2012 Tuesday: Should we worry about the primary losses of moderates?

For all the talk of how America is following in the footsteps of debt-riddled Greece, here is one way our politics is charting a very different course: We are not waiting to reach the very edge of the abyss before moving our parties away from the center.

One of the big stories from today’s primaries, which for the most part have been rendered less than front-page news outside the states holding them any given day, will be whether longtime Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar survives a challenge from tea-party favorite and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. A recent poll (there haven’t been many of them) suggests Lugar’s time is up.

The headlines will be about the tea party throwing out a respected member of the D.C. establishment in a fit of ideologically pure pique. Yet, increasingly this kind of result is dog-bites-man news — for both parties.

Last month, Pennsylvania Democrats threw out a pair of “Blue Dog Democrats” from the U.S. House. The Blue Dogs, who tried to push laws such as Obamacare in a more moderate direction when Democrats held all the levers of power in 2009-10, have gone from a peak of 54 members in those years to a projected 23 when the 113th Congress convenes next year. Most of those losses have come at the hands of Republican challengers in general elections, or via retirements. But as the New York Times reported about the Pennsylvania races:

The ouster of the Democratic incumbents — and the tough primaries being waged against some House Republicans — suggest that redistricting ultimately is going to send more liberal Democrats and more conservative Republicans to the House.

That may be true in U.S. House races, where voters can be moved around during redistricting, but we’ve also seen changes in Senate races that cover entire states.

Lugar would be one example, with the list of ousted Republicans also including Bob Bennett of Utah in 2010 and, perhaps, Utah’s Orrin Hatch this year. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska lost her primary in 2010, only to win re-election as a third-party candidate write-in Republican [note: the foregoing text has been corrected -- KW] in the general election. So did Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman in 2006, whom Democrats punished for his support of the Iraq war just six years after appearing on the party’s national ticket as its vice-presidential nominee. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas had to go to a runoff to remain the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2010, eventually losing her seat to a Republican that November.

On the other hand, GOP voters chose as their nominee the man who, with the exception of Jon Huntsman, was considered the most moderate person in the field — even if the Obama campaign will now spend months trying to convince you Mitt Romney is a dangerous extremist. So the move away from moderation has its limits.

When primary voters in both major parties punish moderate incumbents, the idea seems to be that they want to elect more people truly committed to the cause. But can the cause ever be advanced if the other side is equally committed to electing people determined to block it? Can either party, moving away from the center, elect enough of its own members to push through an agenda that will be uniformly opposed by the other party? The huge Democratic gains of 2006 and 2008 were not typical of our electoral history — and their overreach afterward was sharply rebuked by the voters in 2010. Can the Republicans make a similar follow-up gain this year as they are also moving away from the center? Does the pendulum really swing that fast? And why wouldn’t it just keep reversing course rather than staying in your preferred direction for very long?

How this trend plays out in the long run is anyone’s guess. My guess is that, sooner than later, the electorate will tire of the pendulum moving so far, so fast. But there are two recent examples from Europe that suggest the mushy middle doesn’t necessarily work, either.

The most recent one is, as advertised above, from Greece. Sunday’s elections there were a smackdown of the country’s leading center-left and center-right parties, both of which backed the bailout-and-austerity package from Greece’s European neighbors. Together, the two main parties won just 32 percent of the vote — down from 77 percent in the last elections a few years ago. The largest party won less than 19 percent (although it will have a larger share of the seats in parliament).

More pertinent, however, is the nature of the parties that ate into their vote totals. The second-place party is called — this is the translation of the party’s name in Greek, not my editorial comment on its policies — the Coalition of the Radical Left. The Communist Party won 9 percent to finish fifth, and a neo-Nazi party (known as the “Golden Dawn” party) won 7 percent to wind up sixth. Together, the Communists and the neo-Nazis will have almost one-sixth of the seats in the Greek parliament. Two brand-new parties took another one-sixth of the vote.

Think about that: A collection of Communists, neo-Nazis and two parties that had never competed before managed to equal the votes of the country’s two longest-standing parties. If that’s not a rebuke of the establishment, I don’t know what is.

Another anti-centric example is Northern Ireland. For years, centrist parties representing the two opposing viewpoints there — remaining in the United Kingdom, or separating to join the Republic of Ireland — tried to make deals. It wasn’t until the two extremes on each side took a stab at working together that power-sharing under the Good Friday accord actually worked.

