On Washington Pundits and ‘the Vast Silent Middle’

What’s the Matter With Kansas Author Thomas Frank tells (Wall Street Journal, 1/14/09) exactly why he thinks “centrism finds an enthusiastic audience in Washington”:

because it appeals naturally to the Beltway journalistic mindset, with its professional prohibition against coming down solidly on one side or the other of any question. Splitting the difference is a way of life in this cynical town. To hear politicians insist that it is also the way of the statesman, I suspect, gives journalists a secret thrill.

Yet what the Beltway centrist characteristically longs for is not so much to transcend politics but to close off debate on the grounds that he–and the vast silent middle for which he stands–knows beyond question what is to be done.

A key example given is Washington Post pundit Sebastian Mallaby‘s opinion that “blaming deregulation for the financial mess is misguided. But it is dangerous, too.” Why you ask? Not for any actual economic reasons, but “because one of the big challenges for the next president will be to defend markets against the inevitable backlash that follows this crisis”–and just coincidentally threatens to rock the very boat Mallaby has such a comfortable seat in.

Listen to the FAIR radio show CounterSpin: “Thomas Frank on ‘The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule'” (8/22/08)