"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Trivial Thought

Most of the discussion that I have seen on the Lamont/Lieberman primary election next week has focused on whether Lieberman in the end will hang on to win. That strikes me as the wrong question.

Suppose that Lieberman indeed does win the Democratic nomination, while Lamont receives, say, 45 percent of the primary vote. To my simpleminded way of thinking, that outcome---probably the worst showing for Lamont now plausible---would or will be a disaster for the Dems. Think about it: Almost half the Democratic electorate will have signed on with Moveon.org and its ilk. How would such an outcome be much better for Hillary and her attempt to straddle the middle than the alternative in which Lamont wins the nomination with, say, 52 percent of the vote? Bill and Hill are not fools: They know that a movement to the left forced by the imperatives of the primary competition for the '08 nomination will be an albatross in the general election.

Does it really matter whether Hillary and the other aspiring POTUSes are forced to pander to "only" 45 percent of the Democratic electorate rather than, say, 52 percent? I rather doubt it.

It seems to me that the rise of the Kos/Moveon/Sheehan/Moore wing of the Democratic Party is a looming monster for '08 Democratic hopes for the White House. And it is a serious political/policy problem as well for the Republicans, who will have more room as a result to avoid standing for principle.

11 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Once upon a time, "liberal" was not synonymous with "left." There certainly is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, and it seems strange to find myself rooting for the Clintons.

But if the Dems are to gain power, better DLCers than Deans and Murthas.

Good point about the GOP, that if the current McGovernite reconquista is successful, but not too successful, Republicans will be able to mush by as politicians and not conservatives. But I don't know if movement politics can ever really hold the center.

Good to see you, Ben.

Tlaloc said...

"They know that a movement to the left forced by the imperatives of the primary competition for the '08 nomination will be an albatross in the general election."

I'm not sure that's true. By all accounts the GOP has been catering to the extreme members of its party for some time now and has been doing quite fine politically. If anything there are strong indications that the estimated "center" of politics is far far to the right of the real political center of the population. Superior gamesmanship and quite frankly a huge bag of dirty tricks has let the GOP prosper in what is by all rrights a hiostile electorate.

James Elliott said...

Frankly, I don't understand when people lump Dean in with some of the more rabid Leftists. Dean, propensity for bombastic rhetoric aside, has been right on in his analyses a lot of the time. Ditto Murtha. Murtha is about as middle-road as it comes. Remember his redeployment strategy that he was so reviled for? Even David Frum has taken up the call. His suggested strategy has become, for all intents and purposes, the mainstream option among foreign policy thinkers.

Over at TNR's The Plank there's been some interesting conversation on this topic.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I guess they're lumped in because they are rabid, James. Dean with his race-baiting and Murtha wanting to redeploy our troops in Iraq to somewhere else in the Middle East, like Okinawa.

But the upcoming elections will define whether they're centrists after all. Rabid centrists, mebbe. Now that's a concept.

Tlaloc said...

"Murtha wanting to redeploy our troops in Iraq to somewhere else in the Middle East, like Okinawa."

How exactly is that "rabid?" I mean it's not like he's calling for the dissolution of the US armed forces.

I think you have to define rabid pretty darn low to make a suggestion of not stationing troops in the middle of people who want to kill them fit the bill.

I'm just saying is all...

tbmbuzz said...

By all accounts the GOP has been catering to the extreme members of its party for some time now and has been doing quite fine politically. If anything there are strong indications that the estimated "center" of politics is far far to the right of the real political center of the population. Superior gamesmanship and quite frankly a huge bag of dirty tricks has let the GOP prosper in what is by all rrights a hiostile electorate.

When one's perspective is from the extreme Left to begin with, naturally everything, not only the opposition, is "far far to the right."

"...strong indications that the estimated "center" of politics..." LOL! Nice use of unattributed passive voice here; in other words, simple meaningless handwaving bull! The "center of politics", whatever the hell that means, cannot be anywhere else than the center of the electorate BY DEFINITION. Americans on a national scale have historically been quite centrist in their voting patterns, assiduously avoiding the extremes. Since the Republican Party has been winning the majority of national elections for the past generation (and Democrats such as Carter and Clinton have won by pursuing centrist policies), it follows that the Republican Party has been more centrist than the Democrat Party, certainly in the years since the McGovernite wing took over the Democrat Party in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate. The Republican Party has not won because of "dirty tricks" and "superior gamesmanship" - the Democrats are just as skilled in these aspects; the Republicans have won because their ideology is more in line with the innate centrism of Americans. As long as Democrats keep on deluding themselves that they lose because of "dirty tricks" and the inexplicable "extremism" of so many voters, instead of admitting to and dealing with THEIR OWN extremism (Dean, Pelosi, Murtha, Kennedy, Sharpton, etc ad nauseam), they will continue to be on the outside looking in.

