The Corner

Thomas Friedman’s Radical Confusion

Thomas Friedman wants an empowered “radical center” to implement his preferred policy changes, including higher taxes, more legal immigration, and cuts (he hints vaguely) to entitlement programs. To empower it he favors structural reforms such as nonpartisan redistricting, so that “more candidates will only be electable if they appeal to the center, not just cater to one party.”

Friedman justifies the “radical” tag by emphasizing the distance between his agenda and “politics as usual.” His real analytical problem, though, comes with the word “center.” The fundamental reason that politicians haven’t cut entitlements and raised middle-class taxes isn’t the power of hard-core liberals and conservatives. It’s that the public–including most people who could reasonably be described as moderates–doesn’t want them to do these things.

He writes, “My definition of broken is simple. It is a system in which Republicans will be voted out for doing the right thing (raising taxes when needed) and Democrats will be voted out for doing the right thing (cutting services when needed). When your political system punishes lawmakers for the doing the right things, it is broken.” The problem isn’t “the system,” except insofar as it is responsive to the voters. That’s his problem. As his paeans to China’s government suggest.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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