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Richard (RJ) Eskow Headshot

Centrism and Bipartisanship: For Democrats Only

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Newt Gingrich wants to abolish freedom of speech, and an unnamed aide says that Republicans in Congress are going to "take off (Nancy Pelosi's) head every day" - to name just two wild-eyed conservative comments from the past week. Where are the thundering voices of censure from the pundit class, now that they've decided it's a bipartisan world where - as TIME puts it - "centrism is the place to be"?

There aren't very many, of course (Keith Olbermann being the usual exception). That message is intended for Democrats only.

Never has the bias of the media, nor its role as enforcer/arbiter for a right-wing consensus (relabeled the "center"), been more apparent.

The commentariat's role has never been more visible to the naked eye than in the three weeks since the Democrats' electoral victory. That role is to keep Democrats from promoting their agenda or their ideas, while encouraging Republicans to promote theirs. (Phase II in this operation has always been for commentators to bemoan the facts that Democrats are "no longer the party of ideas.")

It's been fascinating to watch pundits as they demand that Democrats ignore the message of their own victory. That message, as documented in exit polls, is clear: get out of Iraq.

What's been equally fascinating is the eagerness with which Democrats have run away from their own mission, as given to them by the American people. If Rahm Emanuel didn't exist, the Democrats would have had to invent him. Their behavior is regrettable but understandable, given the media landscape. If they move to make positive change in Iraq, they'll be decimated as extremists by the press - even though they would be doing the expressed will of both the American and Iraqi peoples.

The media has also made Iraq a hot potato. It's the GOP's failure now, but if Dems take the lead in doing the right thing by cutting our losses, they become the ones who "lost Iraq." The press could point out the obvious - that Iraq is already lost - and that would no longer be the case. But news outlets like the Washington Post won't even use the term "civil war" for Iraq, even if it means inventing "rules" that they've already violated in an attempt to explain their actions.

The media enforcers have forced the Democrats into a nearly impossible choice: Do the right thing and lose in 2008, or cower and hope that somebody else will solve the problem. That would be the Iraqi Study Group, which has redefined its mission from solving the war problem to appeasing the "center." They'll apparently recommend withdrawal -- but not early enough to disturb the bipartisan "consensus." That will be all the cover the Democrats need to defer action on ending the bloodshed.

I understand why so many Dems are "waiting for Centry," in the form of the Study Group's report -- but I still wish there were a few more profiles in courage out there. Americans and Iraqis continue to die because a media-enforced myth of centrism and bipartisanship prevents our democracy from being more responsive to the will of its people.

"Centrism" and "bipartisanship" are euphemisms for "the mutual interests of Washington party insiders." Democracy, however, demands that government respond to the voters' mandate by ending the war. Sadly, it's not going to happen anytime soon. To understand why, look no further than the media.

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