James Elliott said...

“...Murtha wanting to redeploy our troops in Iraq to somewhere else in the Middle East, like Okinawa.”

Actually, what Murtha called for is almost precisely what David Frum has called for (and has been widely hailed for) - a redeployment within Iraq, perhaps to the northern regions of Kurdistan; Murtha called for the military’s civilian leadership to either cease their failed plan and try something new or to admit their incompetence and give up the venture entirely. Murtha’s “rabid” plan mirrors the words of gifted analysts like Francis Fukuyama, Spencer Ackerman, Fred Kaplan, and so on. Likewise, Dean’s analysis of what Iraq would become, during the presidential race, while it was widely derided has ended up being spot-on. Apparently “rabid” is the new euphemism for “right.”

Buzz, how do you explain that the Republican Party official platform contains planks - such as calling for the end of abortion rights - that are not supported by the majority of its membership, if they aren’t catering to the extreme ends? How do you explain the makeup of its current crop of presidential contenders - Religious Right partisans such as Mitt Romney, George Allen, and Rick Santorum - if far Right interest groups lack the power as you say they do?

Jack Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy are so far from “extremists” it’s almost laughable when you place them in that category. Name a “radical” view they hold. Here’s a hint: When over half the country agrees with their stance on the Iraq war, it’s not radical.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I guess nobody from the Democrat side knows where Okinawa is.

James Elliott said...

Hardeeeffingharhar, Tom. Actually, Okinawa would allow for pretty decent response times to the Middle East. Note very carefully about how you left out the parts from the same quote where he also suggests Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. It's easy to just deride someone's ideas by cherrypicking. It's a lot harder to actually engage them.

Murtha gives voice to an opinion now shared by the majority of the country. In opposing it, you and I - though I think we do so for very different reasons - are in the minority now.

Tlaloc said...

"When one's perspective is from the extreme Left to begin with, naturally everything, not only the opposition, is "far far to the right.""

So I take that to mean that you are denying that the PNAC and religious right are in fact hard right?



"The "center of politics", whatever the hell that means, cannot be anywhere else than the center of the electorate BY DEFINITION."

There is a difference between the political center of the electorate and the political center of the government. Look at the idiocy of the Terry Schiavo movement for an example. The congress mistakenly believed the center of the country was far to the right of where it actually was.



"Americans on a national scale have historically been quite centrist in their voting patterns, assiduously avoiding the extremes."

But that means very little given that the "center" today is far to the right of where it has been over the last century. That "center" of course is the government center not the electorate center. The government has moved right while the people have basically stayed wihere they are, meaning the government is poorly representing them.




"Since the Republican Party has been winning the majority of national elections for the past generation (and Democrats such as Carter and Clinton have won by pursuing centrist policies), it follows that the Republican Party has been more centrist than the Democrat Party,"

It would, except for what I mention above: superior gamesmanship and a big bag of dirty tricks. When the GOP wins by engaging in phone jamming scandals or accusing a Max Cleland of being a traitor it's very clear they are not centrists, they are simply gaming the system.



"The Republican Party has not won because of "dirty tricks" and "superior gamesmanship" - the Democrats are just as skilled in these aspects"

Not even. Sometimes I wish they were. But frankly in both categories the republicans excell. Perhaps the recent indictments and convicitions could serve as a guide. They run about 10-1 in favor of the republicans.

The numbers don;t lie. How many democrat party members have been arrested in the last decade for phone jamming? Zero. Same is not true for the Republicans. For the one democratic representative currently in trouble there are about a dozen republican lobbyists and government officials (Abramoff, Allen, Berglund, Buckham, Colyandro, Cunningham, Delay, Doyle, Ellis, Fromm, Hansen, Kidan, Kontogiannis, Libby, McGee, Michael, Ney, Raymond, Robold, Rudy, Safaavian, Scanlon, Stillwell, Tobin, Volz, Wade, Wilkes, to say nothing of the Enron group). Don;t kid yourself, in the corruption race the GOP is WAY ahead.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I worry about you guys taking over, James. Really. If you do, we gotta take up a collection and buy you some globes. It's 5 or 6000 miles to the Middle East whether you fly from Okinawa or New York City.

That's if, on the way to and from Okinawa, China gives you permission to fly over.

But I'm sure if John Kerry were president, that wouldn't be a problem. He's a very diplomatic and persuasive fellow.

(I did think I stipulated that the next election will define the political center. That makes John Murtha no less rabid, which is why the Dems largely ran screaming when he offered himself as their next majority leader should the fetching Rep. Pelosi ascend to the speakership.

As for Howard Dean's rabidity, it appears you have conceded that one, and cheers, you're good that way. If things start looking really grim, we shall attempt to discuss with a straight face Tedward and Dingell, et al, as statesmanlike centrists, altho I sincerely hope such facial gymnastics will not be necessary.)