The 'phony center'

A topic I write about often is the skewed interpretations of what defines "the center."

Yesterday's Times editorial makes a very good point on this topic. (Italics for emphasis are mine)

“The Republicans created their defeat by focusing obsessively on the right-wing ‘base,’ ostracizing not only the Democrats but their own party’s more moderate legislators. The conflict between the extremist House and the conservative Senate created a phony center, far to the right of the general public’s idea of where the middle ought to be.”


Jeff said...

I don't think the GOP went any further to the right over the past few years; I think the Democrats did. Look at VA. Webb won despite an overwhelming vote in favor of the gay marriage ban. Socially, people didn't feel that conservatism required rejection, yet they still voted in a Democrat (albeit barely). In my view, the Democrats won because they capitalized on two things: The military, and GOP corruption/incopetance.

Fightings Dems swept many elections, including VA. They utalized a lack of GOP capability to ostracize their service. Webb is a great example of this, as he served as sectretary of the Navy under Regan. Consequently, VA's naval vote (which was huge, as southeastern VA and Alexandria both have very high naval populations) shifted towards Webb. The key races in the senate all involved Dems that are far more conservative from a contemporary standpoint than Pelosi or Dean (who's statements Tuesday night were atypically to the right). I think these Democrats were able to win because they projected a dissimilar image from what framed their party in 2004.

Note that this doesn't apply to states like PA, which are traditionally blue and shifted back on account of anti-Bush administration sentiment.

On top of this, many surveys showed right wing sects (like evangelicals) expressing discontent with the GOP. This isn't because of the "What" that makes up GOP policy, it's because of the "How". Kerry's criticism of the Bush foreign policy in 2k4 was along similar lines. He stated that we needed to hunt down and kill the terrorists, and that Iraq needed to be "won" on numerous occasions. He even told Lou Dobbs that Iraq was "The right thing to do", but that he disagreed with Bush's tactics.

Most of the internal criticism amongst the GOP and its supporters came from people lashing out at Rumsfeld. But they were NOT lashing out at him because of the existance of the Iraq war, just at the way it's being run. In short, more conservative moderates may have voted democratic not because they disagreed with the GOP's ideology, but because they'd lost faith in the actual people in charge.

I feel like you should keep a close eye on the Democrats, Mike. You may be upset with them. Try to find footage of Dean on CNN during the vote counting. He expressed a view regarding troop withdrawl that you may find disconcerning (essentially that it shouldn't happen without a stable Iraq, which means it shouldn't happen for a long, long time).

Beacon Opinion said...


First of all, I have no illusions about what this election means. I know there is no lefty mandate, and that the results were more the product of anger at the GOP.

And yes Webb, Ford, Casey are all very conservative Democrats. And yes the fact that were tat way helped them. But two of those three states are in the south -- the other very socially conservative.

Just as us here in Boston do not represent the nation as a whole, nor do the voters in VA.

And even there, going from Allen to Webb, no matter the conservative credentials of Webb which are indeed significant, is no doubt a leftward swing. And Webb faced a primary to from a more liberal candidate, who was competitive, showing more liberal enthusiasm.

I can't fathom that you actually think the Dems have moved to the right in general over the last two years.

Edwards called for a troop withdrawel; Kerry and Feingold proposed withdrawel resolutions; Barack Obama publicly distanced himself from the DLC and triangulation; so did Kerry, Gore and Feingold; Murtha becomes a national anti-war figure (misguided given his legislative practives, but it happened; a pro-war incumbent loses in a primary and needs Republicans to carry him to victory; Hillary Clinton donates an advisor to Lamont; Howard Dean is elected DNC chair; 72 percent of the troops advocated withdrawing in a year (that was Feb).

The Dems have moved to the left, for political purposes. It is not why they won, alone. GOP follies had much more to do with that.

But I stand by my argument.

That said, I will keep an eye on them and very much assume they will dissapoint me most of the time. They have a knack for that.

My joy comes from the national condemenation of radical policies, and the fact that most Americans admit this war was a mistake, and are pushing to end it.

The Dems will play it safe -- especially at first. IT will work sometimes, it will fail them other times.

They will raise minimum wage, and perhaps push through immigration legislation. Impeachment is not likely; hearings will happen. THey have not called for Universal heath care; they have called for a modest raise of the minimum wage.

They will push for stem cells; they will not legalize grass.

I know what were in for.

Bipartisansip is fine. THey have some leverage -- they will be able to cut deals. I have no problem with bipartisanhip. But the DLC "centrist" types had no leverage, and were not compromising. They were enabling horrible policies.

Jeff said...

I should've specified. I don't think they moved to the right over the past two years, I think they did for this campaign.

That said, you raise some good points. Chances are, however, that we're both right (depending on which part of the nation you look at). Hope some interesting legislation comes about soon.