Is Centrism For Suckers?

You may have missed the column by Paul Krugman in Friday’s New York Times titled “Centrism Is For Suckers.” In the piece, the usually adept Krugman tries to build a case that Democrats who compromise in the spirit of progress had better learn a lesson from the fate of Joe Lieberman, and that those who choose principle over party are just plain naive. Never mind that the same “progressives” who are praising this piece this morning are the same ones who were complaining last week that Democrats never stand on what “progressives” consider “principles.” By that word, the malcontents of the left mean issue positions they approve of.

It isn’t that Krugman doesn’t make some valid points. One I vehemently agree with is his contention that, by endorsing Republican Lincoln Chafee for his pro-environment positions, the Sierra club could cause the Democrats to come up one seat shy of a Senate majority this fall which would allow Senator James Inhofe, who says that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” to retain his current position as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

But where Krugman’s argument fails in this is that the Sierra Club is not a Democratic party organization. They are an environmental organization whose purpose is to influence public policy on environmental issues. The fact that they typically endorse Democrats doesn’t mean they are required to. They endorse on principle, and in the case of the Senate race in Rhode Island, they obviously believe Chaffee has the better environmental record.

Krugman veers off in the column later by paying tribute to one the left’s grandest and most motivating urban myths – that somehow, someway, centrist Democrats lost everything to the GOP in 1994 simply because they were centrists. Having Krugman imply this still doesn’t make it true. As I’ve said before, well respected professionals such as Adrian Wooldridge of the Economist; Ruy Teixeira, a fellow at the Center for American Progress and at the Century Foundation; author and political historian Philip A. Klinkner; and others others all contend the Democratic losses in ’94 was the end result of over two decades of more liberal rule by elected Democrats, a period which saw the Democratic party drift left out of the mainstream. In reality, it was the liberal Democrats who “did not hold” as things fell apart in 1994.

Krugman and those buying into his meme easily forget that is was misguided “principles” on the left that rewarded Ralph Nader with just enough votes to secure the Presidency for George W. Bush. Krugman and those buying into his meme easily forget that is was misguided “principles” on the left that pushed the Democratic agenda further left in 1980, contributing to Jimmy Carter’s loss. Krugman and those buying into his meme easily forget that is was misguided “principles” on the left that resulted in a challenge to John F. Kennedy even after the 1960 Democratic nomination was in the bag. And Krugman and those buying into his meme easily forget that is was misguided “principles” on the left that could have easily cost Harry Truman re-election in 1948.

Krugman and other “progressives” who have latched onto his “party over principles” meme this weekend are merely basking in the pre-glow of their first (maybe) significant electoral victory since George McGovern got the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. But when 2008 roles around, they’ll all be back to their threats to vote third party when a centrist like Mark Warner or Evan Bayh secures the Democratic nomination.

I’m an extremely loyal Democrat, but if Krugman suddenly wants us to believe that the left feels that “party” is more important than people or “principles,” it isn’t centrists he has to convince. Its the left who threaten to vote third party every time their “principles” aren’t represented enough among the Democratic party.

by the way, Joe Lieberman, fighting for his political survival, appears to be cutting into challenger Ned Lamont’s lead the day before Connecticut’s Democratic primary election.

A Quinnipiac University poll shows Lamont, a wealthy Greenwich businessman, with a slight lead of 51 percent to 45 percent over Lieberman among likely Democratic voters heading into tomorrow’s primary.

Last week’s Quinnipiac poll showed Lamont leading 54 percent to 41 percent. But is it too little too late for Lieberman? And why, as of 9:35AM, is the netroots silent about Lieberman’s 7 point gain?

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Remember when voting machine irregularities were only tied to losses by Democrats to Republicans? Apparently times have changed and now Diebold just has to be stealing votes from losers in Democratic primaries and giving them to the Democratic winner. How else could “progressive” candidate be losing, right? In the latest case, the Democratic winner is a popular incumbant and the loser is a controversial big mouth. But the machines stole it, right?

Atlanta “Progessive” News is reporting US Congressional Candidate Donzella James has filed a legal contest of the results of her Primary race against US Rep. David Scott (D-GA). The lawsuit asserts Georgia’s election “results” are meaningless because they run on E-voting machines which have no verifiable paper trail or audit system. The lawsuit also lists instances of machine breakdowns and malfunctions in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District during the Primary.

When news of voting machine problems first surfaced a few years back, I was right on it. I did the research. I’m aware of the reported problems. I even tried to broker a high profile and public debate on the subject between opposing sides on the issue.

But we can’t go sreaming “cheater” everytime someone loses an election, especially in this case, because Donzella James admits she was one of the leading critics of E-Voting while serving in the Georgia State Legislature. She fully believed there were gremlins in the machines and I believe a strong case can be made she was expecting a loss to the incumbent and planned to use the excuse of voting machine irregularities to draw attention to herself.

