Ben Buchwalter

Simma Down Now
May 3, 2009, 3:48 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Republicans | Tags: , ,

I want to weigh in on something I’ve been debating with myself for a while. There is a movement picking up steam within the left wing of the Democratic party to kick out all of the moderate representatives in Congress in favor of more consistent liberals. For the most part, I support this movement and hope it succeeds (read OpenLeft). But we need to be careful about implementing this strategy to avoid scaring people away.

At the height of modern conservatism, Ronald Reagan welcomed moderates under his “big tent.” With that strategy, the success of the Reagan years resounded all the way through the Bush years and is only dying off now. During Bush’s first term, the Democratic party seemed so irrelevant and disorganized that it seemed conservatives would hold on to power for a very long time. At the height of their power, Republicans alienated moderate senators like Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. With little support and opposition from Toomey’s Club for Growth, Chafee lost to Sheldon White House in 2006 and, as you know, Specter is now a Democrat. Once they abandoned the big tent philosophy, conservatism floundered because it looked vindictive and close minded.

The more powerful the Democrats get (and I think they are going to get a lot more powerful), the more tempting it will be to excommunicate moderate Senators and Congressmen like Evan Bayh of Indiana. But we need to be careful. Even if they don’t vote with Democrats 100 percent of the time, it is better to have moderate Democrats in Congress than moderate or conservative Republicans.

That said, it’s not the case for Specter. It seems so clear to me that Specter’s decision to switch parties was not based on his own ideological change, but on a desire to keep his job for another six years. And to his credit, Specter has been pretty transparent about that reality. So as I’ve said already, let’s get rid of Specter in favor of a Joe Sestak or Allyson Schwartz.

But in terms of securing a lasting Democratic majority, we need to think twice about excommunicating the more moderate Democrats who, in reality, vote with their party the vast majority of the time.


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