Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Centrist Coup d'etat? Hardly.

Sheesh. From the amount of ink spilled on the subject in the last couple days, one would think that John McCain had led the "Gang of 14" down Capitol Hill to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and tossed President Bush and his entire administration into a gutter (on top of an already bound-and-gagged Bill Frist), before taking complete control of the government and the agenda for the forseeable future.

Some in the mainstream media (Dick Morris, David Broder, the CSM, The Hill, ...) have been quick to declare victory for the centrists - but not just victory. They're ready to say that centrists are "taking over," that a new day has suddenly dawned in which moderation and cooperation are the way of things, where extremists are left out in the cold permanently and warm, fuzzy bipartisanship is the way everything works.

I don't want to rain on anybody's parade, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Senate's centrists did win a major victory on Monday evening. However, a little circumspection on the part of those in the media is necessary right now. Let's be realistic: this deal is a fragile one, and might not hold through the week, let alone through a fight over a Supreme Court nominee.

Moderates like me would like nothing more for the "Gang of 14" to keep meeting, and to continue pushing centrist, commonsense solutions to problems facing the country (Lindsey Graham has suggested they might take up Social Security next - great! it's about time somebody did). But it's much, much too early to say they're the "new power brokers" in the Senate. Let's hope they and others who join them come to be - but we're not there yet. Not by a long shot.

I'm glad to see other centrists are also warning about the pitfalls of the media's siren song. Alan at The Yellow Line has this, and I'll add more similar posts as they appear (if you know of one, please submit it in the comments). Of course, all the attention the middle is getting is nice, and I hope it continues - but let's not forget the ups and downs of all this. After all, just two months ago Slate was declaring moderates in the Senate completely irrelevant. Those days, we can hope, are gone, but it's going to be a long time before we can be sure of that. Forty-eight hours do not a revolution make ... the best we can hope is that they mark the start of one.

[Update: This post from Thoughts of an American Centrist is another element: centrists need organization, and soon. It also echoes the notes of caution. -- 2:07 p.m.]

[Update: My first paragraph has shown up in Howard Kurtz. I've posted a response to it here. -- 26 May, 10:03 a.m.]


At 11:25 AM, Blogger Jonathan C said...

Here, here! People seem to have gotten a bit giddy with joy because an actual victory for centrism. It certainly made me happy.

I share both your hope and skepticism for an eventual moderate force in the Sentae, able to wrest control from the extremes, but we're a long long way from that point.

One thing I think Centrists need is organization. I did a post on that very topic here.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Jeremy, glad you're also pointing out the overzealousness of all this. The media is quick to jump on any "new" story. And this one fits right into their usual m.o. Those of us who've been toiling away in the Center know that until Monday, we were considered dead. All this did was give us a heartbeat. Which is a helluva lot better than before, but the fight is hardly over. In fact, it's just begun. Let's hope this filibuster moment is our Boston tea party.

Now, given the media's sudden interest in us, how do we get our blogs some more love?

At 4:33 PM, Blogger Bobby V said...

This centrist compromise most likely will not hold. The man who ran as a "uniter" is anything but, and his future nominations for judicial office will push for division and we will be right back where we were a few days ago.

At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this site. I'm a Democrat who has lived in New York and New Jersey, but in the past I only voted 70% Democrat, often splitting my ticket. I would have voted for McCain over Gore just because the man answers questions and deals with issues as straight on as any politician I have known. (I also liked Paul Tsongas for the same reason.) In the 5th district, I voted for Marge Roukema, a Republican, before she was hounded into retirement by the Club for Growth and replaced with Scott Garrett.

However, if this pressure to get Republicans to vote exactly the same on all issues continues, we may end up essentially voting for the party and not the person. If the Rush Limbaughs of the world had their way, Bush and Delay would tell every Republican how to vote. It would all be about loyalty and loyalty only.

So why should I vote for a Republican, like say Guilliani, if I know that person is going to vote exactly like any other Republican. Also, I see this problem infecting the Democrats. I like Joe Lieberman, for instance, but I see him being hounded by the same purist instinct on the other side.

If this continues, we might as well not end up voting for representatives at all. We can just vote for electors who promise to vote exactly as their party chairman dictates.

I know I'm being a little extreme here, but the vilification of the "sellout seven" and the tearing about of Voinovich (an effective mayor and governor before he came to the Senate) makes me wonder. I even read Republicans trashing Colin Powell just because he was unsure about Bolton.


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