The Limits of Triangulation


Triangle illustration

Atrios’ point about the media invisibility of left-wing criticism of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is an important one. After all, in this case the criticisms were really, really non-obscure as the person leading the charge has both a Nobel Prize in Economics and also a column in the most important newspaper in the world. Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post can’t actually be unaware of this argument which was also aired in a Summers profile in the most celebrated magazine in America. But the conventions state that a dispute of this sort has to be framed as a binary argument between the left-wing Obama administration and right-wing congressional Republicans.

In addition to highlighting the folly of MSM conventions, this illustrates the folly of relying too much on triangulation tactics to try to maintain your popularity. Any prominent actions undertaken by a Democratic President that are progressive enough as to not be actively opposed by congressional Democrats simply come to be defined as the leftward pole of debate. If Obama brings a CEO into the administration, that person will rapidly be identified as the Joseph Stalin of business leaders. It’s true that relatively few Americans self-identify as liberals, so there’s always something to be said for trying to distance yourself from the dread hippies, but at the end of the day a Democratic President is bound to end up mostly being portrayed as the hippie-in-chief. You fundamentally need to try to do a good job and have people feel like their lives are improving.