In an Op-ed in today’s Washington Post entitled Where the ‘No Labels’ movement falls short, columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. argues that the left isn’t nearly as distant from the center of the political spectrum as is the right.  Observing that there were few Republicans in attendance he concludes that “No Labelers can yet be a constructive force if they remind us of how extreme the right has become and help broker an alliance between the center and the left, the only coalition that can realistically stop an ever more zealous brand of conservatism.”

As a distinctly left-leaning Democrat, it is not surprising that Mr. Dionne perceives the gap between the center and the left of the Democratic Party to be minimal and gap between the center and the Republican right to be enormous.  He is right that there were few apparent conservative Republicans in attendance.  I didn’t meet any personally while I did meet a number of self-described liberals.  Additionally the Republicans in attendance, such as myself, were almost uniformly moderate Republicans.  I will also concede that there do seem to be more moderate Democrats in America these days than moderate Republicans and more of them were in attendance on Monday.

From my personal perspective, however, in the center right of the spectrum, there is still exits a considerable gap between where I stand politically and both the Democratic left and the Republican right.  I’d be just as conflicted as a moderate Democrat as I am today as a moderate Republican as I find a Henry Waxman every bit as objectionable as I do a Jim DeMint.

This traces without doubt to my political roots.  I was a Democrat as a kid — I was very much a fan of Lyndon Johnson and I was appalled by Barry Goldwater.  I remember at the age of 10 begging my parents to take me to a Republican headquarters where I could guiltily pick up a Goldwater bumper sticker and cut it up so as to create a new bumper sticker that read “Old Wet Rag”.  My disillusionment with the Democratic Party began with the ascension of the left of the party, including  Robert Kennedy and Ed Muskie.  The nomination of George McGovern in 1972 was the final straw for me and I registered as a Republican in 1972 and voted for Richard Nixon.  An activist even then, I became the “Young Voters for the President” Chairman on the campus of Trinity University in San Antonio that year.  I have never since been able to trust the Democratic Party and I remain highly distrustful of the Democratic Party’s extraordinarily influential and left-leaning activist groups (labor, peace, and environmental to name a few).

The fact is that I don’t believe I’ve shifted a great deal politically in my life time.  I was then and am still in the relative center of the spectrum.  As the Republican Party began its shift to the right with Ronald Reagan, I have had a harder and harder time remaining a Republican.  And yes, in many ways I suppose I am a classic Republican In Name Only (RINO), still hoping that sanity will prevail and that the pragmatically conservative Republican Party that I first joined will re-emerge.

In the meantime, I have to find a home in the center and today No Labels is offering me just such a home.  As I expressed in my blog post on Tuesday, it was so refreshing on Monday at the No Labels kickoff to be surrounded by people who thought almost exactly as I did.

And so Mr. Dionne, however you care to label it, No Labels can be a place where centrists can come together to discuss reasonable solutions in the middle of the spectrum and effectively work to support candidates who are willing to craft solutions as unpopular with the far left as the far right.

The time for repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) has long since come — although it remains unclear whether Republicans realize it or not.  I note the vote in the U.S House of Representatives yesterday was 250-175 in favor.  I sadly note that only 15 Republicans voted yes and that 15 Democrats voted no.
When the Defense Secretary and almost all senior generals say “we need this done legislatively and not by the courts” it would appear to give Republicans the opening they need to do what’s best for the military, even if they don’t like it.  For them to say no now seems to be saying that they’re more concerned with politics than with the effect of having gays serve in the military.
As for John McCain, he’s completely abdicated his “responsible independent” status.  And in case anyone missed it, Sam Nunn announced last week that he is in favor of repeal.  He was the Democrat Chairman of the Armed Services Committee during the enactment of DADT who supported DADT to the consternation of many fellow Democrats and most of the GLBT community.  He also became with that move someone for whom so many of us in the GLBT community have continued to harbor animosity since.  When I own a stock in which he’s on the board, I always vote against him.  (I also learned this week that another friend, whom I knew from our former work together in Log Cabin Republicans, has been doing the same.)  Now I am free to vote for him again.  He’s redeemed at last.  Let’s hope the Senate will join the House in redeeming itself this week as well.  It is the right thing to do.
For the record here are the fourteen Republicans who made the correct vote yesterday.  Sadly, several won’t be back next year.  I put them on my list of rational Republicans:
Judy Biggert (IL), Mary Bono Mack (CA), John Campbell (CA), Anh Cao (LA), Michael Castle (DE), Charles Dent (PA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL), Charles Djou (HI), David Dreier (CA), Vernon Ehlers (MI), Jeff Flake (AZ), Ronald Paul (TX), Todd Platts (PA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Dave Reichert (WA).

