Yesterday John Fund of the Opinion Journal discussed in his column the two primaries next week that he and I both agree will tell a lot about the strength of the hard-left wing of the Democratic party. In CT, primary voters go to the polls to choose between moderate Joe Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont, whose single issue is opposition to the Iraq war. In my home state of Georgia, leftist Cynthia McKinney squares off against a moderate opponent in Hank Johnson who is wooing liberals with the slogan: “It’s time to restore respect to progressivism.” As Fund concludes, and I am in agreement with his conclusion, voters will reject the more liberal candidate in both races and send the message that the sensible center still has a home among Democrats.
The Democratic party has traditionally been a centrist party. From Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton, Democratic presidents have balanced liberal social policy with conservative domestic and foreign policies. From Truman’s and JFK’s tough minded military policies to Clinton moderate economic positions, to LBJ’s great society, the country has taken it’s greatest strides under centrist Democrats.
Further, recent polling suggests rank and file Democrats still want the party to be centrist. A Zogby poll found 61% of Democratic voters want their leaders to make compromises on their principles in order to win over voters from the middle of the political spectrum. A Gallup poll of Democratic National Committee members (in February 2005) showed that, by more than two-to-one (52%-23%) the DNC members want the party to become more moderate, rather than more liberal. That view is shared by rank and file Democrats nationally; in a January survey, Gallup found that 59% of Democrats wanted the party to take a more moderate course.
These polling numbers are poison to the the liberal blogosphere, who believe compromise is surrender and the mythical base of the Democratic party will one day soon come to agree with them. That is one of only a few reasons the hard left is trying to unseat Lieberman – because of his ability to reach out to Republicans in Washington and accomplish things – a rare talent these days in a town that used to pride itself in it. While sticking to the fundamental principles that have made the Democratic party great, Mr. Lieberman has been able to work with his colleagues in the spirit of compromise to move legislation forward. That is, after all, what politics is supposed to be about and if the Democrats win one or both Houses of Congress back this fall, the art of compromise will be even more valuable and needed. We should be growing more Joe Liebermans in the Democratic party, not trying to root them out.
Cynthia McKinney is another matter entirely. A personable and talented politician, she nonetheless has squandered her opportunities and is given to wild conspiracy theories and cheap theatrics. While her constituents in Georgia crave leadership that puts them first, McKinney embarrasses them by doing things like voting against a measure commemorating the fourth anniversary of 9/11, introducing a bill “to provide for the expeditious disclosure of records relevant to the life and death of (rapper) Tupac Amaru Shakur,” accepting campaign contributions from Islamic organizations with ties to terrorist groups, and playing the race card whenever it is convenient. Then there is the infamous Capital Hill altercation with a Police officer this year – the second time that has happened – the first being in August of 1993.
I’ve noticed those who trend further left (the ones who call themselves the “real Democrats” with a straight face) are trying to rebrand themselves as “moderates.” That’s right. I’m seeing more and more “progressives” on DailyKOS, Democratic Underground, and a host of other “progressive” websites suddenly referring to themselves as moderates. Maybe it is an effort to try to appeal to more people? Or are they trying to fool people into supporting them? I’m sure we’ll eventually find out.
But let’s hope next Tuesday, the center of the Democratic party, the true ideological heirs to Harry Truman and John Kennedy, send both Ned Lamont and Cynthia McKinney to the political grave yard.