Sunday, December 30, 2007

Attack of the Moderates: This Time It's For Real?

Consider me somewhat of a curmudgeon, especially when it comes to politics these days. I used to believe that if moderates got active, things would change.

Five years of being involved in moderate Republican groups trying to get people interested and involved have tempered my idealism and made me somewhat bitter.

So, when I perused Jeremy Dibbell's blog (nice to see him posting again)today talking about a potential third party bid, I was a bit skeptical.

I still am, but I also think there is something to this.

David Broder reports in today's Washington Post, that Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York who left the GOP this past summer and is now and independent is gathering a list of moderates in both parties in Oklahoma on January 7th. At first glance, this reminded me of Unity '08, the movement that is backed by old politicos that want to create a unity ticket for President. I've been leery of that movement since it seems to have no other goal than to have everybody place nice. There isn't any there there.

However, as Broder reports, this movement has some heft because of the names it carries. On the GOP side, we have people like former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman and former Senator John Danforth who co-lead the Republican Leadership Council; Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; former Congressman Jim Leach of Iowa; former Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen and Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and the granddaughter of Ike.

On the Dems, we have former Senators Sam Nunn, David Boren, Chuck Robb and Bob Graham.

These aren't second string political players from the 70s, but politicians who were recently in power and have continued to have a role in public affairs.

Does this have any staying power? I don't know. Again, we have seen movements like this before, but this one has some heavy star power. What I have a problem believing is seeing Bloomberg as the candidate. I don't know, but he doesn't seem the type that could propel a centrist movement. I think at this time, we want a healer who can bring people together, but we also want someone that is a bit more charismatic than Bloomberg is. We need a leader, and he seems to much like a manager.

That said, there is someone in that group that could be a great consensus candidate and could rouse passions for a unity government: Chuck Hagel.

Hagel has the fire in belly and this would be a second chance to go after the prize after basically turning it down in March. Hagel could get enough support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents to make this movement an attractive option.

Here are what some others say:

From PoliGazette:

What many American moderates have hoped for - for years now - could very well happen: it seems that Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has teamed up with moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats. This group of people - who are in contact with Unity08 - has talked to several Republican and Democratic leaders, basically telling them, according to Broder at least, that if the Democrats and Republicans don’t nominate someone who reaches across the aisle, they’ll prepare an independent run.

Is that scary for both Republicans and Democrats?


Bloomberg is a billionaire. If he starts spending his own money on a massive third party campaign he’ll pose a threat to the nominees of both parties. He could, as Americans call it, be a “spoiler.” A spoiler for who? Who knows. Could be for both in theory. In other words, Republicans and Democrats would rather not take the risk. Not only that, R’s and D’s also realize that if both parties nominate extremes (say Edwards and Huckabee) many Americans will consider voting for a third party candidate.

Especially if this third party candidate is backed by several prominent politicians from both parties and has hundreds of millions of dollars to spend for his campaign.

From Moderate Voice:

The American political process — if you include the way campaigns are run, negative campaigning, the tone of talk radio and some aspects of the blogosphere — may have disgusted enough people so that a candidate who doesn’t have the same predictable reactions, whose utterances don’t elicited the all-knowing smug wink and nod from those TV analyst talking heads and isn’t out of a politico cookie-cutter could have REAL appeal.

It looked like it could happen for Ross Perot in 1992, until he withdrew and jabbered about Republican operatives planning to disrupt his daughter’s wedding. By the time time Perot got in again, he had irretrievably lost Big Mo.

If Bloomberg does get in, many Americans open to a new option will be holding their breath — hoping he doesn’t have an engaged daughter.

At this point, I am still not holding my breath. This could just crash and burn. But it is worth keeping an eye. It would be nice to see a true centrist revolution take off.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'll Take "Boring"

It's been a while since I've posted something vaguely political- I've been taking a break from writing directly about politics, and I've been spending more time writing about that other topic you don't talk about at parties: religion.

But something from a fellow blogger that has been also lying low has offered a post that has made me decide to come back to poliblogging, if only for a short time.

In that post, Alan Stewart Carl poo-poos the Des Moines Register's endorsement of Hilary Clinton and John McCain. The title of his post makes clear how he feel. Clinton and McCain "lack excitement." On McCain, he has this to say:

The Republicans should at least give us a race interesting enough to end in someone other than McCain. Or Giuliani. Those two have done a heck of a job obfuscating their moderate instincts while crushing their once-formidable integrity under months of transparent pandering. They might still lead national polls (Giuliani) and win establishment approvals (McCain) but I think the Republican Party will end up with someone else.

There are a few things here that bug me about his assessment of McCain. I would agree that McCain has on several occasions pandered on various issues (ie: tax cuts, intelligent design, etc.), but he has also stood his ground on several issues such as climate change and torture. And while he has wavered on immigration, he has not degenerated into the name calling that other candidates have done.

This is what the Register says:
Time after time, McCain has stuck to his beliefs in the face of opposition from other elected leaders and the public. He has criticized crop and ethanol subsidies during two presidential campaigns in Iowa. He bucked his party and president by opposing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. A year ago, in the face of growing criticism, he staunchly supported President Bush's decision to increase troop strength in Iraq.

In this campaign, he continues to support comprehensive immigration reform while watching his poll standings plunge. Some other Republican candidates refuse to acknowledge that climate change is a serious threat caused by human activity. McCain has worked on the issue for seven years and sponsored bills to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.

McCain would enter the White House with deep knowledge of national-security and foreign-policy issues. He knows war, something we believe would make him reluctant to start one. He's also a fierce defender of civil liberties. As a survivor of torture, he has stood resolutely against it. He pledges to start rebuilding America's image abroad by closing the Guantanamo prison and beginning judicial proceedings for detainees.

Is McCain perfect? No. I don't agree with his stands on gay marriage and have condemned him for it. But just as my gay liberal friends are not one-issue voters, neither am I. I want someone who also cares about the environment and is a national security hawk without going sacrificing civil liberties or damaging our image abroad. Out of all the GOP candidates, McCain stands out.

As for the Dems, well if I have to have a Democrat for President, I would rather have Clinton over Obama. It's not that Obama isn't a good politician, he is probably one of the best rhetoriticians out there. But you have to do more than move the people with words, you have to do it with action and I worry that he doesn't have the experience to really be President...yet.

Finally, the final words of Alan's post are some what troubling in my view:

I hope some excitement comes out of this insanely long election season. I have no horse as of yet, so I’m hoping some drama illuminates these carefully guarded candidates. Even if that doesn’t help me come to a decision, it’ll at least be more entertaining than the kind of election The Des Moines Register recommends.

Alan uses the words, "excitement" and "entertaining" in the last paragraph. Okay, the candidates aren't going to set the world on fire, but last I checked, I was voting for President of the United States, not the best singer on an episode of "American Idol." I am not as interested in wanting an "exciting" candidate as much as I do, a pragmatic and experienced candidate. I think it is a common feeling among centrists that we want some one that is bigger-than-life. I supported Ralph Nader in 2000 in the belief that he would shake up the system. I went with Howard Dean four years later for the same reason. Both were exciting, but in the end, they couldn't govern their way out of a paper bag.

In 2008, I am not looking for hero. I am not looking for someone that will entertain me. I want someone that will look at global warming, or work on health care, or immigration reform. McCain isn't exciting, but I think he can do that.