The Public Interest

Politics as usual

Elizabeth Arens

Winter 2002

THE terms “radical Left” and, more recently, “radical Right” have become stock phrases in American political debate, conjuring images of intemperate ideologues as heedless of prudence as they are of majoritarian will. Now, however, we find two authors who embrace the term radical and, clearly delighting in the paradox, wed it to the far more reputable concept of the political center. These authors are Ted Halstead and Michael Lind, and their book is The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics. † Halstead is a policy man and creator of think tanks whose most recent project is the New America Foundation, a Washington-based center for iconoclastic young thinkers. Lind, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is a prolific author who rose through the ranks of the political Right and then made his name by denouncing his earlier patrons. Familiarity with the career of each author suggests that Halstead’s contribution to The Radical Center lies in its advocacy of the use of market mechanisms to achieve social democratic outcomes, as well as in most of the book’s actual policy details. Lind has contributed the bold rhetoric, the sweeping aspiration to remake America, and the air of contempt for people on both sides of the political spectrum who see things differently from him.

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