Washington Babylon — August 25, 2008, 8:42 am

Bipartisan Policy Center: We are not boring

Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University and Visiting Scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), writes:

In his Washington Babylon item of August 18), Ken Silverstein wonders if there is anything more boring than an organization called the “Bipartisan Policy Center?” How about yet another world-weary reporter mocking any attempts at a constructive centrism?

Amid an epidemic of journalistic cynicism, partisan extremism, blogger fanaticism, and consumer materialism, standing up for bipartisanship, for moderation, for a respite from excess, is indeed a bold – and much needed — move. Historically, bipartisanship is in the great American political tradition, advocated by George Washington, practiced by Abraham Lincoln, perfected by Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, and made standard by Harry Truman’s and Dwight Eisenhower’s consensus-oriented Cold War politics. I admit, as the author of a recent book called “Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents,” and as a (new) Visiting Scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center itself, I am biased. But I know where I stand. I would rather be part of the search for a solution to some of our knottiest but trans-partisan policy problems, than add to America’s troubles as another know-it-all, pessimistic, polarizing reporter or academic.

Well, bipartisanship may have been a fine idea back in the days when America had two parties (or more) offering very distinctive policy proposals, but that was long ago. I’m not one of those people who think that Democrats and Republicans are indistinguishable, but unfortunately they become more so with each passing day. So bipartisanship as practiced by the BPC means taking the “best” ideas from the two parties (which have very few ideas to speak of, and most of them are bad ones) and compromising in the middle. It’s hard to get excited about that prospect.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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