|A defective Martha Stewart Everyday Brand Tea Kettle. A metaphor for Tom Friedman?|
I’ve long been an admirer of Tom Friedman, the New York Times award-winning foreign affairs columnist. I’ve spent many days happily absorbed in his articles and books, which often inspired my own thinking on world issues. Friedman’s analysis of the realms of politics, culture, economics, and religion was incisive, penetrating beneath the surface of events, bringing historical perspective to current conflicts. Whether discussing Middle Eastern politics, global capitalism, or
How disappointing it is to find that Friedman’s analytical and expository power, that allows him to get to the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict or explain globalization, fails him when he turns to his own country. Friedman is frustrated with democracy, at least in its two-party incarnation. The sad truth is that Tom Friedman, like so many other liberal pundits, does not understand Jacksonian America. I really shouldn’t be so surprised. Friedman was never a Jacksonian, but unlike many liberal progressives he is an American nationalist. In his writings Friedman usually tries to strike a balance between American nationalism and liberal internationalism, which is not an easy task. Friedman’s nationalism likewise tends to balance the patriotism of affirmation with the patriotism of dissent. No matter how critical he may be of America’s dysfunctions as he sees them, whenever he returns home from one of his globe trotting adventures, Friedman metaphorically kisses the ground and says “God bless
|A pensive Tom Friedman. Trapped in the mandarin delusion?|
But getting to the point. As I said Friedman is frustrated with American democracy in its current two-party duopoly. Since at least 2005 Freidman’s writings have been dominated by three themes: the urgent need to develop green technologies and a green economy even if it has to be forced on a recalcitrant American public by governing elites who know better; the hijacking of American politics by the ideological far right and far left and the disintegration of the political center; China as the model of an enlightened autocracy where wise mandarin elites can impose reform on society unhampered by the dysfunctions of democracy (the mandarin delusion). Friedman really wants a third party, a party of “the radical center,” that can bring together the majority of Americans who are center right or center left (New York Times, October 3, 2010). Such a coalition, Friedman believes, can bring needed reforms to address America’s urgent social and economic problems and restore democracy to health. A new centrist party would, in Friedman’s view, see the wisdom in the policies that the liberal progressive elite want to impose on the nation, some of which have already been implemented by the Obama administration. I believe Friedman is mistaken in this. The center right is just as opposed to the progressive green agenda as the far right is, as indicated by the level of popular support for the Tea Party. And America is a center right (not a center left) nation. As Democratic pollster Pat Caddell told Monica Crowley on her WABC radio show (October 9, 2010), the Tea Party is “the tip of the spear” of a much larger Jacksonian populist revolt against the liberal progressive agenda.