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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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”