Monday, December 28, 2009

Big Tent Democrats?

I've done more than a few posts on the quest by some in the GOP to want shrink the so-called "Big Tent." Many of us have looked at how the Democrats have been able to welcome both liberals and moderates in the party.

However, two articles from two Democrats show that the Left is having its own problems on trying to reach and keep moderates and also please its base.

On Christmas Eve, former Commerce Secretary William Daley wrote in the Washington Post about trying to keep the Dems open to all viewpoints. He notes that Democratic wins in 2006 and 2008 was because the party reached out beyond its liberal base. It was because of the Big Tent, that Dems started winning in Republican-leaning districts for the first time in a long time. But all is now well in the party of FDR. Daley notes that currently liberals in the party are attacking their Centrist brothers and sisters for not being pure enough.

On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, "true" Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.

The political dangers of this situation could not be clearer.

Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year's off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents -- many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.

For Daley, the solution is to realize that what might be the agenda of the liberal base might not be the agenda of all Americans:
All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party's most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans -- and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan.

For liberals to accept that inescapable reality is not to concede permanent defeat. Rather, let them take it as a sign that they must continue the hard work of slowly and steadily persuading their fellow citizens to embrace their perspective. In the meantime, liberals -- and, indeed, all of us -- should have the humility to recognize that there is no monopoly on good ideas, as well as the long-term perspective to know that intraparty warfare will only relegate the Democrats to minority status, which would be disastrous for the very constituents they seek to represent.

Nonsense, says Robert Creamer, in the Huffington Post. The political organizer sees any attempt to become more "moderate" as nothing more than bowing to the political interests that got us into this mess called the "Great Recession." Creamer believes the nation voted for substantial change is the Democrats must deliver on this change:

"Moderating" our goals is not a recipe for victory. It is a recipe for failure. Last fall, voters overwhelming voted for change, and they knew then -- and still know now -- the kind of change they wanted.

They wanted to end the stranglehold of the private insurance companies that continues to put every American a single illness -- or one layoff -- away from financial catastrophe. They want to take bold, clear action to assure that America is in the forefront of creating the clean energy jobs of the future -- and leave a thriving healthy planet to our children. They wanted to fundamentally change the bull-in-the-china shop foreign policy of the Bush years and re-establish American leadership in the world. Most importantly, they rejected the failed economic policies that allowed the recklessness of huge Wall Street banks to plunge the economy into free fall -- and cost millions their livelihoods. They desperately want leadership that will lay the foundation for long term, bottom-up, widely shared prosperity.

In other words they wanted... and still want... fundamental change.

Why does this all sound so familiar to me?

I think what Daley and Creamer show is that polarization really is taking place within the two parties, leaving those not "pure" enough out in the cold. Both hard core liberals and conservatives feel they have a pulse on what America wants and misinterprets an election win for a mandate for radical change.

But of course, they don't understand the outside because their whole political lives are spent inside a bubble of their own making. Moderates in both parties tend to be the ones that know that all of America isn't Berkley or Alabama. They are the ones that have a foot in reality.

Maybe what could happen is that moderates in both parties get tired of being treated like crap and create one or two political parties that are more in tune with the pulse of America. One can hope.

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