The Washington Post this morning analyzed the results of new Washington Post/ABC News Poll in a story entitled In poll, many still skeptical of GOP.  The story was authored by Dan Balz and Jon Cohen.

I cite the poll and story this morning in part as they are generally supportive of some of the statements made in my recent posting Nonsense from the Left.  The results are generally supportive of my contention that the 2010 election was a vote against the party in power and that Republicans would be unwise to regard the vote as a broad mandate for their conservative agenda.  The poll would also suggest that voters expect Republicans to compromise.

The poll was conducted since the President’s compromise with Republicans on taxes.  It shows little erosion of President Obama’s support among Liberal Democrats (now at 87%) and it shows the electorate apparently still trusts Obama more than it trusts Congressional Republicans on his/their ability to handle the main problems the nation faces (43%-38%).  At 43% President Obama also comes in higher than George Bush in 2006 (31%) and Bill Clinton in 1994 (34%) following similar mid-term electoral defeats.

I attended the No Labels kickoff yesterday in New York City.  Stories on the event can be found in both the Washington Post (here and here) and the New York Times – the NY Times piece is more of a story on conference participant Michael Bloomberg.

It is hard to express how great the experience was for me.  The crowd was enthusiastic and the speakers almost uniformly excellent.  It was also gratifying to again be around people again with whom I felt I was in sync.  Although I’m still a registered Republican, most Republicans that I meet are far more conservative than I am.  That means that in a group of Republicans I often don’t feel very “at home” for while I agree with the Republican Party on many issues, I am finding it harder and harder to agree with the party a host of others.  I also have particular problems with the party’s apparent 2+ year “no compromise” strategy.  No compromise = Dysfunctional government.  As a country we must agree to talk and compromise.  It is the only way forward.

In the coming days, I hope I can provide links to the remarks of several of yesterday’s speakers, including New York Times columnist David Brooks. Congressmen Bob Inglis’ remarks were also especially relevant and poignant as were those of Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ.  Additionally, the panel discussion led by Mika Brzezinski was particularly good.  The panel included Joe Scarborough, Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Joe Manchin and David Gergen.

In closing, let me repeat the comments that I made today to a Washington Post story entitled Can ‘No Labels’ change the tone in Washington?:

I am writing this from New York City where I yesterday attended the No Labels kickoff as a “Citizen Leader”. I have lived in Washington DC since 1987. In my 23 years in Washington I have seen the political system cease to work. I have also seen my Republican Party drift further and further to the right and the Democratic Party remain largely under the control of its liberal wing and its host of special interest groups. Neither side is is willing to compromise and the last three elections have shown an electorate punishing the party in control, yet the two parties continue to miss the point.

No Labels as a collection of mostly moderate Democrats, Republicans and Independents can change the game by applying pressure from the center of the spectrum, mostly in influencing primary elections but also in mobilizing support for candidates who take courageous stands. We can also influence redistricting processes in the states, which has the potential to enormously impact the ability of both parties to maintain their duopoly.

