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Jewish World Review
Oct. 26, 2010
/ 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5771
Jon Stewart's march is no laughing matter
I don't know about you, but my heart sank when I read about Jon Stewart's Million Moderate March, planned for the Mall next weekend. My heart sank further when I learned that liberal groups, lacking any better ideas, have decided to take this endeavor seriously. It's bad enough that the only way to drum up enthusiasm for a "Rally to Restore Sanity" is to make it into a television comedian's joke. But it's far worse that the "moderates" in attendance will have been bused in by Arianna Huffington and organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
This is how words, and then ideas, vanish from our political lexicon: Whatever connotations it once had, the word "moderate" has now come to mean "liberal" or even "left-wing" in American politics. It has been a long time since "moderate" Republicans were regarded as important, centrist assets by their party: Nowadays, they are far more likely to be regarded as closet lefties and potential traitors. "Moderate" Democrats, meanwhile, no longer exist: In their place, we have "conservative Democrats." Nobody pays attention to them either -- unless, suddenly, one of them threatens to vote against health-care reform. And then he is vilified.
There is no lack of interesting people in the political center. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- one of the few popular incumbents in the country -- has not only declared himself a centrist but has also launched a campaign of support for other centrists. He flies around the country endorsing both Democrats and Republicans who he thinks show the ability to compromise and have the courage to depart from party orthodoxy on issues such as gun control (he is in favor) or more stringent financial regulation (he is against). He nearly lost me when he inexplicably endorsed Harry Reid, but never mind.
Others are trying, usually behind the scenes, to find solutions to problems that divide liberals and conservatives bitterly. Recently, Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute (conservative) got together with Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution (liberalish) and two scholars from the Breakthrough Institute (further left) to talk about America's stalled energy policy. Their starting point: For two decades, the right has called climate change a figment of the United Nations' imagination and pretended that "drill, baby, drill" is a policy. For the same two decades, the left has been talking about the end of the world and pretending that wind and solar can replace oil and gas without massive subsidy. The result: gridlock, a lot of wasted money and an ever-growing American dependence on imported oil.
Working together, they came up with a report called "Post-Partisan Power" (read the whole thing at http://www.aei.org or http://thebreakthrough.org), which calls for the removal of wasteful subsidies and advocates investments designed to make "new clean energy sources" commercially viable. Just as important, though, is the point this group made by working together. In their introduction, they note that bipartisanship has helped create economic growth. And not only the distant past: Welfare reform was passed thanks to both Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich.
Bipartisanship is, of course, the source of plenty of disastrous ideas itself. Sometimes it produces worst-of-all-possible-worlds types of legislation, like those energy bills that subsidize gas, oil, wind, nuclear, coal, biofuels, hydrogen and anything else that might keep a swing state happy. Sometimes it produces agreements that are so centrist that one or the other party eventually rejects them. That's what happened to the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform, a bill I'm sure John McCain wishes he'd never laid eyes on.
Still, even if bipartisanship doesn't always work, even if "moderate" legislation is often weak, even if centrists sometimes fail completely, it doesn't matter: We are condemned to cross-party compromise. Without it, our system doesn't work: That's what "checks and balances" means. In American politics, if you don't want to cooperate with your political opponents -- if you prefer to scorn them, shun them or call them names -- that means that you don't, in fact, want to get anything done. Moderates often achieve less than they could. But extremists achieve nothing at all.
Which is why this Jon Stewart rally is such a gloomy development. I'm sure his Million Moderate March, if it happens, will be amusing, and I wouldn't want to spoil the fun by calling it "tragic." But if that's the best the center can do, then "blackly humorous" wouldn't be that far off.
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Gulag: A History
Nearly 30 million prisoners passed through the Soviet Union's labor camps in their more than 60 years of operation. This remarkable volume, the first fully documented history of the gulag, describes how, largely under Stalin's watch, a regulated, centralized system of prison labor-unprecedented in scope-gradually arose out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution. Fueled by waves of capricious arrests, this prison labor came to underpin the Soviet economy. JWR's Applebaum, a former Warsaw correspondent for the Economist and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, draws on newly accessible Soviet archives as well as scores of camp memoirs and interviews with survivors to trace the gulag's origins and expansion Sales help fund JWR.
Comment on JWR contributor Anne Applebaum's column by clicking here.
10/12/10: The rise of the ordinary elite
10/05/10: The Government That Cried Wolf
09/28/10: China's quiet power grab
09/14/10: Mind the austerity gap : What the U.S. could learn from Britain's cuts
09/07/10: In Europe, it's no longer East vs. West
08/10/10: Take your medicine, Tom Sawyer
07/29/10: Wikileaks busts myth about the irrelevance of mainstream media
07/07/10: Democracy in trouble
06/22/10: Buzz off? : What to do about the vuvuzela
06/08/10: Germany's dangerous code of silence
06/02/10: Can the Brits play nice?
