bring down costs"; is Friedman saying he doesn't believe them?
The columnist's definitions of "radical centrism," as made tangible through our political system, will be what we end up living with over the next several years, minus the election-law reform and massive carbon tax of his dreams. Why would there be a grassroots movement to parrot the official line?
I'll quote Friedman's close, because it encapsulates almost every characteristic of his reliably bizarre punditry–the bumper sticker repetition, the non-essential quoting of the hyper-elite, the political non-starters:
Obama won the presidency by tapping the center—centrist Democrats, independents and Republicans who wanted to see nation-building at home "to make their own lives and those of others better," said Tim Shriver, the C.E.O. of the Special Olympics. They saw in Obama a pragmatist who could pull us together for pragmatic solutions. But hyperpartisanship has frustrated those hopes. (Alas, though, it is not equal. There are still many conservative Blue Dog Democrats, but the liberal Rockefeller Republicans have been wiped out.) If that radical center wants to be empowered, it can't just whine. It needs its own grass-roots movement to promote reforms like nonpartisan redistricting and alternative voting in every state. It's tea time for the center.
Reason on Friedman here. Also, if anyone has some time on their hands, they should Google or Lexis Friedman quotations of Larry Diamond, presented here with the snappy title of "democracy expert." He might be the next Michael Mandelbaum!