Of course, we are not in the dire straits of either Greece, which has already had one technical default on its debt, or Northern Ireland, which suffered decades of self-inflicted terrorism. Nor have we seen if either of those examples yields good results in the long run. (One of history’s greatest — and most humble! — foreign correspondents reported from Northern Ireland just before power-sharing began there, questioning whether two extremes could truly co-exist for very long.)

The jury is still out here, too.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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202 comments Add your comment

Ted

May 8th, 2012
12:33 pm

I don’t care about Lugar’s politics, as much as I care about folks who become part of
Washington, versus being part of their home state. 36 years is too much.

Cutty

May 8th, 2012
12:34 pm

‘On the other hand, GOP voters chose as their nominee the man who, with the exception of Jon Huntsman, was considered the most moderate person in the field — even if the Obama campaign will now spend months trying to convince you Mitt Romney is a dangerous extremist.’

‘I am severely conservative.’ -Mitt Romney

Yeah, its Obama’s fault and not Romney’s own words that make him look extreme (ie, severely conservative).

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 8th, 2012
12:45 pm

‘I am severely conservative.’

He is, Cutty. Compared to the current Liar-in-Chief, most moderates are.

emo

May 8th, 2012
12:48 pm

Cutty, you took the words right out of my mouth.

Tibby, nobody lies like your man Mittens.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

May 8th, 2012
12:49 pm

2012 Tuesday: Should we worry about the primary losses of moderates?
———–

That’s like asking if we should worry about being right.

Americans don’t worry about being right, or about voters knowing their values, principles, and policies. Democrats do.

Ivan

May 8th, 2012
12:50 pm

LOL. Sorry. Believing Mitt Romney is “extreme” is like believing Jeff Dunham’s puppets actually talk.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 8th, 2012
12:52 pm

“nobody lies like your man Mittens.”

I suggest you look up: Obama, Barack, emo

Illegal Alien

May 8th, 2012
12:52 pm

As this nation becomes more polarized, somebody like Hitler will come along and take power.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 8th, 2012
1:02 pm

“Believing Mitt Romney is “extreme” is like believing Jeff Dunham’s puppets actually talk.”

Wait . . . they don’t? ;)

Jefferson

May 8th, 2012
1:03 pm

Kyle, you use more “?” marks than “!” marks.

emo

May 8th, 2012
1:08 pm

So clever, Tibby, you’ve lalmost convinced me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAxtFuB0eJ4

HIPPOCRIT

May 8th, 2012
1:10 pm

THIS IS THE REAL PROBLEM……… TOO MANY 1%’S IN WASHINGTON DC

http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/08/news/economy/congress-net-worth/index.htm?hpt=hp_t3

Jefferson

May 8th, 2012
1:11 pm

It been said that Romney is the worse republican to run against the President. (and he who said it was not a moderate)

Illegal Alien

May 8th, 2012
1:12 pm

George Wallace was moderate until he realized that only Washington hating and segregationist politicans could get elected in Alabama.

Some people will sell their soul to achieve their goal.

HIPPOCRIT

May 8th, 2012
1:14 pm

kyle
the $$$$ of europe is making real clear to the PIIGS and to France that they may not like taking their medicine……….. but they better take it

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international-business/angela-merkel-to-francois-hollande-must-take-necessary-eurozone-decisions/articleshow/13052099.cms

HIPPOCRIT

May 8th, 2012
1:15 pm

its time we start taking our medicine here
clean up and clear out the banks
process the loan mods and foresclosures

@@

May 8th, 2012
1:20 pm

On the other hand, GOP voters chose as their nominee the man who, with the exception of Jon Huntsman, was considered the most moderate person in the field

Well…I didn’t choose. He was FOISTED upon me by the GOP establishment. I wonder…does that mean it’s the GOP who’s seeking moderation?

It is what it is.

I’m just glad I don’t live in Greece.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 8th, 2012
1:24 pm

“It been said that Romney is the worse republican to run against the President.”

Yeah, by Democrats.

Sherlock

May 8th, 2012
1:27 pm

Extremes do not mean strength and the middle mush as you suggest. Strength lies with the individual, who can most certainly be a moderate.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 8th, 2012
1:28 pm

“So clever, Tibby, you’ve lalmost convinced me.”

Sorry, emo, didn’t bother looking at your link to the uber-biased Rachel Maddow. I don’t do DNC propaganda.

I can think for myself.

