"I'm Stuart Zechman, and I'd like to do a little experiment with you folks listening, if you wouldn't mind helping me out.
So I'm going read you a representative quote from a politician, and I want you to try to guess whether that politician is liberal or conservative.
OK? Here goes, quote number 1:
""...God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.""
OK, here's quote number 2:
""I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life""
What about this one, Quote number 3:
"The truth is that abortion drugs are not about women’s health but are really a seemingly innocuous means of advancing a radical agenda."
""the gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power. They are the greatest threat, that agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom we face today.""
Hey Stuart, that was beyond easy. They're all conservative!
And you would be correct!
Of course these are all right-wing politicians, all Republicans.
The first right-wing quote was from bible-based science denier, the Senator from Big Oil --I mean, Oklahoma, James Inhofe.
The second, that managed to combine aggressive death penalty advocacy with an abortion is premeditated murder message, that's from conservative Senator Tom Coburn.
The third right-wing quote, about the radical agenda behind access to contraception, was Congresswoman Virginia Fox, who will be the first to tell you that conservatism is an equal opportunity philosophy...apart from the "equality of opportunity" part of that statement.
And extra-bonus fourth right-wing quote, the one about the gays being the greatest threat...well, that was a trick question, it's Coburn again.
So, the point of this exercise is this: these politicians --no matter how corrupt, no matter how stupid, no matter how cowardly and vote-seeking they are-- are all giving voice to the conservative movement. They're right-wing. Informed people couldn't possibly confuse them with non-right-wing politicians.
But there's a related point I'd like to demonstrate, and that requires us to do another quick "guess the ideology" game, so here goes:
Quote number 1:
“Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will affirm the Senate’s commitment to the civil rights of all Americans and also make our military even stronger.”
OK, quote number 2, I have to mention this is from a 1995 speech
entitled "Women's Rights Are Human Rights":
"As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace around the world - as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled and subjected to violence in and out of their homes - the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized."
Alright, I'm running out of time, so the last quote is actually a
double quote from two different speeches:
""A woman's ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women.""conservative
""I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe v. Wade...""
So let me tell you who said what:
Quote number 1, from the guy who successfully led the fight to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell in 2010, that was Joe Lieberman.
Quote number 2, from "Women's Rights Are Human Rights" was from Hillary Clinton.
And quote number 3, about the basic, fundamental right to our own persons, and the declaration "I am pro-choice"?
Well, that was from Barack Obama, the President who just appointed two Supreme Court justices who are, like him, public proponents of the Constitutional right of Americans to choose.
I think these quotes and the record demonstrate that these politicians are not conservative.
They will never get gigs writing for National Review. They will never be given campaign money from Concerned Women for America. Their names, if ever mentioned at a CPAC convention, will mostly likely be greeted with calls for summary execution as fifth column traitors.
In almost every corner of America, if one were to publicly claim that Lieberman, Clinton and Obama are actually right-wing conservatives, one could expect to be met with derisive laughter, and for good reason.
But are they liberal?
Well, they're Democrats, that's true, but not all Democrats are liberals.
What Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have in common is that they're "New Democrats," meaning they were all members of something called the "New Democrat Coalition," which is a Congressional caucus of ideologically like-minded Democrats, kind of like the "Progressive Caucus," who are the left-most wing of the Party, or Blue Dogs who actually are a bloc of conservative Democrats.
Here's a description:
"New Democrats...are an ideologically centrist faction within the Democratic Party...identified with centrist social/cultural/pluralist positions and neoliberal fiscal values. ...represented by organizations such as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the New Democrat Network, and the Senate and House New Democrat Coalitions."
"As Congress works to tackle the challenges facing our nation, the New Dems, through our seven policy task forces, have put forward a commonsense agenda...These initiatives are about moving the U.S. forward in the 21st century.
The Coalition’s seven task forces are: Critical Infrastructure and Manufacturing; Education; Energy; Financial Services; Health Care; Innovation, Competitiveness and Tax Reform; and Trade."
And what were the Obama Administration's and Democratic Congress's "historic achievements" during the past four years, again?
Heritage Foundation-Third Way compromise health care "reform." Financial "regulation" that leaves "Too Big To Fail" bigger and with more fail than ever. The lame duck Bush-Obama tax cut deal and estate tax repeal. And more NAFTA-style free trade agreements as far as the eye can see.
What inevitably passed into law these past four years was the New Democrats' agenda. Just as inevitably, what wasn't the New Democrats' agenda was universally characterized as "politically impossible," and never put on the table.
And, just as surely as we can recognize the first set of quotes as conservative, and the second set of quotes as not-conservative, we movement liberals can recognize that the New Democrats' agenda is not liberal.
So there must be something else, other than liberal or conservative, that describes that ideological framework, a "Third Way," if you will, between right and left. An ideological center, a committee-packing voting bloc of bipartisan-fetishizing, Tom Friedman-idolizing, anti-right and anti-left Democrats who always seem weirdly, ideologically desperate to compromise, especially in the name of destroying entitlements, or keeping America at constant war, even when that means they lose elections.
I think that people who are truly interested in saving our country from this not-New Deal we've been handed ought to play "guess the ideology" a bit more often, and consider that, in addition to many Democratic politicians being corrupt or stupid or cowardly, maybe there's an agenda other than left or right that, like many important things that go on, the purveyors of conventional political wisdom would prefer to ignore. Maybe, when other explanations fail to adequately describe how politicians who get a 100% NARAL rating or who repeal DADT can still not be liberal, we should at least begin to try --in an organized way-- to help liberal Democratic voters understand that there's left, right and Third Way center represented in the capital, and that, for the vast majority of Americans, two out of three are bad.
I'm Stuart Zechman, and this has been the Z-Files.Is the politician who said that liberal or conservative? Again, liberal or conservative? And now for quote number 4. I wanted three quotes, but the fourth one is just too...perfect to leave out, so here goes, quote number 4: OK, I could go on like this all day. But, by now, you're all probably saying impatiently "" Liberal or conservative? So, liberal or conservative? Is the politician who said those things , in your mind? I think that virtually anybody who heard that second set of quotes would say that the speakers were right-wing, that those were expressions of conservatism. Let me read to you what the New Democrats say about themselves: Well, well, well. Health care. Financial Services. Taxes and trade.
Stuart Zechman organizes public commentary at legacy media political blogs, such as TIME Magazine's Swampland. A movement liberal, entrepreneur and technologist, Stuart uses Twitter as a primary communications tool. He posts at Avedon’s Other Weblog and Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism. • Follow @stuart_zechman