JP, we have been talking about who is carrying the banner of moderate conservatism.
We’ve said this has largely fallen on the shoulders of David Brooks, and a few other people. And we’ve said it’s tough to be a moderate conservative any more. And we have wrestled with the issue of whether the M. C. group is fading. Well, this talk is all fine and good.
However, after thinking about it, I’ll tell you who is responsible for the moderate conservative banner. It’s Barack Obama.
For the first part of his term, Obama would invite various congressional leaders to the White House and do his best to be a good listener. These leaders came from all across the political spectrum. He would let the opinions distill, come up with some middle of the road proposal, and imagine it would steer through the legislative course to become a law. Of course, little did he know; the conservatives further right had infected the entire Republican party, and renamed it the Party of No. Then the election of 2010 put that concept on steroids, and the Party of No became the Party of Hell No. And we all thought the Republican party had lost its identity. We all knew it had lost any sense of cohesion. The old Republican guard started to retire.
A few people continued to carry the banner, but none of them were seeking another elected term. People like David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Bob Dole, and George H W Bush. Obama certainly did not feel sympathy and any sense to represent the Tea Party, thank heaven. But he, more than anyone in Washington that I can think of, carried their banner, even when their ideas were squelched. Between 2010 and the next election, polls showed the M.C.’s numbers were shrinking, and fewer and fewer spokespeople gave lip service to those principles. Save one guy, who has always been the master of characterizing the both immediate left and right of center; the Democratic incumbent in the Oval Office. Oh sure, when push came to shove, he showed us which side of his bread was buttered.
One thing we can say about the last four years is, party affiliation does not imply any purity of political doctrine. All of the big names in politics took a step to the right. Left out in the cold were Ted Kennedy, Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich’s ilk. And wondering who had encroached on their turf were those guys that believed in the power of the market over any rush to government solutions, character over legislation, but they also believed in collegiality and compromise. The guys that used to sit in the chamber near them were speaking some new language. And even though somebody was intelligible and reasonable, he was The Enemy.
I think both sides of the aisle have learned from that Crazy Era. Obama can ally with this small force called The Public, and the Republicans can ally with this other thing called Reality. If things go like they should, the not-so-new Crazies can be marginalized. And maybe Obama will yield some of his conservative turf to its rightful owners, some of whom were elected last November. We might hear some “hey, remember us?” from the far left. But me, I am for charging ahead more down the middle, whoever carries the banner.