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February 17, 2005

Squeeze the Right

You should read Ed Kilgore's comments on the latest salvo in the abortion battle, wherein Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life Committee firmly rejected Hillary Clinton's call for compromise. As Ed notes, hardcore anti-choice folks don't see a moral difference between birth control and abortion procedures, forcing them to explain that publicly drives a wedge in their colaition. But at the end, Ed writes that:

Hillary Clinton has just given us all a textbook case of what it really means to "seize the center": it does not mean "moving to the right," it means moving to higher and stronger ground.

I'm starting to think that it's the whole concept of a "center" that messes up progressive politics. Conceptually, you can only occupy so much ground, so if you're seizing the center you're not covering the left. But Hillary's not seizing the center, she's squeezing the right. Her framing pushes them out of a whole range of positions they formerly inhabited and leaves room only for those groups entrenched in the most extreme ideas. And that's how we should think about these things, not in terms of where they move us, but where they move our opponents.

So long as you're hanging out at Ed Kilgore's place, read his post on reinstating the estate tax. Good stuff in them there grafs.

February 17, 2005 in Politics of Choice | Permalink

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Comments

Two comments, Ezra.

On the whole issue of framing, I've come to the conclusion that there is a reason why the Carville's, Rove's and Luntz's of the world get paid to do what they do. They are professionals. All of this soccer mom coaching from the sidelines on the proper turn of a phrase in order to advance the progressive cause may feel good, I'm sure. Indeed, I'm guilty of it too. But it does little to *actually* advance the progressive cause. I maintain that the "here's how you must frame it" debates and breathlessly overwrought discussions offered here and at such places as MyDD and LiberalOasis are distractions. Distracting us from what, I haven't yet figured out. But I am suggesting that the "framing" debate is truly one for the smoke-filled backrooms. Apply for membership therein. Then bring the results back and tell us.

On the issue of style, I imagine you will one day be an op-ed contributor on a regular basis, perhaps even one of the punditocracy with recurring real estate in the form of a column. I'd simply like to say that, as evidenced here, you have a tendency to let your sharp thought be dragged down by weak hooks. Your tie-in here was to fault Kilgore's call to properly "seize the center" because it describes how progressives should position themselves rather than how they should work to position the right against its own wishes. Your metaphor is apt, but so is Kilgore's. In fact, his suggestion of a sort of "king-of-the-hill" positioning for progressives is quite evocative, but there I go again arguing framing. My point is, as much as I hear how, say, Brooks and Sullivan are such masterful writers, I'm so often left shaking my head at the illogic and weak hooks in their pieces. In his 700-worders, Brooks frequently starts with a falsifiable metaphor or one that can be shown to be unlinked to his eventual argument. Don't emulate them. Don't let the immediacy of reacting in a blog dull your senses. Don't listen to me. Be yourself.

Posted by: Nash | Feb 17, 2005 3:10:41 PM

Unless we are content to become and remain a powerless, minority party, it might be a good idea to reconsider abandoning the center. When I read comments critical of impure liberalism, I wonder how long polishing one’s liberal bona fides can be a satisfying exercise.

Forcing anti abortionists to see the rigidity of hard line right-to-lifers does precisely what you said should be our objective: “And that's how we should think about these things, not in terms of where they move us, but where they move our opponents.”

We have to have some hold on the center if we are to pull it back from the forces of evil controlling all three branches of our gove’ment.

Posted by: Jim Rountree | Feb 18, 2005 1:30:46 AM

The big problem is that the right is much less squeezable. That's to say, Ann Coulter can get away with advocating for, oh, you know, killing journalists and invading Canada and making Democrats illegal, and by doing so, makes other wingnut blowhards look 'reasonable' by comparison.

The Dems? They're damned by association with, say, Michael Moore, even though Moore is neither a Democrat nor particularly extreme in his positions.

If there's a tactical judgement to be made from this, it's that the Dems really must start identifying Fred Phelps and JimmyJeff Guckannon and the LGFuckwits and the Freepertrash and every hate-filled bigot of the right as speaking for the heart and soul of the GOP.

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