I will be actively involved with No Labels in Washington DC, starting with hosting a Meet Up on January 4. DC area voters interested in learning more and go to meetup.com/no labels for more information.

Please join our movement to move the country not left or right, but forward. Help end the hyper-partisan dysfunction.

This Brooks-Shields piece from the Lehrer NewHour last night is well worth watching.  David Brooks’ comments are particularly insightful.

There were two pieces of note in yesterday’s Washington Post that are broadly in sync with the substance of my last weblog posting and the general sentiments routinely expressed on this website.  The first, by Dan Balz, is entitled Bloomberg appears to be centering himself to run for president in 2012.  The second is by David S. Broder and is entitled Centrist on the rise, discussing the apparently new Barack Obama.

I consider both pieces to be must-reads.  The Broder piece discusses an Obama that seems to finally understand that to win re-election, he must separate himself in the electorate’s mind from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.  This is absolutely right.  This Barack Obama, Mr. Broder suggests, will also have a much better chance of re-election than the one that was shellacked in last month’s election.

This Obama, too, is much less likely to draw a Michael Bloomberg into an independent run for President.  As Mr. Balz points out, Bloomberg apparently needs a weak Obama as well as a Republican opponent from the most conservative wing of the party to enter the presidential contest as a contender.

I’m delighted with both developments.  I am thrilled that Mr. Bloomberg is coming out swinging at our federal governmental dysfunction and contemplating an independent run for President.  I look forward to hearing his comments at the No Labels rollout in New York City on Monday.  I will be there cheering him on.  I am likewise comforted that President Obama may have finally found both his centrist voice and a strategy for success in dealing with his Republican opposition for the next two years.  He needs to challenge the excesses of the Republican right and it is best done from the center of the spectrum.  I am convinced a centrist message will resonate with a vast swath of the American electorate.

An Op-ed in today’s Washington Post offers an example of a mis-guided argument that predictably emanates from the extremes of the partisan spectrum following an election, usually from the party and extreme ideology that has suffered  a big loss.  Today’s example is offered by Michael Lerner in a piece entitled Save Obama’s presidency by challenging him on the left.  Mr. Lerner argues that Obama’s problem is that he hasn’t been “progressive” enough and that it may be necessary to have a Democratic primary challenger from the left in order to force Obama to the left in order to win in 2012.  To those of us in the center of the spectrum, this is utter nonsense.

I’ve rarely witnessed a more clear voter rejection of a party in power, and an ideology, than what occurred in the U.S. in November.  Democrats got shellacked because they were perceived by the electorate as taking the country too far left — in the direction of higher taxes and more government.  That clearly isn’t popular in this country.  Notice I said perceived.  The Republicans did a very good job of painting President Obama and the Democrats into this corner, often inaccurately, but the party itself and its progressive wing aided and abetted.  Nancy Pelosi, Queen of the California’s extremely liberal congressional delegation, was the perfectly wrong choice to be the face of the party.  She is ‘nails on a chalkboard’ to much of America.  In addition, Democrats have puzzled over why the business community and independents supported Republicans as strongly as they did in the election.   Much of the standard Democrat election rhetoric is about class struggle, the little guy against the evil corporate behemoth.  That may sit well with the base of the Democratic Party, but it doesn’t sit well with the majority of Americans.  No, what President Obama and the Democrats need to do for the next two years is appear to the American electorate as the rational, sane and relatively centrist alternative to Republican ideological excess. Democrats’ clearest path to control and the re-election of President Obama is moderation — a la Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, both of whom were also constrained by Congresses not in their control and each of whom were re-elected handily.

Republicans, on the other hand, are making a great mistake in their apparent conclusion that it was their conservative ideology that won them election in November.  The reason the electorate voted for them in November was because they weren’t Democrats – they were the “other”, the alternative party.  This was exactly the reason that Democrats, including Obama, won in 2008 — because they were the “other”, the alternative option to George Bush and the Republicans.  These last two elections haven’t been about the electorate supporting a party so much as completely repudiating the party in power.

