Sunday, December 27, 2009

David Broder and William Daley With Advice to Dems

David Broder's got an editorial in this morning's WaPost in which he recycles former Clinton Administration official (and long-time Chicago pol) William Daley's Christmas Eve editorial warning Democrats that they risk returning to the minority if they forget to take care of that which put them in the majority--the great middle. Daley cites the retirements (and recent defection) of Democratic moderates in the House (good for Daley--calling them moderates--that's what they are in a party that has swung so far left) and the venom of those on the far left who would purge the party of its remaining moderates.

As I sat nodding my head and harumphing with my coffee this morning, thinking William Daley was incredibly insightful and particularly intelligent, I was struck by how others on my side of the aisle might have read it. For some reason, I see even the most rabid, ideologically conservative reading Daley's words and nodding and harumphing like I was--yet many on the ideological right cannot see the wisdom of his advice for our own party. I'm talking about PARTY here--the organs we use to participate meaningfully in the political process that leads to governing. I'm not talking about ideology.

We can either be ideologically pure (and "right"--in all meanings of the word) and perpetually be in the minority--or we can aim at voters in the "muddled middle" and become a governing majority. This is the heart of my "Ten Principles for a Republican Renaissance. " Let's face it--this approach won George Bush two elections. Although some may quibble with how he won in 2000, we should never forget that he beat a seated Vice President who sat atop an administration that had presided over a good deal of peace and prosperity. Bush brought strong conservative credentials PLUS an emphasis on issues that appealed to the middle--remember? He was one of the first major Republican Presidential candidates to freely acknowledge a Federal role in education--nay, to embrace a Federal role in education. His "compassionate conservatism" (a bit of a sham as far as I'm concerned) appealed to voters in the middle who WANTED to be compassionate and who cheered his effort to get the government OUT OF THE WAY of private efforts to be more compassionate.

It's all fun and good to get your butts kicked in two straight elections and spend your time on ideological purification. When a party gets serious about governing, it aims at swinging swing voters to its side--and this is something we need to do in the Republican Party. That doesn't mean supporting Democrats who think it is electorally favorable to run as a Republican (Madame Scozzafava comes to mind). But it does mean looking at the totality of a candidate's positions and assessing them on a general approach to governing.


Jackie said...

I have a problem understanding that way of thinking. You either believe in something or you don't. You would have to compromise your beliefs if you want to get the "middle of the road" votes. To me that is not being "honest".
On the flip side of the conservatives, look at Obama, he ran in the "middle" and he really didn't "believe" a lot of the things he was saying and he was just doing it to get the "independent" voters. He got into office and went WAY to the LEFT. If Obama had been true to his beliefs he wouldn't have won.

Another thing, I didn't like Bush for a lot of the things he did as a "compassionate" conservative. Leave the governmnet out of it. Let the private citizens through charities, churches, communities, etc. do the compassionate work. All the government does is enable the poor to be poor. Incentivize people don't enable them. Get the government out of our schools too. The "no child left behind" Act didn't help but made things worse.
I just believe in being true to your beliefs and most politicians aren't so if they lie about that then who knows what else they lie about!! .

Jackie said...

It would have been a good thing if Obama had been honest with the American people when he was running for office because he wouldn't have won.

"The Hammer" said...

The pragmatic (sane) wing of the Democratic Party rears its ugly head. I truly don't understand Daley's criticism. After all, if the Chicago machine didn't know what Obama intended all they had to do was listen to a campaign speech. Did they not agree with him? Have they not supported him?

What you're seeing is fear. Obama is shooting the moon and they know he will either achieve a realignment along the lines of FDR (his goal all along) or fall flat on his face and the realignment will be in the opposite direction. Early indicators suggest the latter.

I think Daley is telling Obama to go a bit slower. Govern like Clinton, triangulate and survive. You can have what you want but the perception is bad. But Obama is what he is; he's an ideologue at his core. He doesn't have the political instincts or the (for lack of a better word) talent or the discipline to pull off the moderate thing.

After the midterms he'll be forced to reevaluate. I don't expect Axelrod and Emanuel (our resident Mossad agent) to go but some sort of course correction will be in order. If the elections are a bloodbath along the lines of '94 he may not have much of a choice.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Jackie--let me address your problem.

Remember--I'm talking about the politics of governing--I'm not talking about asking people to moderate their ideologies.

Basically about a third of the voting population considers themselves Republican, a third Democrat and a third Independent.

Most Republicans are ideologically right of center, and most Democrats are ideologically left of center. But never confuse conservatism with the Republican Party or Liberalism with the Democratic Party. Conservatism and Liberalism are ideologies that animate and inform the prevailing political views of those parties--they are not THE political views of those parties.

Why is this? Well, because of the one third, one third, one third thing I wrote of earlier. About a third of all voters aren't ideological. They sorta look at issues in an issue by issue fashion, and they sorta evaluate candidates by a seat of the pants sense that they agree with more of the candidates important positions than disagree.

They have no time, energy or interest in the enduring principles of conservatism or liberalism. To the extent that such principles have ANY impact on them at all (which they almost never do), this group sees ideological approaches to questions as straight-jacketed and intellectually confining. But mostly, they don't care about ideology or they subscribe to cartoonish views of ideology.

So--this is my point. I'm not saying dumb your ideology down. I'm not saying abandon principle. I'm saying think outside the traditional boundaries of ideology and try to bring "conservative" approaches to tough policy issues. We can walk around screaming "low taxes" all we want--but THAT DOESN'T GET HIGHWAYS BUILT. We can spout slogans about LIMITED GOVERNMENT until the cows come home--but that does NOTHING to present the muddled middle with sound policy options to refute what the liberals are putting forward.

This isn't a case of "do what they are doing and we'll get more voters". But it is realizing that we can do "Conservative" all we want--and we simply won't gain a governing majority. We should create policy positions that reflect conservative approaches to problem solving--but we should not shy from solving problems.

Smoothfur said...

“Conservatives” Are Single-Largest Ideological Group

Why not appeal to the largest ideological group to earn the honor of governing?

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Um...because you can't govern with 40 percent.

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