I like Jeff Ackerman’s Op-Ed today in The Union, “Radical left and right are squeezing out the middle.”
Why do I like it? Not because I agree with all of it, or even most of it, but because it seems to be an honest list of what he believes, what he’s for and what he’s against, and that’s a subject of interest to a lot of people in our community who are often perplexed about the connection between what he believes and what appears in The Union. Of course, he continues to insist that there’s little connection between what he or anyone else at The Union believes — say, politically — and what appears in its pages.
I’ll leave it to others who are more skilled and who pay more attention to The Union than I do to assess that sunny claim. (Update: See Jeff Pelline on this very subject, here).
But I will say this, based on my modest experience: whether or not the editor’s beliefs govern the content of The Union, it’s clear they have a profound effect on the style with which that content is presented. Think of the now infamous mine vandalism story that appeared above the fold on the front page, as if it were today’s news … some five years or so after it actually occurred.
Who made that decision? And why?
Still, reading today’s Op-Ed, I felt some sympathy. I don’t like the whacko screamers either. I think they are a threat to what’s left of our democracy. I also feel myself — though a liberal/progressive — to be in the middle (because — while more people self-identify as conservatives than as liberals — polling clearly shows that most people agree with the positions that are traditionally considered liberal: universal health care, withdrawal from Iraq, taxing the rich, etc.).
Chew on that confusion!
I could argue in detail with many of Jeff Ackerman’s beliefs: I oppose the death penalty as public policy, but not as my rightful response to mortal threat. I’d go even further. My objection to the death penalty is not based on some sentimental bleeding heart fantasy that everyone is ultimately reformable. No, sorry folks, there are evil people out there whose immediate demise would be a tremendous boon to all of us.
The problem is that many supporters of the death penalty — like Jeff Ackerman — are also forever whining about how government can’t do anything right.
It’s deeply ironic that I — on the other hand — feel that government (the embodiment of We The People) often does many things right, but when it comes to the death penalty, it must do it perfectly, or else I won’t suport it. In my frame of values, the entire system of the death penalty is not worth the wrongful death of even one innocent person. Think of someone you love.
I have to admit, finally, that I only read Jeff Ackerman’s Op-Ed today because of the title (so, good choice of title!), in particular, the reference to the “radical left.” I thought, “Who the hell is the radical left?”
Maybe this reflects my age but as far as I know, the radical left — Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, Groucho Marx, Che Gueverra — were all completely discredited sometime around the middle of the twentieth century.
Is Benicio “far left?” Give me a break!
Seriously, there is no viable far left in American politics any longer (you have to go to evil Europe to find that).
It’s only because we’re still living in the fading afterglow — like some sickening nuclear radiation that has rotted our brains — of the most radical far right administration in American history, that we allow our conservative commentators to get away with referring to someone as centrist as Obama as “far left.” I heard Monica Crowley say exactly that recently about Obama … Obama, who has gathered around him a stable of conventionally corporate types such as Geithner, Summers and Bernanke.
Most of the screaming and violence lately has come from the far right, which is still well and thriving in our political culture.
For conservatives to locate themselves in the mythical “middle,” it’s necessary for them to posit a “far left.”
That’s what Ackerman does in this Op-Ed, and that’s its chief weakness.