Thus, the last thing Democrats need to do is up the stakes and offer the electorate a clear picture of a party controlled by left wing ideologues.  Let Republicans hang themselves on their own petard — by viewing that it was their ideology that won them this last election.  The party that grabs the center, that demonstrates to America that it is willing to compromise and to find rational solutions in the middle will be the choice of an electorate that can once again be expected to vote to reject an ideological extreme.

It is my view that 2012 is shaping up as an election that Democrats should win, but it is distinctly losable.  Just consult with Mr. Lerner.  He has the strategy for losing all figured out.

Expect to hear a lot from me in the coming weeks about No Labels.  A posting on this weblog in mid-October introduced readers to the group.  To refresh, No Labels is a grassroots organization of people who believe we should “Put Labels Aside” and “Do What’s Best for America”.  We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are united in the belief that we do not have to give up our labels, merely put them aside to do what’s best for America.  I will be attending the national kickoff for No Labels in New York City on December 13 and will make an effort to post on the event in real time from New York.

In the last few weeks there has been growing national publicity about No Labels, including an excellent Op-ed in this mornings Washington Post by William A. Galston and David Frum entitled A no labels solution to Washington gridlock.  I recommend the piece.

Also, for those of you in Washington, DC, I am hosting a Meet Up on January 4, 2010 (at a location still to be determined) to meet and discuss No Labels.  We’ll talk about the December 13 National No Labels Kickoff in NYC and what those of us in DC can do to advance the No Labels agenda.  You can sign up for the Washington DC event here.

For those of you in other parts of the country, there are Meets Up planned in early January in a number of locales.  See the No Labels website for details.

On December 1, 2010, the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issued its report.  The Washington Post reported just a few minutes ago that at this morning’s meeting of the commission that commission members voted 11-7 in favor of the report, 3 votes shy of the number that would have forced congressional consideration of the report.  Still, this final vote was far larger than many expected.

Clearly, something has to be done.  It also appears that the necessity of action has finally cracked the national consciousness and it’s going to be hard for Congress to ignore (see David Broder’s piece in the Washington Post this week entitled A bipartisan end to fiscal denial).  This is very good news.  It’s also good news that there was support on the commission from both the left (Senator Durbin) and the right (Senator Coburn).  The support appears enough to be able to get the ball rolling.  I particularly applaud Senator Coburn for his vote — it shows a courageous politician in a time when such courage appears in very short supply.

On the subject of the Deficit Commission’s recommendations are two pieces in this morning’s Washington Post.  One is an Op-ed entitled Saving the American Dream by Senator Judd Gregg.  The other, and a more important read, is Steven Pearlstein’s We need a grand compromise on the deficit, not hyperbole.  I am in strong agreement with Mr. Pearlstein’s remarks, with the exception of Pearlstein’s endorsement of an amended plan offered by Andy Stern, a former president of the Service Employees International Union who as a member of the commission who voted “no” this morning.  I am not familiar with Mr. Stern’s alternate proposal.

What I know is something has to be done.  With the majority proposal released this week and the ideas that have already been put on the table by others, including those of the Domenici-Rivlin Task Force of the Bipartisan Policy Center, the ideas are out there.  It is time for Congress to act.  As pointed out by Mr. Erskine this week, and reported by Mr. Broder in the link to his Op-ed above, “the era of deficit denial in Washington in over”.  As pointed out by Mr. Pearlstein, the economic imperative in clear, both in terms of the country’s long and short-term economic future.

Let’s get on with it.

Paul Krogman in an Op-Ed in the New York Times today entitled There Will Be Blood echoes sentiments I’ve been expressing on this weblog for the last few weeks.  We are in trouble if the Republican Party keeps true to its promises.  Deep trouble.

This piece today by Mr. Krogman, someone with whom I’ve often disagreed, is spot on.

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