Moderates

MODERATES…. Bruce Bartlett, who has a habit of writing brilliant emails that get published elsewhere, shared some very interesting thoughts with David Frum the other day on why he no longer wants anything to do with the Republican Party. I intend to talk about the piece in more detail later, but something James Joyner said in response to the item caught my eye.

Bartlett argued, persuasively, that the modern GOP no longer welcomes moderates into positions of party leadership. Joyner considers it a problem for both parties, not one.

It’s true that moderates have largely been driven from the leadership ranks of the Republican Party. But they’ve also been driven from the leadership ranks of the Democratic Party. The combination of gerrymandered districts and the permanent campaign have incentivized polarization.

I disagree. The leadership ranks of the Democratic Party have plenty of moderates. Comparing the two, the centrist-count isn’t even close.

In the Senate, the Majority Leader is Harry Reid, a pro-life moderate from a traditionally “red” state. While the Majority Whip is Dick Durbin, whom I consider to be a solid progressive, there are four Deputy Whips including two clear moderates: Tom Carper and Bill Nelson.

Elsewhere in the Senate, Max Baucus is the Senate Finance Committee chairman, and he’s moderate. Kent Conrad is the Budget Committee Chairman, and he’s a moderate. Hell, Dems made Joe Lieberman the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, even though he’s not a Democrat and even after he spent the last couple of years attacking Barack Obama.

Admittedly, the House Democratic leadership is more reliably liberal, but it’s worth emphasizing that when it came time to choose the House Majority Leader, the job went to Steny Hoyer, who is clearly not from the party’s progressive wing.

For that matter, I’d argue that both Barack Obama and Joe Biden embrace a generally-progressive agenda, but neither are Dems I’d call “liberals.”

I can appreciate the fact that a word like “moderate” is somewhat subjective. One person’s centrist is another person’s idea of an American Fidel Castro.

But I think a fair assessment of the parties’ leadership shows a qualitative difference. Is there any way in the world the Senate Republican caucus would make a pro-choice moderate from a traditionally “blue” state the Senate Majority Leader? Of course not; the idea is almost laughable.

One party not only tolerates moderates, it elevates them to leadership posts. One party doesn’t.