Give Republicans credit for this: They don't chase the center, they try to move it. Democrats can play a loser's game of scrambling after a center being pushed ever rightward. Or they can stand their ground and show how far their opponents are from moderate, problem-solving governance. Why should Democrats take Republican advice that Republicans themselves would never be foolish enough to follow?
That is the final paragraph of E. J. Dionne's column in today's Washington Post, titled as is this diary, Democrats should hold their ground.
Of course, apparently some, including David Axelrod, are already prepared to cave on things like extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That - Axelrod's position - is not only economically stupid, it is a political stupid and weak move.
I think Dionne is largely on topic in his column, which I will explore a bit more as well as offer some additional words of my own.
Dionne begins by reminding us that after the 2008 election the Democrats were in their strongest position politically in more than 4 decades, with their biggest share of presidential vote since LBJ and the largest majorities in the House and Senate. And then?
How did Republicans react? They held their ideological ground, refused to give an inch to the new president and insisted that persistent opposition would eventually yield them victory. On Nov. 2, it did.
Then consider this succinct state:
President Obama made the word "audacity" popular, but conservative Republicans practice it.
Or perhaps you would prefer this acute summary of a difference between our two competing ideologies:
Funny that when progressives win, they are told to moderate their hopes, but when conservatives win, progressives are told to retreat.
Those who are regular denizens of this site know that the ideas of progressives, when presented along side those of conservatives, have more support from the public at large and even from those who vote regularly. We see this in the exit poll data from this year, where the idea of extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy is not even favored by a majority of self-identified conservatives.
Dionne sees part of the problem as what I would describe as the weakness of the 'moderate" Democrats, those who always seem to argue that in order to win Democrats have to be more like Republicans (my description). He writes
In fact, moderate Democrats would do better calling attention to how extreme and out of touch the conservative program actually is. Moderates should be more offended than anyone that the GOP's ideological obsessions (health-care repeal, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation) have little connection to solving the country's problems, particularly the economic difficulties in the electorally pivotal Midwest.
Let's reemphasize some of those words:
how extreme and out of touch the conservative program actually is
Gee - why did the President make that case, as well as the parallel case that the approach of the Conservatives is what got us into our current difficulties?
And add to that that the ideological obsessions of the GOP have little connection to solving the country's problems, particularly the economic difficulties in the electorally pivotal Midwest - we are already seeing where that obsession leads. We saw it before the election with Christie in NJ, and are seeing it with the Governors-elect of Ohio and Wisconsin with respect to high-speed rail. Canceling such projects, already largely funded by the federal government, costs current jobs and future economic growth, as well as reducing our dependence upon foreign oil the protection of which continues to cost American lives and treasure.
Dionne offers hope - that the Republicans will continue to focus on things like repealing the health care bill - he reminds us that one charge against the Democrats is that they focused too much attention on health care at the expense of addressing the need for jobs. I will return to this point in a moment, but note that Dionne's response - that "Every moment the Republicans devote to destroying this year's reform opens them up to exactly the same criticism." - gives the Democrats an opportunity to again make the case of the benefits of the health care reform, both in the short term and over time.
But about focusing on jobs - hello, what was the stimulus about? Why did no the entire Democratic party consistently and forcefully make the case of how many jobs - by state and district - were saved or created by ARRA (the stimulus) and cash for clunkers - and why not simultaneouly excoriate the Republicans who opposed either or both of those programs, then either sought the money for their districts/states and/or claimed credit for projects whose funding they had opposed?
People are hurting. They would have been hurting worse.
Yes, there are times it becomes necessary to compromise to get some absolutely esssential things done. I was of the opinion at the time that the stimulus was far too small, but it was also far better than doing nothing, and if the cost of saving our nation from a depression was doing less than the ideal I can live with that - but make the damn case, forcefully, that it was Democrats that saved what jobs we have.
As for those who argue we have to move to the center, or even past it to the right? The further we move in that direction the less we accomplish for the American people. Absent regulation the economic disparity will continue to grow, jobs will either be lost to outsourcing or the threat of outsourcing will be used to diminish the compensation and benefits received for such jobs. Tax burdens for paying for the diminished services provided for government and the increased debt burden will also continue to shift downward on the economic scale, with those still making obscene profits required neither to reinvest those profits in the nation, pay their workers appropriately, or to provide appropriate benefits to workers other than top management continuing to avoid paying their fair share for the benefits they are receiving from the government, which is what allows them to make the huge and often obscene sums they now make.
We have another election in two years. It might be nice if the American people were given a clear choice: between the retrograde and dangerous ideas of the Republicans, be they corporatist or Tea Party or both - and a vision that includes all Americans and sees all as entitled to share in the benefits of our society and to carry the responsibility of paying for what we receive on an equitable basis.
There was one good thing out of the catfood commission, one that is long overdue - It is well past time that we stop capping taxation on capital gains, especially as the money not provided to the government is NOT being used for job creation, not when corporations are sitting on well over a trillion in cash.
Give the American people a choice. If we truly believe in our ideas, we should stand up for them, advocate fiercely for them, propose legislation that would enable them to become the governing framework of this nation.
If we do not stand up for them, why should we expect the American people to be willing to support them.
If we do not offer something different, why should we be entrusted by the people with the reins of power?
Remember, in this cycle, those who were Republican-light on our side of the aisles, the Blue Dogs, suffered far worse losses than did those willing to be Progressive. IS the answer supposed to be to move even further to the right, as some Blue Dogs seem to argue? How then do we give the American people any kind of meaningful choice?
I end with where I began, with the title of Dionne's piece, and of this diary:
Democrats should hold their ground