In the new issue of Time (5/13/13), columnist Joe Klein is glad to see Barack Obama getting angry. The occasion was the failure of the Senate to pass a gun bill. But Klein saw Obama's righteous fury as especially useful in that (to him at least) signaled a militant, outraged center in American political life, tired of the extremists on both sides:
Obama's anger served a larger purpose. It was directed at the plague affecting–no, paralyzing–our public life: the ability of well-funded extremist groups to thwart the will of the overwhelming majority. This is a problem that goes well beyond the gun issue. It has infected liberal and conservative lobbying groups alike. Their constant screeching defiles the mass media and drowns out voices of sanity…. It is well past time for political moderates to speak as forcefully as the snake-oil salesmen who are hijacking our democracy.
How surprising–the gun lobby distorts a debate over guns, and the lesson is that…both sides do it!
So who exactly are the outrageous voices on the "other" side who are thwarting the majority? Klein explains:
I include among the demagogues Democrats like Jim Dean–former Gov. Howard Dean's brother–who recently sent out a fundraising letter titled "Disgusted," which began with this subtle enjoinder: "President Obama's budget has left me absolutely disgusted." Really? Why? Because the president has called for very modest cuts in old-age entitlements.
But those "modest" cuts to Social Security and Medicare are overwhelmingly unpopular; Dean's not defying the will of the majority, he's representing it.
Klein does identify the counterpart to the NRA when he denounces
the gun lobby–obviously–and its liberal doppelganger, the civil-libertarian lobby. Innumerable other groups fester, waiting for the chance to raise funds off the paranoia of their supporters.
What exactly has the festering "civil libertarian lobby" done to offend Joe Klein? He doesn't say. Since the column is about the NRA's gun victory, surely there must be some comparable outrage that these purists have won by forcing their will on Washington and defeating the will of the public. It's so obvious, in fact, that Klein doesn't even need to name it. The point is that both sides are extremists, and the middle of the road–where Obama and Klein live–is where you'll find the righteous kind of anger.