Populism vs. Centrism, or Whatever
Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman have had a little argument about centrist "technocratic" solutions to social and economic problems versus more populist and implicitly or explicitly Democratic ones. DailyKos presents a roundup of the conversations this argument has sparked in different corners. All I really wanted to add, was that it seems to me that beyond the sometimes seductive, always irksome, philosopher-king pretensions of DeLong's POV, what is very clear from his situation of "technocratic centrism" is the following: what centrists like DeLong want, and this is a group that, at least rhetorically, includes folks like Joe Klein, Sullivan, Lieberman, but also probably much more intelligent people, like DeLong, is really an end to politics, not a "centrist" politics. politics are agonistic all the way down, that's how they happened, that's how they work. i don't really love the stupidity this leads to, but that's the way it is. so a politics of sustained centrism is really only code for an end to politics. i think this position is alluring to a large group of intellectuals, burghers, and media-friendly politicians who cringe at the memory and the history of America's various flirtations with a faddish marxism, and who also cringe at the apparent barbarism of the cultural right. but, as always, the far left and the far right have concerns that, however unpleasantly articulated, are real concerns, real expressions of desire. and not just the far left or right -- people. and people who perceive that they have needs, material or spiritual, bring their desire to the forum. what folks like DeLong want is the forum to be closed, regulated, administered, secure. His is a Utopian vision, that like all utopianisms is quite beautiful, but also brutal, wrong-headed, and destined to fail.