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.