Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Paul-Murray Budget: Centrism Made Visible

The Paul-Murray budget agreement is Centrism made visible.

"Centrism," in the sense defined by Stuart Zechman, is an ideology that claims to represent the moderate path between the extremes of US politics, but in fact is only the average of a far-right to right position. In Centrism, all political language is reinterpreted to make Wall Street conservatism the only logical, moderate, non-ideological course. In Centrism, no matter how far to the right a position is, no matter how destructive, it is the only reasonable compromise.

So let's look at the Paul-Murray budget. The claim is that, since it was negotiated by a Republican and a Democrat, it must be a moderate, reasonable compromise. Paul is far right, and Murray is a fairly conservative Democrat from a liberal state. A compromise between their two positions is necessarily to the right. But it's a compromise! It's a reasonable center position!

Ah, Centrism.

Let's take a closer look at this compromise.

The total amount of the Paul-Murray budget is less than Paul's original proposal.[1] The most important and popular single spending item, a further unemployment insurance extension, has been omitted. There is a little more non-defense discretionary spending than in the original Paul budget, and a little less defense spending, but that's about it. This is somehow a compromise between—between what, exactly? No. It is not a compromise. It is surrender to the right, with a few small concessions to the true center.[2] But it is presented to us as a victory, as a successful compromise. The more outrageous and irrational our politics becomes, the more we hear the Centrist rhetoric of moderate compromise.

With this deal, we see the end of liberal hopes for some years. Centrism is now policy. At least it is now out in the open. Conservatives can scarcely claim the throne does not exist when they are sitting on it. They can claim that the king can do no wrong. They can scream charges of lèse majesté. But even a cat can look at a king.

…or a raven.


[1]  O'Brien, "How Paul Ryan Won the Budget War—in 1 Chart," The Atlantic, Dec 13,2013.
[2]  Media Matters "The Progressive Majority."

[updated .01.10 to strengthen the language.]

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