Jefferson

May 8th, 2012
1:28 pm

Them, too T.

emo

May 8th, 2012
1:33 pm

“It been said that Romney is the worse republican to run against the President.”
Yeah, by Democrats

What an awful thing to call Bachman & Santorum.

Glad you at least went to the link, I knew you couldn’t watch it. Much easier to be spoonfed the Fox pablum.

AmVet

May 8th, 2012
1:33 pm

‘I am severely conservative.’

Republispeak for “I am an effete, northeastern RINO liberal, and the Father of Socialized Medicine.”

Good luck with that one, Republican socialists!

And at BEST, the only way he even remains competitive in November is to move towards Kyle’s apparent pejorative – the mushy middle!

But I suspect that independents and centrists and moderates in this country see through his flip-flopping pas de une, as his handlers desperately try to keep him pandering to the far, far right wing that controls the GOP.

But LOL at you DNC plants and rubes.

Two RINOs in a row.

ragnar danneskjold

May 8th, 2012
2:17 pm

I think Washington is less a pendulum than a swirling eddy, sucking to the bottom all within its reach. For perhaps 50 years the FDR governance model controlling both parties in DC, based on the unquestioned knowledge that the overlords are better positioned to run our lives than we ourselves.

The model was upset by excess, and by the election of one who used different language in analyzing the role of government in our lives. Not unprecedented language – Hayek and von Mises and Friedman had been around throughout the overlord era – but the election of Reagan was a watershed, as his presidency was not founded on the assumption that “Washington Knows Best.”

The death of centrism – that dithering, indecisive, rudderless middle between the extremes – was both foreseeable and inevitable when one party abandoned the common assumption. Today all are obliged to choose between two different visions – the political parties are no longer twins of the same parentage. The majority within the US believes in individual responsibility and rejects the central government’s “goodness and wisdom.” Thus leftists are obliged to deny their goals and intentions and the likely effects of their policies – think of the “death panels” debate within ObamaCare – for the sake of cobbling together a ruling coalition. Thus the harsh invective that flows constantly from the left, disparaging those who stand in the way of total control.

Jefferson

May 8th, 2012
2:18 pm

The moderate republicans at least know things have to be paid for, the radical republicans want everything but don’t want to pay for it. Look what it did for them last time.

Sam

May 8th, 2012
2:19 pm

Moderate = RHINO. I hope they all lose. Goodbye Dicky Luger. 30+ years in DC has corrupted you beyond repair.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

May 8th, 2012
2:21 pm

Is mittens centrist?

Which week are you wanting an answer for?

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:25 pm

I believe both Democrat and Republican are purging “moderates” to some degree or another

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:26 pm

“Moderate = RHINO.”

And Romney is a ?

td

May 8th, 2012
2:30 pm

A moderate is nothing more then a person that has no philosophy to live by. They go along to get along no matter if it is the right thing to do for the country or not or they tinker a little hear or there and get nothing done. We are either going to remain a conservative nation or we are going to become a European socialist welfare state nation. It is time to get out all the people that do not believe and have the debate in this country so the American people can decide which type of nation we are to become.

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:33 pm

td

Let’s shelf Obama’s own flip flops and lie for a minute.

What is Romney? He has changed numerous positions.

He is a moderate on many issues, attempting to accentuate where he is conservative to gain support.

DannyX

May 8th, 2012
2:35 pm

Today’s Etch-a-Sketch moment is brought to you by, the RNC

“I think as a candidate, to my understanding, he’s still deciding what his position on immigration is. I can’t talk about what his position is going to be,” Inclan said.

Followed by this tweet,
“I misspoke, Romney’s position on immigration is clear”

Its obvious that Romney’s policy on immigration is both moderate and far right. I guess it could even be considered liberal. I believe Romney is consulting his Magic 8 Ball. We should know where he stands on the issue soon.

Illegal Alien

May 8th, 2012
2:41 pm

td,

After the debate and we are either a conservative or socialist nation do the losers have to be put in concentration camps to await extermination?

td

May 8th, 2012
2:44 pm

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:33 pm

We do not know who Romney really would be philosophically if elected President. You can not judge him philosophically by his stances as Governor because he had to work with one of the most liberal legislatures in the nation. He could have stood up for his values (if conservative) and it would not have mattered because the libs held veto proof majorities.

We do know that fiscally that he is a fixer and the evidence proves this point with his involvement in the private sector and with the Olympics.

Here is what we do know when comparing him to Obama:

Romney will resend all those executive orders on regulations Obama has put into place.

