Tuesday, May 01, 2012

When Centrists Prevail

The notion that Democrats have become too liberal and Republicans too conservative has become conventional wisdom among the Beltway media.     Hand-wringing over the alleged emergence of uncivil dialogue and loss of bipartisanship in the US Congress accompany the narrative in which Democrats are given equal blame as Republicans, who made a decision over three years ago to oppose anything Democrats support.     Digby explains

So, even as the Republicans have moved hard to the right, the Democrats protect the status quo. Which, with each passing year, has moved farther right. Basically, Republicans enact their agenda and it becomes the status quo. Then the Democrats come along and protect what they've done. That becomes the center. At which point the Republicans call the Democrats communists and move even farther right.

Politico has been in the forefront of perpetuating the myth of even-handedness, so it's no surprise to read today from Charles Mahtesian and Jim VandeHei

“In light of what happened in Pennsylvania — you see a guy like Tim Holden lose a primary, who was very middle of the road, reasonable, worked with both sides. You see him losing a primary to someone who’s a good bit more liberal — I think we’re seeing this loss of the middle,” said former Rep. Michael Arcuri, a Blue Dog Democrat.

“It just leads me to believe that it’s going to be harder and harder to get things done. It’s not that you don’t have good people there that want to work together, it’s just that their views are so far apart.”

No one would deny that Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Ct) is a part of this wondrous and virtuous middle.       Ezra Klein, defending President Obama's role in working for passage of the Affordable Care Act, describes just how the "middle of the road, reasonable" approach worked during the debate over health care:

Late in the negotiations over the public option, a group of five conservative Democrats and five more-liberal Democrats seemed near to an unexpectedly smart compromise: Allow adults over 55 to buy into Medicare. This idea had a couple of different virtues: For one, it opened an effective and cheap program up to a group of Americans who often have the most trouble finding affordable insurance. For another, the Congressional Budget Office has said this policy would improve Medicare's finances by bringing healthier, younger applicants into the risk pool. Oh, and it's wildly popular with liberals, who want to see Medicare offered as an option to more people, and since Medicare is already up and running, it could've been implemented rapidly.

But Lieberman killed it. It was never really clear why. He'd been invited to the meetings where the compromise was developed, but he'd skipped them. He'd supported the idea when he ran for president with Al Gore, and he'd reaffirmed that support three months prior to its emergence in the health-care debate during an interview with the editorial board of the Connecticut Post. But now that it was on the table, he seemed to be groping for reasons to oppose it. About the best he managed was that it was "duplicative," which was about as nonsensical a position as could be imagined. Nevertheless, he swore to filibuster the bill if the buy-in option was added. The proposal was duly removed.

This is the classic bipartisanship to which the media is in thrall.     A Democrat (with whose party he caucuses) opposes a progressive initiative of congressional Democrats, and the latter are forced to drop the proposal.       A compassionate plan, fiscally responsible, and popular with the electorate, it was just too darned liberal.     It would have worked but had to be defeated because "moderation"-  moving rightward with the Republican Party- must prevail.   

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