05/11/10: Greece's stubborn surrender
05/04/10: Another human-rights irony at the U.N.
04/27/10: Britain's spot of Tea Party
04/13/10: Out of tragedy, a detente of sorts between Russia, Poland
03/25/10: From Britain's Tories, lessons for the GOP
03/16/10: Britain and America both have center-left leaders, but the two nations are further apart than ever
03/09/10: Germany Is Tired of Paying Europe's Bills
03/02/10: Chile will survive the earthquake because its democracy works
02/23/10: Prepare for war with Iran in case Israel strikes
02/17/10: America's Greek tragedy?
02/09/10: The Big Problem With Big Solutions
01/26/10: India's model of reflective patriotism
01/12/10: Haiti's man-made disasters
01/12/10: We need a smarter way to fight the jihadi elite
01/05/10: How every year we waste millions on wasteful homeland-security projects
12/30/09: The next decade will be bad for authoritarian regimes except one
12/15/09: The Apocalypse Is Not Upon Us
11/24/09: Superpower without a partner
11/17/09: Why has the global response to swine flu been so politicized?
11/10/09: After the wall fell
11/03/09: Angela Merkel's Quiet Revolution
10/20/09: Will the President of Europe Be a Gifted Pol or a Compromising Bureaucrat?
09/29/09:What Is Iran Afraid Of?
09/22/09: Letting Europe Drift
09/17/09: Greed and fear are proving stronger than companies' commitment to free speech
09/08/09: Will Obama Fight For Afghanistan?
09/01/09: The Polish Prologue
08/20/09: Why Afghans Need a Vote
07/29/09: No Burqa For Clinton
07/14/09: The Summit of Green Futility
07/09/09: Obama Puts Medvedev Ahead of Putin
06/30/09: In Morocco, an alternative to Iran
06/23/09: An overlooked force in Iran
06/16/09: Some good in a bad election
06/09/09: Why Is the Right Doing So Well in Europe?
06/02/09: Is China Pulling Strings in North Korea?
05/26/09: What a Member of Parliament Deserves
04/22/09: The Twitter Revolution That Wasn't
04/14/09: Do we really need interactive exhibits to bring Jefferson to life?
04/07/09: No Nukes? No Thanks: Obama's odd obsession with universal nuclear disarmament
03/31/09: What's Loud, Unnecessary, and Costs $75 Million?
03/03/09: European Disunion
02/24/09: Who cares what Hillary Clinton says to China's leaders about human rights?
02/17/09: Witless protection
02/10/09: Our Ticket Out of Afghanistan
01/27/09:Why some foreigners can't believe Obama won the presidency fair and square
01/20/09: A Flight Test for All of Us
01/14/09: Europe's New Cold War
01/07/09: Pointless Peace Proposals
12/30/08: The magnificent rhetorical legacy of the Founding Fathers
12/23/08: Do riots in Athens portend demonstrations in Paris and Cincinnati?
12/16/08: Breach of Trust: Bernard Madoff's massive fraud will cripple American capitalism
12/09/08: In praise of charismatic politicians
12/03/08: Moscow's Empire of Dust
11/20/08: Getting Past Mythmaking In Georgia
11/12/08: In Praise of Political Rock Stars
10/03/08: Election Day myths you must resist
09/30/08: Not just a metaphor: Lehman Brothers was economic's 9/11
09/04/08: Class of '64
08/28/08: Did Hillary really help the Barack cause?
08/27/08: Show of Power, Indeed
08/19/08: What Is Russia Afraid Of?
08/13/08: When China Starved
08/11/08: Two of the world's rising powers are strutting their stuff
08/05/08: How Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago changed the world
07/29/08:The Hour of Europe Tolls Again … But are European politicians up to the task?
07/15/08: Why Does Obama Want To Campaign in Berlin?
07/01/08: Citizen Athletes: How did a guy who can't speak Polish end up scoring Poland's only goal of Euro 2008?
06/24/08: Why do we expect presidential candidates to be kind?
06/17/08: Pity the Poor Eurocrats
06/12/08: Is the World Ready for a Black American President?
05/28/08: The Busiest Generation: America seems to value its children's status and achievements over their happiness
05/20/08: Leave Hitler Out of It: The craze for injecting the Nazis into political debate must end
05/13/08: A Drastic Remedy: The case for intervention in Burma
05/07/08: A Warning Shot From Moscow?
04/23/08: Radio to stay tuned to
04/17/08: China learns the price of a few weeks of global attention
04/01/08: Head scarves are potent political symbols
03/26/08: The Olympics are the perfect place for a protest
03/19/08: Could Tibet bring down modern China?
03/12/08: Have political autobiographies made us more susceptible to fake memoirs?
03/05/08: Why does Russia bother to hold elections?
02/20/08: Kosovo is a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences
02/06/08: A Craven Canterbury Tale
02/06/08: French prez' whirlwind romance reminds voters of his political recklessness
© 2009, Anne Applebaum. By permission of the author