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

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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.

NEXT: King of the Wild Frontier

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  1. Now that there’s a nickel’s worth of difference,

    Wait, there is?

    1. Inflation takes its toll.

    2. A nickle doesn’t buy much these days.

      1. Horde them; they’ll soon be worth twice their face value.

    3. Gays and abortion.

      1. Abortion. Since when does the Democratic Party give a shit about gays except when they can play them for suckers?

        1. When they could sound nicer about them than Republicans so that gays could convince themselves that Republicans were big old meanies like their Dad or their small town pastor?

          1. Pretty much. Just long as gays understand they are the first ones overboard if the USS Democrat starts taking water.

        2. Since when does the Democratic either Party give a shit about gays anyone except when they can play them for suckers?

          ftfy

        3. So the two parties can basically be divided into “Abortions for All!” and “No Abortions for Anybody!”?

          1. No. Most Republicans would buy into at least a first trimester one. Mostly, it is about not paying for them.

            So it is really abortions for all paid for by all or some abortions paid for by those who want them.

            1. But, but, but how can someone have access to something if someone else isn’t forced to pay for it?

  2. I want a party–whatever it’s called–that wants to drastically reduce the size, scope, and cost of government. I could care less how they do it, provided they operate within constitutional limits. “Moderates” have done little to advance those goals, so screw them.

    1. Then you’re interested in my party, the “Party Hearty Party”. I’m voting for myself for Pres this year.

      Part of my platform:

      1) Eliminate pretty much every three-letter-acronymed agency. If Congrefswon’t go funding, I just stop appointing people to work at them. Done.

      2) Out of current conflicts yesterday. Work with “allies” to get out of places like Germany, Japan, SKo, etc as soon as they stop hyperventilating (or sooner if they won’t stop hyperventilating).

      3) My test for whether I sign or veto legislation – does it increase freedom? yes = sign; no = don’t sign/or veto as appropriate

      1. Part Deux (WE ARE THE 900+!)

        4) We turn the White House over to Disney to run as a Funhouse (plus pretty much all the rest of the monuments in DC, to run as “Disnyeland North”. Run as a break-even bidness +5% fee to Disney. If they can’t make it work, knock it all down. If they can, any profit beyond Disney’s 5% goes to reduce the debt. My guess is Disney makes money and so do the American People?
        5) My one sop to Crony Capitalism – work with Congrefs to carve out immunity for manufacturers of Jarts? Lawn Darts. REAL ones, with the Death Metal? tips. Sell the shit out of those things, cause you know when the American Family was strong? WHEN EVERYONE ROCKED A JARTS GAME IN THE BACKYARD! which was until the lawn dart lawsuits ended that…hence the legal wall provided by the gummint….

        1. Those are just a few of my positions.

          Remember – Almanian 2012 – Write In, Right On, Right Now!?

          1. ‘Fraid we’re going to have to see the computer-generated rendition of your birth certificate first.

          2. Yawn. Call me when you have 101.

          3. I’m a big fan of your implied position on the return of the elongated “s”.

            1. Of course, it’s not Congrefs. It’s Congre?s. Otherwise, I agree.

        2. Forget abortion or the Second Amendment as a litmus test. Anyone who’s pro-Jarts has my vote.

        3. May I offer one suggestion? Have Universal Studios running the White (Fun)House & assorted monuments instead of Disney. In my experience, Universal theme parks are much more fun, the resort hotels are amazing and Disney has a really bad track record on IP issues – See Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

      2. So you’re really Gary Johnson?

    2. We need a Heinleinian bicameral legislature where one chamber needs two thirds majority to pass legislation, and the other needs only a one third minority to repeal it.

      1. I’d be fine with a rule that all legislation must be unanimous.

        Of course, I’d also be fine with all politicians wearing bomb collars that go off when their approval rating dips below 90%.

