The Center Cannot Hold – Consortiumnews

For a generation, acceptance of the neoliberal doctrine that “there is no alternative” has paralyzed politics in the West. But what is the meaning of politics if there’s no alternative to the resulting Authoritarian Center, asks Diana Johnstone.

By Diana Johnstone Special to Consortium News
in Paris

The traditional governing parties, center “left” and center “right” all follow the same neoliberal policies and constitute the self-designated “center.” Mainstream media enforce center right claims to authority on the base of orthodox economic expertise, while the center left derives its authority from its “values,” centered on an identity politics version of human rights. “Center” sounds so reasonable, so safe from dangerous “extremes” and unpredictable populism. Against such threats, the Center presents itself as the champion and safeguard of “democracy.”

How true is this?

World Values Survey results indicate that in Europe and the United States, people who describe themselves as “centrist” on the average have less attachment to democracy (e.g. free and fair elections) that those on the left, and even those on the far right. This is not as surprising as it may seem at first, since “centrists” are by definition attached to the status quo. In European countries, the authoritarian neoliberal “center” is institutionalized in the European Union, which imposes economic policy over the heads of the parliaments of the member countries, dictating measures which conform to the choices of Germany and northern Europe, but are increasingly disastrous for the Southern EU members.

The Rise of the Outcasts

The Centrist fear of democracy was resoundingly confirmed by March 4 legislative elections in Italy. The Center was relegated to the margins and outsiders burst in. The winner, with 32 percent of the votes, was the Five Star Movement (M5S) whose campaign “against corruption” won popular support in the impoverished South. In second place, with 17 percent, was “the League”, formerly the Northern League – that is, a party of rich north Italy chauvinists ready to secede from the “lazy good-for-nothing” south. It…

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