"Centrism is for suckers"

Paul Krugman compares the strategies of conservative versus liberal advocacy groups, and has some warnings:

…The Sierra Club’s executive director defended the (Lincoln) Chafee endorsement by saying, “We choose people, not parties.” And it’s true that Mr. Chafee has usually voted with environmental groups.

But while this principle might once have made sense, it’s just naïve today. Given both the radicalism of the majority party’s leadership and the ruthlessness with which it exercises its control of the Senate, Mr. Chafee’s personal environmentalism is nearly irrelevant when it comes to actual policy outcomes; the only thing that really matters for the issues the Sierra Club cares about is the “R” after his name.

Put it this way: If the Democrats gain only five rather than six Senate seats this November, Senator James Inhofe, who says that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” will remain in his current position as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. And if that happens, the Sierra Club may well bear some of the responsibility.

The point is that those who cling to the belief that politics can be conducted in terms of people rather than parties — a group that also includes would-be centrist Democrats like Joe Lieberman and many members of the punditocracy — are kidding themselves.

The fact is that in 1994, the year when radical Republicans took control both of Congress and of their own party, things fell apart, and the center did not hold. Now we’re living in an age of one-letter politics, in which a politician’s partisan affiliation is almost always far more important than his or her personal beliefs. And those who refuse to recognize this reality end up being useful idiots for those, like President Bush, who have been consistently ruthless in their partisanship.

Now, speaking of useful idiots… The Republicans’ favorite “Democrat” is in meltdown. Joe Lieberman’s campaign is paying staffers to try to provoke Lamont supporters on camera. Last weekend, Lieberman’s staff was distributing race-baiting fliers in church parking lots. And he’s blatantly lying about his position on Iraq. Really, how much lower can he go – I mean, besides hiring Republicans to steal the election? (Note to the Lamont camp: I hope you aren’t falling for the carefully placed stories trumpeting the fact that Lieberman is “scaling back” his get-out-the-vote operation.)

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