And it wouldn’t be the first time she’s sought to draw attention to herself. She made local Georgia political news back in 2004 when she called State Senator Kasim Reed’s daughter a slut as she held one of her father’s campaign signs.

Over at BlogforDemocracy, one commentor says of her, “Donzella James? My non-existent Congressional Chair for the state party? I think my dog will get my vote before her. I’m tough! I make my peeps work for me.”

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Andre over at Georgia Politics Unfiltered points to yet another “brilliant” quote from KOS:

“…they can’t grasp the idea that you don’t have to win the South to win the Presidency any more…”

Might one remind KOS that you don’t have to win any one geographic location to win the presidency if you win everywhere else? And currently, the Democratic party is having a bit of trouble winning solidly anywhere except the Northeast. And another reminder – the last three Democrats to win the popular vote were southern: Carter, Clinton, and Gore.

I’m not saying Democrats HAVE to win the south. Surely there are other geographic equations that would translate to victory for Democrats. But KOS and his kin would rather just write the south off. Lousy strategy. of course, we’re just a bunch no-nothing redneck “bush-lites” here, huh?

And speaking of the south, Cynthia Mckinney’s father, former Georgia State congressman Billy McKinney, is stating that if his daughter losses her runoff election tomorrow, she will “lead this country in an independent movement.”

This is the second time word has come from the McKinney camp that Cynthia will bolt the Democratic party if she doesn’t win an election. The first was in 2002 when she threatened to run as a Green Party candidate.

Now, weren’t the netroots screaming about Lieberman planning to run as an independent if he lost the primary race on Tuesday? Yes. But again, silence from the far left blogosphere.

Back on the topic of Joe Lieberman, there is a great piece by The New Republic’s Martin Peretz in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. I can’t find it online anywhere yet, but it is ripe with Democratic party history and the electoral dangers of the “peace candidate.”

Speaking about Ned Lamont, Peretz says, “Ned Lamont is Karl Rove’s dream come true. If he, and others of his stripe, carry the day, the Democratic party will lose the future, and deservedly.”

UPDATE: Just found an online copy courtesy of Greg’s Opinion. Good stuff. Here’s some excerpts:

We have been here before. Left-wing Democrats are once again fielding single-issue “peace candidates,” and the one in Connecticut, like several in the 1970s, is a middle-aged patrician, seeking office de haut en bas, and almost entirely because he can. It’s really quite remarkable how someone like Ned Lamont, from the stock of Morgan partner Thomas Lamont and that most high-born American Stalinist, Corliss Lamont, still sends a chill of “having arrived” up the spines of his suburban supporters simply by asking them to support him…

… he does have one issue, and it is Iraq. He grasps little of the complexities of his issue, but then this, too, is true of the genus of the peace candidate. Peace candidates know only one thing, and that is why people vote for them. I know the type well. I was present at its creation.

I was there, a partisan, as a graduate student at the beginning, in 1962, when the eminent Harvard historian H. Stuart Hughes (grandson of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes) ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent against George Cabot Lodge and the victor, Ted Kennedy, a trio of what in the Ivies is, somewhat derisively, called “legacies.” Hughes’s platform fixed on President John F. Kennedy’s belligerent policy towards Cuba, which had been crystallized in the “Bay of Pigs” fiasco. The campaign ended, however, with Hughes winning a dreary 1% of the vote when Krushchev capitulated to JFK just before the election and brought the missile crisis to an end, leaving Fidel Castro in power as an annoyance (which he is still, though maybe not much longer), but not as a threat.

Later peace candidates did better. Some were even elected. Vietnam was their card. One was even nominated for president in 1972. George McGovern, a morally imperious isolationist with fellow-traveling habits, never could shake the altogether accurate analogies with Henry Wallace. (Wallace was the slightly dopey vice president, dropped from the ticket by FDR in 1944, who ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket, a creation of Stalin’s agents in the U.S.) Mr. McGovern’s trouncing by Richard Nixon, a reprobate president if we ever had one, augured the recessional–if not quite the collapse–of such Democratic politics, which insisted our enemy in the Cold War was not the Soviets but us.

It was then that people like Joe Lieberman emerged, muscular on defense, assertive in foreign policy, genuinely liberal on social and economic matters, but not doctrinaire on regulatory issues. He had marched for civil rights and is committed to an equal opportunity agenda with equal opportunity results. He has qualms about affirmative action. But who, in his hearts of hearts, does not? He is appalled by the abysmal standards of our popular culture and our public discourse. Who really loves our popular culture–or, at least, which parent? He is thoroughly a Democrat. But Mr. Lieberman believes that, in an age of communal and global stress, one would do well to speak with the president (even, on rare occasion, speak well of him) and compromise with him on urgent matters of practical law.

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