The GOP’s Idea of “Seizing the Center”

Yesterday I mentioned that Scott Brown had brought the mendacious twisting of Elizabeth Warren’s famous rap about the interdependence of public and private efforts in making capitalism work full circle by tying Barack Obama’s paraphrasing of that rap back to the original. Today we learn that conservatives are admiring Brown’s ad for a slightly different reason: its contribution to the big and very important lie that Obama and Warren are out of the American mainstream represented by Democratic and Republican presidents of the past. The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper explains:

Republican operatives in Washington are praising Scott Brown’s latest campaign ad. The ad, a contrast spot being run by the Republican Massachusetts senator, shows that Brown’s Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, is to the left on economic issues of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan….

Instead of being in the mainstream, Warren, along with President Barack Obama, is shown to be an opponent of free enterprise. The ad is called, “Let America Be America Again.”

“Devastating,” says one Republican operative. “Long–but does a really good job of showing how radical the Obama/Warren view of the economy really is.”

Not really, if you know anything about the actual policies of JFK (who fought to expand federal power to vindicate civil rights and fight poverty); LBJ (whose Great Society programs the Ryan Budget is intended to begin rolling back); WJC (who presided over the tax rates the alleged socialist Obama is trying to restore); and even Ford (who never for a moment challenged the New Deal/Great Society legacy) and Reagan (who not only signed two tax increases, but endlessly praised tax incentives for the working poor that are now cited as deeply unjust to the “taxpaying majority”).

There’s nothing at all novel about this tactic: if you can’t “seize the center” in American politics via policy initiatives, you push the other party out by calling it “extremist.” It’s a particularly essential tactic if you are yourselves extremists.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.