The Base vs. the Middle

THE BASE vs. THE MIDDLE….John Emerson emailed me with a comment related to my previous post that I think is worth sharing. Basically, he feels that a strategy to appeal to the middle inevitably pulls the Democratic party ever rightward, and instead of simply accepting this we should be fighting to move the electorate leftward.

I think he’s right: we do need to have a long-term strategy to promote liberal values and policies. Although I think the rightward drift of American politics is often exaggerated, it is real and Republicans have outplayed us in this arena. Fixing this is, to coin a phrase, a long, hard slog.

But at the same time there’s also a short term reality, which is that when elections roll around we have to compete seriously for centrist voters. That’s just a fact of life.

So by all means, let’s work on the long term task of moving the political discourse in our direction. That’s one of the things this blog is for. But when elections come along let’s not let ideological purity cause us to commit suicide. To activists, I urge you not to express contempt for those who are basically on our side but don’t feel as strongly as you do. Make them feel welcome instead. To moderates, I urge you to relax a bit if the campaign rhetoric gets a little more strident than you’re comfortable with. It’s just politics.