Op-eds of Special Note


It is hard for me to understand how anyone can seriously blame President Obama for our current economic mess.  We are still living out the consequences of Bush era foreign and economic policy.  The real folly, however, is in thinking that the Republican Party is the party to extract us from our mess.  With a few notable exceptions, like the weaker-than-it should-have-been Democratic stimulus bill, the failure of Obama policies to work can be largely blamed on the Republican Party which at every turn has said “NO” to anything proposed by the President.  You see, the reality of American politics today is that the interest of your political party comes before country.  President Obama succeeding with economy would decrease the Republican Party’s chance of winning the next election.  The calculus is that simple.

Along these lines, there’s good opinion piece in the Washington Post today contrasting the disconnect between voters support for Obama economic initiatives and their blaming of Obama for our economy’s ills.   The real blame lies with the Republican Party, past, present and future.  America needs to wake up, before it’s too late.

The piece by Greg Sargent is entitled: The big disconnect: Strong disapproval of Obama on economy, solid support for his actual policies.

 

 

It’s clear that one path to a more functional government in America is electoral reform.  Former Congressman and once independent Presidential candidate John Anderson had authored an Op-Ed in the Christian Science Monitor (September 1, 2011) that is worth a read.  It’s entitled “Tired of partisan gridlock? Reforming electoral rules gives voters real choice.”   Thanks to the blog Poli-tea for bringing it to my attention.  The blog posting on the article can be found here.

 

 

Five years ago when I started this blog it was with the conviction that the American political system is broken.  I am more convinced of this than ever and heartened that more Americans every day are finally understanding the degree which our government has become disfunctional.  I recommend highly an excellent piece in the July/August Atlantic Magazine by former Congressman Micky Edwards entitled How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans.

It contains some excellent ideas for reforming the system.  If we want to see a government that works again, it is time Americans take reform of the system seriously.  Mr. Edwards provides us with some excellent ideas.

In the week since the No Labels roll out in New York City, there has been no shortage of critics.  That’s being interpreted by most of us involved in the movement as being a good thing.  No Labels is obviously ruffling a few feathers in both ideological extremes.

I’ve already commented upon the critique by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. in my blog posting of December 16 entitled Finding a Home in the Political Center.  His piece was entitled Where the ‘No Labels’ movement falls short.

Also weighing in from the left, from last weekend in the New York Times, was Frank Rich in an Op-ed entitled The Bipartisanship Racket.

On the right, perspectives were offered by both Rush Limbaugh on his radio show and George F. Will in an Op-ed in the Washington Post entitled The Political Fantasyland of the ‘No Labels’ movement.  It is clear that No Labels has managed to push a few buttons.  I’m glad we are.

The extremes don’t really believe we have a “dysfunctional” government in America.  Each side is only too pleased to be engaged in rugged combat with their opposite ideological enemy, firmly convinced that they are right and that their side will ultimately prevail.  It’s nonsense of course.  In the meantime, serious crises facing the country go unaddressed and Americans lose faith in their government by the day.  This can’t continue.

While No Labels may not in the end solve anything, I think we owe it a chance to work – to change the game enough to break the current deadlock.  If No Labels can indeed mobilize the “silent majority” to actively involve itself in the next few election cycles, there is every reason to believe we can halt the trend toward hyper-partisanship in both parties.  Time will tell, of course.  Count me among those that are willing to make this effort.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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.

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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