Thomas Friedman doesn't like any of the candidates running for President, and with regard to the Republicans, who can blame him? Not much to like there, is there? And what are the chances the GOP would nominate anybody Friedman would vote for anyway? This isn't an accidental collection of Right Wing goofballs and corporatist stooges. They are representative of the party today.
As for the Democrats, well, in the social and professional circles of the Very Serious People Friedman never leaves except when getting into taxis driven by magic cabbies with insight into the way this flat world works that only coincidentally mirrors Friedman's own thinking, disliking Hillary Clinton is a matter of good form and as required to be taken seriously among the serious people as believing that relatively modest liberal positions that polls show are the positions a majority of Americans hold are "hard left" and as extreme as any held by the actually radical right. The accompanying belief among the serious people is that there is such a political entity as a centrist who combines the best of the not at all far left and the not too far right with none of the passion or conviction of either side, which is---here’s a shock---the kind of candidate Friedman is looking for to like.
Friedman’s complaint is that none of the people running for President “surprises” him “with any daring.”
I guess what he means is that none of them are offering what he would think of as big, bold, new ideas that will carry this great nation into the future. He wants someone capable of the kind of big, bold thinking that results from having no particular principles except for a vague and bloodless faith that people like Thomas Friedman know what's best for the country and if those Friedman-esque people have an idea it must be a good one.
Democrats are now polarizing toward the populist left. Since the Republicans have already purged their moderates, this trend does not bode well for the country. It means that the hybrid/centrist blends that on many issues can create the most resilient solutions are “off the table.
What is he talking about? When did that ever happen?
What great thing in this country's history, what "resilient solution", from the Revolution through abolition through women winning the right to vote through the New Deal through the Civil Rights movement and through on up to the brink of marriage equality, wasn't accomplished by a group of liberal extremists dragging people from the center to join them in opposing the entrenched conservative interests of the day?
Or put another way, what did hybrid/centrists ever manage to accomplish with their blending?
Winning the Cold War?
The National Highway system?
Actually the National Parks are a very liberal idea and were despised by the corporatist right and still are. Theodore Roosevelt was hated for what he did mostly by acting in defiance of a conservative Congress to expand the park system.
The highway system had conservative opposition too.
As for the Cold War, we won, all right, but it took over forty years and nearly bankrupted us financially and morally and spiritually, and it’s not so much the case that we defeated the Soviets as we outlasted them, so I’m not sure we should count it as a great victory for the centrist hybrids. We can confidently assume that if the Right had been in charge we’d have had World War III and if liberals had been running things we’d have gotten out of Vietnam sooner and might not have gone in at all. Kennedy and Johnson weren’t acting as liberals or for liberals in Southeast Asia. They were in fact acting as centrist hybrids. The daring centrist hybrid idea leading to a resilient solution of the Cold War, embraced by Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, was propping up Right Wing dictatorships.
Maybe Friedman's thinking of the Civil Rights Act. If so, he's making the mistake that defines the political thinking of too many insider journalists like him, that bipartisanship is a good in and of itself that naturally produces good results and that it is simply a matter of two sides putting aside their minor differences for the sake of a larger and broadly agreed upon good and this isn't what happened. There was no hybrid blending. What happened is that people Friedman would regard as hard left today dragged people of good will to the left, in the process forcing many of them who had thought of themselves as conservative to realize that they were actually liberals. It also caused a lot of people who thought of themselves as conservative to realize they were in fact hardline Right Wingers. The result wasn't a national consensus but increased polarization and significant divisions that persist to this day and an almost immediate realignment of the ranks of voters within the two parties that moved one a bit more to the left and the other a lot farther to the right.
In other words, one of the greatest things we did as a country was brought about by passionate liberals not bloodless centrists and resulted in the present political realities Friedman laments.
But that aside, what sorts of things would Friedman like to see a coalition of centrist hybrids accomplish?
The defeat by House Democrats — with an assist from hard-right House Republicans and praise from Hillary Clinton — of President Obama’s sensible plan to expand Pacific free trade and pair it with worker and environmental protections was a bad sign…
Yep. TPP and TAA.
There’s a daring new idea.
Reminds me. The centrist hybrids loved NAFTA too and what a “resilient solution” that turned out to be.
And of course there’s this:
…phased-in entitlement trims and means-testing to Social Security and Medicare…
The centrist hybrids love this one. At least he doesn’t call it “entitlement reform”, the elitist journalists’ preferred euphemism for Work until you drop and don’t get sick.
Beyond TPP and TAA and cuts to Social Security and Medicare---Sorry. “Entitlement trims”.---it's a laundry list of pragmatic policies that Democrats have been trying to effect for years and Republicans have fought tooth and nail and mostly succeeded in thwarting.
If Freidman wants done what he says needs to be done on infrastructure, clean energy, student debt, and health care,then the smart thing to do is vote Democratic no matter how much you dislike the Democrat at the top of the ticket. But Friedman can't admit this because it would upset his friends and dinner companions among the serious people. So he retreats to the accepted fallback position: "Both Sides!"
Democrats want to do a good thing.
Republicans prevent them from doing it.
Both sides are at fault.
But let's grant Friedman his wishful thinking and pretend for the moment that there are great daring ideas we only need a serious minded centrist hybrid visionary leader to surprise us with.
That person isn't running. That's Friedman's complaint. So what is going to happen? Somebody who is running will become President and then what?
What will that somebody do as President, beside not dare to surprise us on the path to the future Friedman dreams of?
Easy enough to answer.
If the next President is a Republican he will do what all the Republicans running are promising to do and Republicans in Congress and state legislatures have been doing: work to destroy every single social and economic good achieved over the last hundred years, including whichever ones Friedman thinks were achieved by centrist hybrids.
And what will a Democratic President do?
Try to stop them and repair the damage they've already done.
It doesn't matter what some idealized candidate might do to take us into a hazily idealized future. It matters what the real candidates intend to do once in office, given the political realities of the here and now.
That Friedman doesn't deign to take those realities into consideration doesn't mark him as any sort of daring and surprising visionary pointing the way to a glorious Tomorrowland.
It reveals him as just another smug, self-satisfied, self-infatuated elitist protected from the vicissitudes of the here and now by his wealth and privileges afford by his status as a celebrity journalist who doesn't give a damn what happens to the rest of us stuck living in the present.
No, I’m sorry, I did not read Friedman’s op-ed so you don’t have to. You’ll have to read it for yourself. Here it is: My Choice for President? None of the Above.
Note on the revision: My original version of this post included a paragraph about some Republicans’ reactions to the shootings in Charleston. I took it out because I decided it was both too little and too much and because the discovery of the killer’s white supremacist website and racist manifesto is churning things up in a hurry and I didn’t think it was, to use my own phrasing against me, reflecting the “political realities of the here and now.” But that explains SReady’s comment and my reply.