  3. Miss me yet?

    1. I took a shit in a smoke-filled room once

  4. James Toranto pegged the angry moderates like Frum and Brooks yesterday in Best of the Web.

    Whereas Frum would like to reinvent conservatism as a club with restrictive admissions standards, liberalism is a public park, open to all. If the Republican Party remade itself in Frum’s image, it would likely make improvements in its vote totals among what Charles Murray calls the narrow elite, most of whose members live in or near Manhattan and the District of Columbia. But the narrow elite is overwhelmingly liberal, so such improvements would be only marginal. And the vast majority of voters would have little reason to vote for a Frumian GOP.

    1. Frum’s approach to politics makes no political sense–but it makes perfect sense when you consider his position within the narrow elite. He has made a career for himself as a “reasonable” conservative, meaning one who gains status within the narrow elite by reinforcing its prejudices against the sort of people who listen to Limbaugh or admired Breitbart.

      1. John, a serious query. Do you think the “Big Tent” has helped or harmed the GOP?

        1. I think a big tent always helps if your goal is to get elected. Frum and Brooks are just elitist assholes who think that only the right kinds of people ought to be in charge of anything. They are happy to have libertarians and socons and other undesirables in the tent as long as they shut up and don’t embarrass Frum and Brooks in front of their liberal friends and colleges.

          1. I think a big tent always helps if your goal is to get elected.

            I agree that’s true in the short term, but I think in the long term the Big Tent has harmed the GOP. Yes, the SoCon fueled Republican Revolution of the 90’s worked, but the price was quite heavy. The SoCons [aka reverse-carpetbagging, former Dixiecrats] have turned the Big Tent into the Big Tent Revival. I believe this turns away far more voters than it attracts.

            Just as the Democrats had the good sense to disown them when their culture war banner was “Segregation Forever,” the Republicans need to show them the door; lest their SoCon-silliness distract from the fiscal planks of the GOP platform, the only planks they can really use to defeat Obama Nation.

            1. “I believe this turns away far more voters than it attracts.”

              Election results say just the opposite. Before the rise of soCons, the Republicans had held Congress for exactly four years since 1930. Republicans were completely unheard of in the South and rarely got votes of the Catholic middle class in the industrial states.

              And it wasn’t the Republicans who started the culture war. It was the Democrats. It was the Democrats who, by embracing the 60s counter culture and the New Left who drove away the SoCons and the Reagan Democrats. The Republicans didn’t so much attract them as pick them up by default.

              The history of the evangelical movement is an interesting one. It started in the 1970s. And it started primarily in school board elections.

            2. It was a reaction to the left shoving its cultural views down every one’s throat. It was and has always been a reactionary movement. Not a proactive movement.
              If you want religion out of politics, a good first step would be to get the government to stop fucking with people’s religion and trying to promote views that run counter to people’s religion. Just a thought.
              The Democrats kicked the old Southern evangelicals out of the party. And this being a two party system, they went to the other party.
              Now many Libertarians would prefer these people have no voice in politics. Maybe be confined to compounds or concentration camps. But that is not going to happen. They are going to vote somewhere. And if they were still Democrats, the Democrats would have a 60+ vote majority in the Senate every election.

              1. Now many Libertarians would prefer these people have no voice in politics. Maybe be confined to compounds or concentration camps. But that is not going to happen. They are going to vote somewhere

                Let them vote for the Constitution Party. Anything that dismantles the tyranny of the Two-Party system is a positive.

                1. “Anything that dismantles the tyranny of the Two-Party system is a positive.”

                  Not really. If they did that, you would devide the Republican vote and ensure a united Democratic Party got 70+ Senate seats every election plus the house and the White House. The only way a multi party system would work is if you had a four party system where the Left was divided as well. A three party system just creates and effective one party system.

                  The fact is most people are not Libertarians. And they are unlikely to become Libertarians. If Libertarians want to be a functioning part of the political system, they either need to have a coup and declare themselves God emperors, unlikely, or figure out a way to work with non Libertarians to accomplish some of their goals.

                  1. The only way a multi party system would work is if you had a four party system where the Left was divided as well

                    You don’t see the Left becoming divided in the next few decades as well?

