Reading about the Bircher war on the institutional Republican Party, it's easy to see how an average reader would want to embrace "centrism":
To Deace, “political-party disintegration” is on the horizon. And he’s not alone: Sean Hannity, on his radio show on Monday, said he’d previously opposed a third party, but “I’m not so sure anymore. It may be time for a new conservative party in America. I’m sick of these guys.” Ann Coulter’s new book is titled Never Trust a Liberal Over 3—Especially a Republican. Groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action wear their contempt for GOP elites as a point of pride, and spend the bulk of their resources campaigning against rather than for Republican officeholders.If you switch the words "Republican" for "Democrat", and "conservative" for "progressive", this could easily be mistaken for an article in The Nation or at Daily Kos.
The Republican establishment, these conservatives say, doesn’t seem to understand that the Tea Party isn’t a wing of the GOP. “It’s an autonomous force,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. In emails and conversations across the country, Martin told me, she’s hearing more rumblings about taking the Tea Party out from under the GOP than ever before, though the organization hasn’t taken a position on it. “When either party is doing the right thing, the Tea Party stands with them," she said. "And when either party is doing the wrong thing, we hold them accountable.”
The recent government shutdown, and the infighting it laid bare between Republican factions, convinced many conservatives that the institutional GOP would rather sell them out than stick up for them. “There are two views on the right. One says more Republicans is better; the other says better Republicans is better,” said Dean Clancy, vice president of public policy for the Tea Party group FreedomWorks. “One view focuses on the number of Republicans in the Senate, the other on the amount of fight in the senators.”
When Beck made his appeal to "defund the GOP," he told his listeners to stop giving money to Republican committees and give to FreedomWorks instead. "We kind of agree," Clancy told me. “Giving to the party committees is wasted money, because they’re just incumbent protection clubs .... Sometimes you have to beat the Republicans before you beat the Democrats. Just because they're 'our guys' doesn’t mean they'll be our guys when it counts."
But that's why viewing politics as merely a set of competing opinions on a sliding scale away from some hypothetical center is so dangerous and ill-advised. Facts matter.
One of the problems with horse race journalism is not just that it's content-free. It's also that by continually focusing on power and the perceptions of power, the muddling of fact into opinion creates an environment wherein both sides of the mythical "center" of the parties are seen as equally extreme.
It's true, of course, that one difference here is that Tea Partiers dominate the Republican Party while progressives are a back bench voice that rarely gets serious treatment in the Democratic Party. But that alone isn't a compelling argument. After all, while there are some folks on the left who view their own marginalization as proof of their virtue, by and large progressives want to have more power in Congress. The difference is that more progressive power would be better for the country.
It matters that conservatives have been proven wrong about the relationship between deficits and inflation. It matters that conservatives have been proven wrong about climate change. It matters that countries with single-payer healthcare have better care at lower cost. It matters that treating minorities as human beings with equal rights does not cause society to fall apart. It matters that supply side economic theory has been proven to be a disaster. It matters that record corporate profits and low effective tax rates are accompanying high unemployment, killing all conservative claims about economic realities in any fair debate. It matters that blue states tend to be socially and economically happier than red ones. It matters that countries with decent gun control laws have far lower rates of gun violence and murder in general. It matters that imposing austerity during a recession only deepens the economic doldrums while increasing the debt, and that this fact has been proven out in recent years. It matters that income inequality is damaging to a country's economic future, and that retirement programs for the elderly can easily be paid for by taking what amounts to pocket change in taxes from the wealthiest Americans. These aren't matters of opinion to be gauged on the sliding scale. These are matters of fact.
It also helps that by and large, progressive policies are much more popular than conservative ones. That's a fact as well.
These things matter. Facts are important. Without a grounding in fact, all politics looks like a battle of the center against the extremes of both sides. But that's an incredibly lazy and ignorant way to look at the world.
Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo