Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Everything in Moderation, Politics on the Brink

Article first published as Everything in Moderation, Politics on the Brink on Technorati.

American political coverage is best consumed raw and in small doses free of commercial influence.   I'm not a political junkie by any means so I choose my sources carefully.  Lately it's seems the arguments have degenerated into nothing more than skewed utopian fantasies packaged for traditional media sources.  That leads me to C-span for what I at least believe to be unfiltered political news and events.

The first bit of programming I encountered in my latest consumption was coverage of the Arizona Republican party's Lincoln day lunch and straw poll with guest of honor Rick Santorum, darling of the Tea Party conservatives.

 After his speech the local right wing heroes were paraded up one by one starting with the recently recalled Arizona State Senator, Russell Pearce.  Badly in need of a speechwriter, his poorly constructed message included sexual references and a joke about somebody's scrotum as well as the obligatory "yay for us" message.  No substance there.

He was followed by the equally infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (currently under Federal investigation for criminal abuse of power) who spent most of his time at the podium playing the wounded victim of all those "nasty Democrats."  Not much of substance there either aside from his announcement that he's going to present his report on President Obama's birth certificate on March 1st. In the same breath he proclaimed how he didn't go looking for media attention.   Truly your tax dollars at work.

It's no wonder Arizona was the last territory to achieve statehood in the continental 48. 

Later on I watched part of a program on the Occupy Wall Street Strategy forum where a collection of progressive activists calling themselves the San Francisco 99 percent Coalition spoke of the current ills of capitalism and government in general. 

At a forum held at a San Francisco Unitarian church, guests included: Democrat Rocky Anderson,( Salt Lake City Mayor from 2000 to 2008), Dave Welsh (US Labor Against the War and the San Francisco Labor council), Margaret Flowers (Pres. Candidate and Occupy DC organizer) as well as Tom Gallagher (former Mass. state rep and Progressive Democrats of America . 

The meeting was moderated by Rose Aguilar of KALW Radio and was a veritable gallery of Left wing activists with representation ranging from Democrats to self-proclaimed Socialists.  There was no room for moderates with more than one participant accusing President Barack Obama of being a Republican.  Another audience member overtly suggested the end of capitalism in Toto. 

What was striking in both examples was the extreme viewpoints being offered as a moderate position.  Nothing short of complete capitulation to their ideology would satisfy either assembly.  Should these two groups ever occupy the same room I have no doubt that blood would spill.

It's almost amusing when you consider that both sides basically want the same thing.  Both seek to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  Of course the most heated exchanges generally concern what constitutes a baby.

There was another program I watched between these two.  It was a discussion with Peter Orszag (Former director of the Office and Management and Budget under the Obama Administration) on the economy and reasons for its slow recovery.  Like any presentation on economics there were lots of charts and references to indicators of one sort or another.  There was one chart I found particularly interesting, however.  The chart showed a relationship between the decline of political moderates and the economy.  It seems there is a direct relationship between political ideology in Washington and the speed and strength of an economic recovery. 

With division in congress rising to a level on par with the first Continental Congress circa 1786, it appears that extreme ideology not only degenerates the discussion but the economy as well.  With the decline in political moderates and the polarization of the two dominant political parties it's no surprise that compromise comes only after brinkmanship. 

Ultimately it seems that extreme political views serve no productive purpose other than to foster political gridlock and sound bites for a depraved mass media.  In a country with a voracious appetite for reality shows that sensationalize conflict it's not surprising that political antagonism is so popular on the news.  Both political camps use ever escalating rhetoric to espouse radical views they can't reasonably hold.

 It's unlikely that extreme conservatives at the Lincoln day luncheon would choose to live in Hitler's Germany any more than progressives at the occupy wall street event would choose Soviet Russia.  In that light, extremism has no merit as "My way or the highway" rarely provides either outcome.