Jack Shafer: Extremism in Defense of Moderates is no Virtue!


As the legendary Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) announces her retirement to a slow-clap from the nation's most vapid and serious political commentators while the rest of us wonder what the hell she did during her tenure and Super Tuesday spreads before us like a Bill Cosby dinner companion etherized upon a table, Reuters scribe Jack Shafer asks, "What's so greaat about moderates?"

None of the [recent New York Times] pieces [by David Brooks, Frank Bruni, and Joe Nocera] really makes the case for why a less ideological Republican Party would mean a better Congress or a better country, unless conviviality, the building of congressional coalitions and the steady passage of new legislation are the supreme measures of improvement….

Putting all of our bickering and political differences aside to work together doesn't necessarily result in civic nirvana. Fans of the cooperative, non-partisan political spirit should remember legislative travesties like the USA Patriot Act, which was passed as quickly as it was introduced….

For decades, pundits and politicians complained that there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two main political parties. Now that there's a nickel's worth of difference, they want to reverse the 50 years of ongoing realignment of the two parties, both of which once contained liberals, moderates and conservatives, into two parties, one of mostly liberals and the other of mostly conservatives. If the sorting hat of American politics has accomplished that, Brooks, Bruni and Nocera will have to do more than compose irate op-eds to reverse it. Did the 1970s versions of Brooks, Bruni and Nocera bemoan the exile of Southern conservatives from the Democratic Party to the wilderness of the Republican Party? I'll bet not….

Republicans denouncing Republicans sounds terrible when you read about it in the press, but it's a logical product of any primary election. The last time I checked, primaries, for all their shortcomings, were created to enhance democracy by removing the selection of candidates from the smoke-filled room and presenting it to the voters.

Read the whole thing here.