Monday, November 15, 2010

Centerville takes a step to the right...

E.J. Dionne, in an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post last week, talks about how Democrats need to hold their ground. Listen up, moderates. This post is for you.

With the tea party movement, the Republicans have dragged the center further to the right. As Democrats, we need to hold our ground right where we are. Without getting into the specifics of policy issues, I identify as center-left on the political spectrum. Mainly, it’s because Howard Dean was able to tap into the anger of the far left during his presidential campaign in 2004. It’s mainly how there’s this segment of Democrats that are anti-Israel. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t really visit Daily Kos all that much. However, when I took one of those political quizzes, I scored a classification of “Liberal” on it. It does not surprise me at all given the Republican agenda.

I was talking with some cousins the other day. They are registered Republicans and one of their kids would be classified as “very conservative.” Of the entire family, they are the only ones in the branch that are Republican. Maybe, they have that one gene, or lack thereof, that has been talked about in the media as of late. This was the first time I had seen them since the election and my cousin mentioned that he would consider himself to be either a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican.

I’m standing there thinking—have they looked at what happened with Arlen Specter, who fits the very category that they do. He was too liberal for the Republican Party. While it is true that he was beaten during the Democratic primary this year, he would have easily been defeated by the tea party movement during the Republican primary.

It’s sadder when conservatives ask Democrats to compromise on important policy issues when it is very clear that the GOP is not going to try and find common ground. It’s their ground or nothing. That’s they sorry state of the GOP at the moment. If they want compromise, they have to be willing to work things out. They have to be willing to concede on issues.

Some excerpts from EJ's op-ed:
Democrats who stand up to say they were right to reform health care and stimulate a staggering economy are told they "don't get it" and are "in denial." Liberals who refuse to let one election loss alter their commitments are dismissed as "doubling down" on a bad bet.

President Obama made the word "audacity" popular, but conservative Republicans practice it.

Mainstream commentary typically bends to the more audacious side. As a result, there was far less middle-of-the-road advice in 2008 urging Republicans to move to the center than there were warnings to Obama not to read too much into his victory. The United States, we were told, was still a "center-right" country. The actual election result didn't seem to matter back then.

Funny that when progressives win, they are told to moderate their hopes, but when conservatives win, progressives are told to retreat.

Worse, Democrats tend to internalize the views of their opponents. Already, some moderate Democrats are claiming that all would have been well if Obama had not tried to reform health care or "overreached" in other ways. Never mind that Obama's biggest single mistake (beyond the administration's projection that unemployment would peak around 8 percent) was giving in to Senate moderates and not demanding the much bigger stimulus plan a weak economy plainly needed.

In fact, moderate Democrats would do better calling attention to how extreme and out of touch the conservative program actually is. Moderates should be more offended than anyone that the GOP's ideological obsessions (health-care repeal, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation) have little connection to solving the country's problems, particularly the economic difficulties in the electorally pivotal Midwest.

The best news for Democrats is that the Republicans' fixation on repealing the health-care law will give its supporters a 10th inning - an unexpected second chance to win the struggle for public opinion.

The most politically potent attack on the health-care effort was not on the plan itself. It was the argument that Democrats should have spent less time on this bill and more on job creation. Every moment the Republicans devote to destroying this year's reform opens them up to exactly the same criticism.

Moreover, reopening the health-care debate will allow the law's supporters to defend its particulars. What, exactly, do the Republicans want to repeal? Tax breaks helping businesses cover their employees? Individual tax credits? (Yes, repealing the health bill would be a big tax increase.) Protections for people with pre-existing conditions or for adult children under age 26?

Republicans are also showing who and what they really care about by their other big priority: making sure the Bush tax cuts are extended for the wealthy in the coming lame-duck congressional session that Democrats will still control.[...]

Yes, the moderate, middle-of-the-road position is the one held by the president. Why sell it out? Raising the $250,000 ceiling a bit might be called a compromise. Any wholesale extension would be a shameful and abject capitulation that would just prove how easy it is to bully Democrats.

Give Republicans credit for this: They don't chase the center, they try to move it. Democrats can play a loser's game of scrambling after a center being pushed ever rightward. Or they can stand their ground and show how far their opponents are from moderate, problem-solving governance. Why should Democrats take Republican advice that Republicans themselves would never be foolish enough to follow?
Good points, EJ. Good points.

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