Immigration: August 2008 Archives

Why I am a Centrist

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I've ever had people ask me "what does centrist mean anyway - I don't know what that means" - and certainly the way it's looked at in American politics, centrism can seem to be nowhere. That's because of the party primary system, where you have to run to the extremes of your party in the primary and then move back to the center in the general. But centrism is not simply the compromise you make to win elections, the watering down of pure principles to pander to voters in the murky middle.

Reality is the death of purity. Remember all the talk about Bush being an ideologue? Someone who was uncompromising in his arrogant insistence on a particular world view? The left has that problem just as easily as the right. We could have unions run companies and teachers run schools and government run healthcare, but none of that sounds like a particularly good idea unless you're a politburo member. Entrepreneurs who are willing to participate in risk in order to acheive rewards are who you want running a company, you want an education to be the clear indication that someone has a particular level of aptitude or achievement, and goverment intervention has only helped skyrocket the cost of healthcare. That does not mean unions should not have a say regarding harsh or dangerous working conditions, teachers should not be given autonomy to find inventive ways of achieving standardised goals, and government shouldn't take catastrophic healthcare cases out of the market.

When it comes to specific issues, it's good to have people perpetually on opposite sides arguing - it ensures that minority opinions get heard. This is not just good if the minority opinion turns out to be the right one, it is good just to have people participate in a process where they are included. In the best case, people are persuaded, but if not, at least they are still participating in a social discourse rather than dismissing that means of compromise altogether. But all arguments need to end in getting things done.

In many ways that's what centrism is - it's about ensuring that the extreme ideas that can exist in people's abstract ideas of things becomes moderated by their understanding the realities of a given situation. In fact, recognising the reality of what's going on is the first step towards a solution. "When the facts change, I change my mind" to be sure, but once we are clear on the facts in a given case, the way forward becomes much clearer. When the experts tell you that free trade is good and necessary and that is borne out by the evidence, that is when you aggressively pursue liberalisation. That fact has not changed, in spite of demagoguery on the Democrat side.

One of the ways in which Obama can still win me over - in fact wow me and completely bowl me over, is to put forward some real centrist policy that runs entirely counter to the orthdoxy of his own party. Only Nixon could go to China - and in that way, only Bush and McCain could really stick their necks out on immigration. Often it takes people on the left to pass right wing policies (welfare reform and NAFTA under Clinton) and people on the right to pass left wing policies (immigration etc.). What Obama is most well placed to do is to say this: that under his administration, affirmative action will no longer be applied on the basis of race, but on the basis of economic need. It is the right thing to do, but it's something a white president could never (in certain ways should never) get done.

I think John McCain will make a fantastic Democratic president. As it is, he is almost certain to inherit a Democratic House and Senate - perhaps both with filibuster and veto proof majorities. It will be his chance to address every left wing issue the congress will want to consider, and temper their response to it in a way a Democratic president never would. That way you would get a much more sensible reform of so many things it almost boggles the mind. Social Security, Medicare, Comprehensive Healthcare. All fixed in a way that might not please everyone, but in a way that is the best judgement of both sides. On the way they might even sort out Immigration with McCain again sticking his neck out and bringing some of his own party with him. Him pushing every right wing policy and having it tempered by the left.

We all saw what happened with the Republicans in control of both Congress and the Presidency. Sure Bush got some things done, but in fact got surprisingly little done. The one big thing he did get was a war funded. But in order to do so, he had to dole out pork like nobody's business (something that Hastert probably has to answer for), exploding the budget. Because when it's people of your own party, you find it a lot more difficult to play hardball with them. John McCain can more easily veto, or threaten to veto, anything a Democrat Congress sends him. But Bush found it difficult to use his veto even once to minimise the pork from his own party.

It's not like I'm someone who fundamentally believes that "gridlock" is a good thing, but the legislature and the executive need to act as checks on one another, and that is easier when they are not controlled by the same party. Ever since Bush was rebuked by the electorate sending him a Democratic Congress, he's done a significantly better job - turning things around with the surge, losing Rumsfeld, being more conciliatory in his foreign policy. I'm not saying he wouldn't have done those things anyway, but when you have someone looking over your shoulder, sometimes you find it easier to do the right thing.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Immigration category from August 2008.

Immigration: July 2008 is the previous archive.

Immigration: September 2008 is the next archive.

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