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This Week in the Narrative: Define “Moderate”

Nigel Clarke

Me: “So, did you catch the debate between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz on health care?”

Friend: “No, I missed it. I was planning to catch the highlights today, but CNN hasn’t mentioned it once.”

Last week I opined that it was curious for CNN to devote prime-time programming to two men who are, and have in the past been treated as, antagonists to the messaging of the network. I suggested that CNN was likely intending to use the opportunity to present both Bernie and Ted Cruz as dangerous radicals.

In this way, the debate was unsurprising. The moderators and talking heads in the studio played the role of establishment defenders; a combination of condescending and hostile to both men.

But what was surprising, and worrying, at least to the tall foreheads at CNN, were the areas in which Bernie — the defender of universal healthcare — and Cruz — playing the by-the-book libertarian — agreed.

They both attacked the high cost of drugs (read: drug company profits) and condemned the cost of insurance (read: insurance company profits). They even reached a mostly ceremonial agreement to co-sponsor a piece of legislation. It is telling that the areas in which Bernie and Cruz agreed upon their opposition are the areas depicted in establishment politics as the most impregnable.

No sh*t CNN wasn’t going to show highlights of that.


Despite being presented as, and encouraged to be, mortal enemies at the furthest possible points apart on the left/right political spectrum, so-called “libertarians” and “progressives” do periodically enjoy ideological overlap. What is most interesting is the overlap is often in opposition to things — the military-industrial complex, international corporate trade deals, and the surveillance state — portrayed politically as the most unalterable aspects of American imperialism.

In U.S. politics, we are told moderation is a virtue. The Hillary Clintons, the Mitt Romneys, the John McCains of the world are the gold standard — a “progressive who gets things done,” “Romneycare,” etc. In the mainstream narrative, it is the myth of the moderate, who reaches across the aisle to make deals.

When this type of “moderation” is successful, the result seems inevitably to be a strengthening of the gears of oligarchy.

And yet, all three of these people lost in their quest for the presidency to an opponent who campaigned against the control of Wall Street and large corporations on the American political process, condemned the military-industrial complex, criticized corporate trade deals, etc.

When CNN combed the political landscape for the two most stereotypical examples of the “far right” and the “far left” that they could find, the result was vigorous and respectful debate in some areas, with outright agreement in other, more fundamental areas.

Take a look around. As much as establishment mouthpieces like CNN may try to hide the fact, there are a whole lot of people here outside the box.

This piece was originally published on Medium.

Written by Nigel Clarke

Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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