I have heard quite enough from President Bill Clinton, the "Democratic Leadership Council" the "Third Way" people and now William Daley, rumored to be President Obama's new chief of staff -- not to mention from President Obama himself -- about "the center" and "we need to move to the center." I have also had more than my fill of "triangulation" and the political calculations that Mr. Clinton used, and now is tutoring the new Bill Clinton clone in the White House to use.
Apparently, to these Democrats, "the center" means being the same corporatist Republicans as explicit, actual Republicans, just slightly less so. This is not "the center"; this is mimicry -- it is being "Republican-lite: Half the fat cat of our regular Republican." The Republicans have moved so far to the right that they keep planting their flag on ever more extreme soil and the Democrats keep moving over there, to be "centrist" and "bipartisan." The entire political spectrum has moved so far right that I hardly recognize America anymore. The Republicans have called the tune and set the terms of debate for thirty years.
Enough is enough. Someone has to have the guts to stand up and redefine "the center." I am nominating myself; here and now.
An economically populist agenda would garner tremendous support, across the political spectrum. Challenging bank bailouts; demanding "tax fairness" (take that, Frank Luntz); an end to "free trade" agreements that ship our jobs to slave labor countries; a return to making things in America; an end to tax breaks for outsourcing; getting dirty money out of our corrupt politics (overturn the Citizens United case) and tariffs on cheap imports to America should be key issues. A balanced budget, by restoring tax fairness; negotiating prescription drug prices through Medicare, and ending waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon budget, farm subsidies to gigantic agri-business firms as well as attacks on "corporate welfare" (take that again, Frank Luntz) and a vigorous defense of the middle class would redefine "the center" and align the American people against the economic elites that have near total dominance of our nation.
Re-branding the Democratic Party in this way -- staking these issues out as our issues -- would redefine "the center" (we should simply declare, over and over, that this is the true "center") and we can then demand Republicans (and corporate Democrats) come over to us; and skewer them when they continue to be water carriers for Wall Street and the top two percent. It is time for an aggressive, in-your-face approach to politics, with relentless imaging, using the same words over and over. Use catchy sound bites to brand the Republicans (and these corporatist Democrats) as Wall Street patsies; corporate shills; bankers' front men and oil companies' errand boys. The "death tax" is truly the "estate tax" and that is part of "tax fairness".
George Lakoff has it right -- it is about framing. The aim here is to peel off independents and Republicans, and re-energize the Democratic base, to build a new coalition of "centrists" based on jobs at home for Americans; tax fairness and a balanced budget based upon honesty, and rooting out corruption, both political and governmental, and waste, fraud and abuse.
That is the new center. Enough of the mimicry and corporatism. The future of America is at stake.
Visit Norman Goldman's website here.