Romney will sign Backmann bill to kill Obamacare.

Romney will not appoint the loony leftest to the SCOTUS that Obama has.

Romney will sign Paul Ryan’s budget.

These make him way more conservative then Obama.

Jefferson

May 8th, 2012
2:45 pm

If they were conservatives, why did they spend so much money ?

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:46 pm

td

Yes judgment can be made on his past political stances and changes to boost his conservative “cred”…… that is such a weak defense of any politician

This notion that we can judge one but not the other is total crap

Be weak minded if you wish

td

May 8th, 2012
2:47 pm

Illegal Alien

May 8th, 2012
2:41 pm

What will happen is the same thing that happened in Georgia. When it is obvious that one side has won then the “moderates” will jump to the winning side of the debate and what is left will only be able to whine on blogs like Jay Bookman’s

@@

May 8th, 2012
2:48 pm

I’m curious!

If Romney, the moderate isn’t good enough for AmVet, what kind of conservative does he favor…The Progressive Conservative?

Has anyone figured out what AmVet’s objective here is? Does he want EVERYONE to adhere to his conservative criteria? His and his only?

td

May 8th, 2012
2:48 pm

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:46 pm

And your choice is what? 4 more years of Obama in charge. I will take my chances with Romney.

AmVet

May 8th, 2012
2:48 pm

A moderate is nothing more then a person that has no philosophy to live by.

Childish claptrap, not remotely close to any actual or accepted definition:

moderate -adjective
1. kept or keeping within reasonable or proper limits; not extreme or excessive

Many of you Republicans have become so rabid that even words such as reasonable have become a pejorative.

AmVet

May 8th, 2012
2:50 pm

Oops, got my obsessed lil one all riled up!

Please, no public meltdowns, stalker…

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

“And your choice is what? 4 more years of Obama in charge. I will take my chances with Romney.”

nice deflection……. give you a C plus

I will be voting 3rd Party…… thank you very much

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

@@

What is you objective?

td

May 8th, 2012
2:58 pm

AmVet

May 8th, 2012
2:48 pm

First off, when I say moderate I am not only talking about RINO’s but also Blue Dog’s.

What has “moderate” philosophy gotten us?

Some abortions ok and some not.
Gays can not marry but they can have the same rights in civil unions.
People are responsible for their action, except when they are not.
Free speech is free speech except when it is not politically correct.
We have the rights to keep and bear arms except when we do not.
There are no moral absolutes in society except when the government thinks there are.

Progressive Humanist

May 8th, 2012
2:59 pm

If you want a moderate there’s still Mitt Romney. Of course, if you want a liberal there’s Mitt Romney. And if you want a whacked out right wing loony there’s Mitt Romney. Just tell him what you want him to be that day and he’ll pander to your every wish.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 8th, 2012
3:00 pm

“But I suspect that independents and centrists and moderates in this country see through his flip-flopping pas de une”

Yet they are supporting Romney over the current Liar-in-Chief by double digits right now.

td

May 8th, 2012
3:00 pm

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

“And your choice is what? 4 more years of Obama in charge. I will take my chances with Romney.”

nice deflection……. give you a C plus

I will be voting 3rd Party…… thank you very much

And what will that accomplish because whoever you vote for has no chance of winning so in reality you are nothing more then a moderate with no philosophy.

td

May 8th, 2012
3:02 pm

Progressive Humanist

May 8th, 2012
2:59 pm

I have a sneaking feeling that he will be 1000 times more conservative then Obama so he is a 1000 times better choice then Obama.

@@

May 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

AmVet:

Please, no public meltdowns, stalker…

Only in your dreams.

If, as you say, all extremists are to be marginalized, why do you ridicule Romney, the moderate? If it’s his pandering, what politician doesn’t?

Proove:

I have no idea what “you” objective is?

schnirt

I come here to see if all the political differences have been resolved.

Occasionally, I enjoy irritating AmVet…maybe a couple of others.

Yours?

Proove it with FACTS

May 8th, 2012
3:08 pm

td

No offense, but I vote my conscience and it isn’t telling me Obama or Romney

You do not have to like it and I really could careless.

The world and how it works is much deeper than just the Democrat or Republican perception within the US. It plays a major part, but not the only role.

You can play in it and that is your choice. For the most part, I choose not to vote for the majority of those inept and corrupt cousins. With that said, I do vote for Republicans and Democrats on local and state levels from time to time