Where Is The Center In Troubled Times?
When George W Bush was elected in 2000, Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative”. What could be better, a mix of pragmatism and concern for others? The wealthy smiled as the Bush Administration made a case for two tax cuts. The evangelical community smiled when government policy turned upon science severely limiting stem cell research and linking foreign aid to impoverished countries’ family planning methods.
And the gates were opened for the neoconservative movement, blindly supporting Israel and simultaneously destabilizing the Arab world. Along came the Patriot Act, secret subpoenas, and Justice Department sanctioned torture. Hmmm. That America’s part of the world tilted strongly to the right and away from the center would be an understatement.
Barack Obama brought into power countervailing tendencies. Science was again respected as evidenced by renewed concerns about global warming, use of data in forming public policy, and research into solar and wind technology. The Obama Administration pointedly worked to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and to close the dark spot on America’s image, the Guantanamo Detention Facility. And, most remarkably, the Obama Administration attempted to bring US healthcare into the realm of other world class, modern industrial countries by passing the Affordable Care Act.
The Republican Party, lead by the Tea Party/Freedom Coalition howled in horror about the reckless race to the left. It was not, however, clear that President Obama was guiding America towards the “center” until Bernie Sanders’s campaign revealed much more progressive goals. For many conservatives, however, President Obama’s policies represented socialism, if not outright communism. To highlight this, the Republican Party’s complete rejection of Merritt Garland’s Supreme Court nomination underscores GOP rejection of centrist governance.
As the Trump Administration readies itself to take office, the Republican controlled Congress appears like the cat ready to eat the canary. The Republican Congress can’t wait to take the country back and “back” will be well to the right of center.
The unknown, strangely is President-elect Trump. Will he focus upon the ideological right or what ever is needed to stimulate economic growth? Will President Trump trade support for right wing ideas in return for support of his growth initiatives? Or, even worse as some conservatives worry, would a President Trump simply be a Democrat in Republican clothing?
“Regaining The Center” may appear a desirable goal, especially in comparison to the conservative hinterlands Republicans boast as the fruits of taking America back. The GOP possesses enough votes in Congress that Republican initiatives can carry the day. “Regaining the Center” may serve the reader well by putting GOP policies in context as a public reminder that Republicans seek benefits for their wealthiest members, at the expense of the average person. If there are benefits, these pluses flow incidental to their main purpose.
For now, the GOP and the Trump Administration can do pretty much what they wish. In two years and again in four, voters get to assess Republican stewardship. As with George W Bush’s Administration whose results were mixed but on the big issues, failures, “Regaining the Center” may sound prophetic. The center may soon appear much less unsettling for independents to shift left of the Trump Administration without doing a full Bernie Sanders.
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