Stuck in the middle with you

Posted on Tuesday 28 April 2009

If you stand in the middle but the line gets moved, what happens?  I guess the Republicans can just ask Arlen Specter, who today declared his intention to switch parties.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

Can’t say I blame him.

Since their November loss, the Republican party has been an uncaptained ship.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been similarly rudderless.  Rather, it’s been steering right with the bizarre idea of “We shoulda been more pure!  We must become even MORE conservative!”.

So the post-election GOP has moved hard to the right, leaving Specter (and many other moderates) stranded in the middle.

Saying he’s a Democrat now, though, is unlikely to mean he’s going to be lock-stepping with the left, either.  In fact, I’m thinking that if other GOP moderates (however few they may now be) follow suit, we’ll end up with an extremely marginalized Republican fragment, and an enormous Democratic party that would be palatable to the vast majority of the country.

Fascinating thought, in part because there’d be no way to point to an election and claim a mandate for one direction or another.

There might, however, be some consensus when they do make future decisions (CNN):

“Sen. Specter and I have had a long dialogue about his place in an evolving Republican party,” Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nevada, said in a written statement.

“We have not always agreed on every issue, but [he] has shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner, put people over party and do what is right for Pennsylvanians and all Americans.”

And there’s the additional bonus of natural alignment within the “Big Tent” between center-left and center-right, making for a sizable (and therefore powerful) moderate coalition.

Good for him!  And maybe, good for all of us!

7 Comments for 'Stuck in the middle with you'

    April 28, 2009 | 8:56 pm

    There was once a time when both parties were far broader in terms of ideology. If the Democratic Party expands, that’s a good thing. This may require the GOP to shrink into oblivion and be replaced by a different opposition party, but that’s not a bad thing either; they’re just parties, and political parties sooner or later lose their way and vanish. Which is why you can’t vote Whig in 2012!

    April 29, 2009 | 5:23 am

    Hi John –

    “…and political parties sooner or later lose their way and vanish. Which is why you can’t vote Whig in 2012!”

    Now THAT made me laugh! Cuz of course you’re right. But the eddying and drifting right now is pretty strange to watch, and more than a little disturbing.

    The self-identified GOP is shrinking very fast — down to 21% of the country in recent polls. Of course, not everyone pulling away is moderate; some are going off into the true political wilderness (Constitution Party, anyone?)

    But unlike Specter (who clearly made a pragmatic electability decision), most moderate-right people are not joining the Dems; Rather, they’re declaring themselves to be Independent — a group that is now pushing up on 40%. What I’m waiting for is somebody to take the lead there in coalescing that massive, disaffected, and unrepresented group.

    April 29, 2009 | 6:13 am

    Have you read “Nixonland?” It’s a good book – for one, it’s a reminder that American politics has been more crazily disturbing in recent history than it is now. For another, the conflicts between liberal and conservative Dems and Republicans that are described in it are just fascinating, because you can’t imagine them happening today.

    In the era it describes (mainly the 60s and early 70s) a lot of party affiliation and voting was driven by group identities, to some degree racial, but also a general “traditional” vs “counterculture” conflict. What’s interesting today is that this is more true than ever, though the lines have changed, and it seems more divorced from reality than ever – thus so many people voting based on a sense that the government is too big and intrusive, then complaining when it doesn’t do enough for them.

    April 29, 2009 | 6:24 am

    No, I haven’t read that book. Sounds like it’d be an interesting read though. I’m putting it on my list.

    “…thus so many people voting based on a sense that the government is too big and intrusive, then complaining when it doesn’t do enough for them. “

    That bizarre disconnect has always been a source of amazement to me. I see a lot of it out here in Katy, where people regularly freak out about paying taxes, but apparently don’t recognize that without a sizable business tax base, they must fund every aspect of life. Furthermore, living in an exurban wilderness means utter dependence on government-provided amenities — like roads, which were evidently built by visiting, wealthy aliens, and will magically maintain themselves eternally.

    April 29, 2009 | 2:43 pm

    I just wish the GOP would decide if conservitive means financial conservitive or prudishly conservitive.

    Not that it really is going to change things for me as I always vote for the person I think comes closet to being what the nation needs, rather then lockstepping with others in support of a party.

    What of the idea of a flat 5% federal sales tax on every thing that is not food, or some type of savings plan (CDs, bonds [not stocks], 401k)? Make corporations, churches, schools, people, everyone, pay the same on the money they spend. Use that money to fund parts of the government. Mr. Richman buys a $2million boat, the federal government gets 5% of that.
    Want to save on taxes? Stick the money in the bank.

    But then I also want to see the IRS do a yearly 50/50 raffle. Put in $5 from your tax return for a chance to win half the pot. 100 million players at $5 each… it would be sweet. The feds get half + the prize tax (put it all towards paying off the debt), the winner is rich.

    April 29, 2009 | 2:49 pm

    Hey Pan! Long time no see! LOVE the raffle idea — who’s got tickets? I’m in!

    I like the idea of a flat tax, personally, and there are a number of pretty good ideas out there on how such a thing might work. It needs, for instance, a floor before it kicks in (because $100 is a much different sum to an extremely poor person), and pretty much all deductions would have to go away.

    But I do wish people wouldn’t simply dismiss it out of hand (as they often do).

    April 30, 2009 | 5:09 am

    The idea of a consumption tax (which is really what you’re talking about here) has some merit, but it is pretty regressive; generally, the less money you have, the larger portion of your income you wind up paying in taxes. I do think incentives on investing and saving would be a good idea.

    Income taxes tend to work, though, because (if they are simple, which ours isn’t) they are relatively painless.

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