The Year Of The Radical Center

WHAT? You’re not reading Centrist Democrats of America on a daily basis???

E. J. Dionne Jr. hits a homerun this morning with his piece in the WaPo:

President Bush’s six-year effort to create an enduring Republican majority based on a right-leaning coalition is on the verge of collapse. The way he tried to create it could have the unintended consequence of opening the way for an alternative majority.

This incipient Democratic alliance, while tilting slightly leftward, would plant its foundations firmly in the middle of the road, because its success depends on overwhelming support from moderate voters. That’s why a Democratic victory in November — defined as taking one or both houses of Congress — would have effects far beyond a single election year.

The Democrats’ dependence on moderate voters and moderate candidates belies Republican claims that a Democratic victory would bring radically liberal politics to Washington. In fact, the first imperative of Democratic congressional leaders, if their party is successful, will be finding policies, ideas and rhetoric to allow the party’s progressives and moderates to get along and govern effectively together.

The strategy pursued by Bush and Karl Rove has frightened most of the political center into the arms of Democrats. Bush and Rove sought victory by building large turnouts among conservatives and cajoling just enough moderates the Republicans’ way. But this approach created what may prove to be a fatal political disconnect: Adventurous policies designed to create enthusiasm on the right turned off a large number of less ideological voters.

The Democrats’ lead in the polls can be thus explained by two factors: the energy of a passionate phalanx of voters desperate to use this election to rebuke Bush, and the disenchantment of moderates fed up with the failures of Bush’s governing style and ideology, notably in Iraq.

A survey this month for National Public Radio in the 48 most-contested House districts makes clear that anti-Bush energy is this election’s driving force. While only 22 percent of those surveyed by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner strongly approved of Bush’s performance in office, 44 percent strongly disapproved. This points to a huge enthusiasm deficit for the Republicans.

But the survey also showed that the Democrats’ 51 to 40 percent lead in these competitive districts came not just from liberals but also from self-described moderates, who favored the Democrats by 59 percent to 34 percent. There are twice as many moderates as liberals in these key districts, so moderates are the linchpin of Democratic chances…

… There has long been talk about the rise of a “radical center,” made up of voters essentially moderate in their philosophical leanings but radical in their disaffection with the status quo. This looks to be the year of the radical center. If it is, the Democrats will win. And if they win, their task will be to meet the aspirations of a diverse group of dissatisfied and disappointed Americans. Not an easy chore, but one that certainly beats being in the opposition.

Rather than try to outdo him, I’m going to quote Daniel at Thought Theater on this:

I may be presumptuous in saying as much but I believe that this article along with other articles and growing commentary being disseminated in the media is the initiation of what I would call a moment of clarity whereby the nation comes to a halt to reevaluate its direction and reconcile the actions of its recent past. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting we engage in a moment of blame…though many would be so inclined and likely justified in doing as much…but rather a moment where we mutually reaffirm those values that connect us as Americans and begin to reject the politics of division and the rhetoric of absolutism. We are a great country when we are focused on the things that unite us rather than focusing on the issues that seek to pit one group against another in order to amass power.

If Daniel is correct, then we can thank the GOP for at least one thing – after 12 years of the most partisan and nasty politics we’ve seen as a nation, through the impeachment of one the greatest presidents of the 20th century, through wars, recessions, and stained blue dresses, the Republicans finally succeeded in pushing us to the point where we’ve thrown our hands up and said, “NO MORE!”

File this one under “Centrists must be exterminated” category, though this time the calls for hunting us down are coming from the Right and not the Left.

“Tell us, why, again, Republicans need 55 senators?” Rush Limbaugh asked not long ago. “Why do we need 55 senators when we have so many malcontents and traitors in the bunch? And they all happen to be from the Northeast, and they all happen to be moderates, they all happen to be liberals.”

In that spirit, the National Federation of Republican Assemblies set out to rid the party of this threat. It set up a “RINO Hunters Club” to “root out and hunt down” the squishy centrists who are “Republicans in Name Only.” The Club for Growth ran candidates to defeat them. Last week on his radio show, Sean Hannity blasted the RINOs again, saying they were costing good conservatives their jobs.

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