Thursday, November 09, 2006

We Elected a Centrist Government – Now Let it Govern

David Brooks has another sensible centrist column about who really won this election, "The Middle Muscles In." Since this is the rare week when his New York Times columns are freely available to all, I urge you to have a look.

I think the next two years could be a great era for government. The Republicans have the White House, Democrats have Congress, and the Supreme Court seems about even. The choices for our leaders are to work together, or to get nothing done. I vote for getting something done. This will mean compromise on both sides. The activists of both extremes hate compromise, and have long memories for politicians who they think have "sold out." Centrists, on the other hand, know that politics requires compromise. An uncompromising politician is not a leader, but an ineffective ideologue.

The presidential race has also begun in earnest. Today Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack became the first Democrat to declare for president. Vilsack is chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist/conservative wing of the party to which I belong. The DLC is committed to working with Republicans to get something done, as they did so well under the first DLC president, Bill Clinton. I hope Vilsack and others of both parties who begun to run for president in earnest will continue to push for actual achievement from the government we have now, without waiting for the promise of pie later when the other party is magically gone. Because the other party will never be gone. We will always have to work together.


SPorcupine said...

Also, the other party is actually pretty good company. Debate and competition is so much fun that we often forget to say that, but I wouldn't like my country nearly as much if all the Republicans moved out.

Anonymous said...

Couple of points:

For all of the rah-rah and news headlines, when you dig below the topsoil, the shift of power between parties seems to be very cosmetic.

I don't pretend to know the ideology of every senator and every house member, but what I'm understanding is that so-called moderate Republicans took it on the chin moreso than conservative Republicans. And certainly, there seems to be more conservative Democrats heading to Washington than we've had in recent memory. Even in Virginia where a prominent conservative senator is getting replaced, the Democratic replacement is himself a former military wonk in the Reagan administration... s'helpme.

So, if my assumptions are true, there is very little substantive change beyond the party affiliation labels... if anything, the "balance of power" shifted away from the left since they lost their Lincoln Chafees and were not able to get Joe Liebermann rooted out of his seat.

In fact, having brought up Joe... one more point... in truth, our U.S. Senate is still a tie: 49 Dems, 49 Reps, and 2 Independents. I guess since both Independents are caucusing with the Dems, it prevents VP Chaney from being the deciding vote... but only one of those independents can be counted on to vote Democratic, and Liebermann--having been dissed by his own party in this election for the newcomer who beat him in the primary--will feel no compulsion to subscribe to the plans and policies of those who gave up on him. Then again, I'm not sure that any of that matters anyway; Joe has always been his own guy. I've always admired that about him.

So, as does Gruntled though perhaps for slightly different reasons, I'm anticipating that Bush is going to enjoy greater collaboration in his final two years, though it all hinges on success in Iraq... which is as much about the definition of success as it is about the accomplishment of success. I like Robert Gates, and actually had the great pleasure to hear the man and meet the man about 10 years ago. He's "good people," and I think he's a bridge builder.

Gruntled said...

It is hard to see how we can achieve any kind of victory that we would be proud of in Iraq in two years. I welcome bipartisanship -- we are going to need it long after 1/20/09.

Anonymous said...

My opinion isn't a popular one, but I believe we've already made something we can be proud of in Iraq.

The soliders I've heard interviewed seem to indicate the same, even though, none of us feel like the job is completed.

We went in to ensure that Iraq wouldn't be supplying WMDs to terrorists, and to the surprise of the whole world, that was much easier than expected... but... dare I say... mission accomplished.

We went in to remove a ruthless, terroristic dictator from power... certainly, not the only terroristic dictator, but one with an overt agenda to oppose the U.S., and one who, if emboldened by 9/11 to plug into close-at-hand terror networks, had the potential to grow into a much larger international threat... mission accomlished.

Having those completed, the mission of helping a new democratic Middle Eastern government to its feet has become the challenge. Not there yet, but go back and read all of the critics who didn't think it would/could even get as far as having an actual election... it's actually quite astounding given the low expectations held by so many naysayers in my world of academics.

Now, understand that the opposition has been news-cycle-smart. They've leveraged what capacity they have wisely, foregoing the big news story (and the personnel and planning necessitated by that, which would further expose them to possible discovery), and placing their bets that the evening news in the U.S. would find it palatable to include every daily act of terror (car bombing, suicide bombing, kidnapping, etc.) on the newscast and on the conscience of Americans. They were right. Totally right. And as they'd hoped, patience has been nearly exhausted, no matter how many times the President said how long and hard the process would be (even during his election campaign, mind you).

I agree to this extent, Gruntled... we aren't getting out of Iraq anytime soon, because the job is just too extensive, and yet it's a job that we can't *not* complete.

What I hope for, and I think what you might be hoping for, is that without the abrasive image of Rumsfeld giving leadership to this, and with an election cycle out of the way, two substantial barriers to success on this side of the ocean are out of the way, and now it behooves both sides of the aisle to agree on strategy even as they get behind Bob Gates.

It may just be my impression, but it has seemed to me that he has the respect of a large number of Beltway veterans, and thus, does not represent the polarizing presence of his predecessor... and thus, may just pull this off.

But I'm ever the optimist, so what do I know.

Gruntled said...

Do you think a federal semi-partition is the way forward? Could the Turks stomach anything that looked like an independent Kurdistan? Would a Shi'ite autonomous region stay out of direct Iranian control for long?

Anonymous said...

I'm not that smart. Give me a month.

Part of what annoys me is that I don't have a great gauge by which to measure where things really are, because even while the Bush Administration has been defending itself, the media at-large has been non-stop pot-shotting Iraq for the last 12 weeks as if there is nothing positive to report.

But certainly this is a chess game of the highest caliber. And all I can say is, I'm terrible at chess.

So, I'm appealing to the Higher Power pretty regularly these days to grant grace to the people in power to make solid decisions that will bear the best of outcomes. It's simply that I can't be convinced that the best combination of human power and intelligence and savvy on the face of the earth can solve this one. Humanists be damned... it's going to take more.

Gruntled said...


Anonymous said...

I was just browsing the DLC's site, and came across some articles by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a strong family life advocate and noted researcher at Rutgers, but probably best known for her Atlantic Monthly article awhile back, "Dan Quayle Was Right."

This caught my eye.

Whitehead reports in the May 31 05 issue of Blueprint Magazine that ***45 PERCENT*** of those who showed up at the polls in 2004, and who subsequently granted Bush a second term and his Republican colleagues a greater presence in Congress, told pollsters that they consider themselves to be "moderates."

Compare that with what David Brooks tells us in the article that Gruntled cited:

"...On Tuesday the muscular middle took control of America. Say goodbye to the era of Rovian base mobilization. Say goodbye to the era of conservative dominance that began in 1980. On Tuesday, ***47 PERCENT*** of the voters were self-described moderates, according to exit polls, and they asserted their power by voting for the Democrats in landslide proportions."

Somehow, I'd read Brooks' article and presumed that there had been a catastrophic shift in voters' self-descriptions.

Silly me.

But, I guess 2 percent is, after all... 2 percent... and at least it sounded good and played well to his premise.

Gruntled said...

I assume that most people are in the middle of most distributions.