                2. The problem we have HM is that the Left is fucking united and single minded. They don’t give a shit about anything but power. Look at how they are clinging to Obama even though he virtually identical to Bush. So there is no chance of splitting the Left. No chance of getting members of the Left who care about civil liberties to turn on their fellow leftists. It is not going to happen.

                  If you could do that, you could then live with splitting the right. But since that won’t happen, you are stuck with some lousy bedfellows.

                  1. the Left is fucking united and single minded.
                    ————————-
                    only in the desire for govt to be all. Otherwise, it is a loosely-knit coalition of single-issue groups: labor, racial warlords, enviros, animalites, the abortion lobby, and so forth.

                    I don’t sense a great deal of cross-pollination on the day to day. But when the choice is big govt or really big govt, they all come together.

                    1. only in the desire for govt to be all.

                      “One Ring to rule them all. . . .”

                  2. The interesting thing is that the extreme left is infamously fractured, but the middle left is far bigger in the USA than the extreme (not so in many other countries), and the middle left is solidly united.

            3. And fuck you Rather for fucking up the site and forcing the 900 character limit.

              1. Dude, whether or not it’s rather, this is what griefers thrive on. Acknowledging that its efforts resulted in making you miserable is like hanging out a big glass bulb of sugar water to a hummingbird.

        2. I still enjoy wakin’ up under the Big Tent.

          1. Not if Sandi has been there.

  5. In your guts you know he’s nuts.

    I wonder if any campaign could get away with that today.

    1. Sure! As long as it’s Team Red that’s being talked about. Esp Ron Paul, “Your Weird Uncle!!!”

      See what I mean?

    2. You bet, as long as there are no crosshairs in it.

  6. primaries, for all their shortcomings, were created to enhance democracy

    And yet now there’s only a nickel’s worth of difference between the two parties?

    I still think primaries only have value when the opponent is not an incumbent. That means they’re generally good for Congressional seats, although gerrymandering has undone all the good of primaries for those seats, and a generally useless for the presidential nomination.

    1. oops, wrote that wrong. They’re generally BAD for congressional seats, but whatever good they did have was undone by gerrymandering anyway.

      1. I think they are great for Congressional seats. Primaries got rid of first rate crap weasels like Bob Bennett and Mike Castle.

  7. by removing the selection of candidates from the smoke-filled room and presenting it to the voters

    I take issue with this line. There are no more smoke-filled rooms, due to the bipartisan actions of our nation’s health departments.

  8. “”There are two parties in Washington: the stupid party and the evil party. Every once in a while the stupid party and the evil party get together and do something that is both stupid and evil. In Washington, that is called bipartisanship.””

    – Samuel T Francis, late 80s, sharing an anecdote of an anonymous young congressional staffer explaining the American system of government to a Soviet visitor.

  9. “”There are two parties in Washington: the stupid party and the evil party. Every once in a while the stupid party and the evil party get together and do something that is both stupid and evil. In Washington, that is called bipartisanship.””

    – Samuel T Francis, late 80s, sharing an anecdote of an anonymous young congressional staffer explaining the American system of government to a Soviet visitor.

  10. …the building of congressional coalitions and the steady passage of new legislation are the supreme measures of improvement….

    Can’t we all just not get along?

  11. This article is yet another reason I believe this nation needs to elect more household pets to congress.

    1. The Dog Party vs. the Cat Party. Cats seem more individualistic, but also more war-like.

      1. Cats are more parasitic. Dogs at least will be your night watchman.

        Put me down for TEAM DOG.

        1. Cats will solve your rat and mouse problem. I love dogs. But don’t tell me for a moment they are not manipulative little parasites.

          1. Badgers will solve your dog & cat problem.

            1. Mongeese will solve your badger problem.

  12. You know what? I think we’d be better off if the Constitution were translated into a computer code through which all existing a proposed laws were processed by a massive supercomputer to detect contradictions and violations of constitutional principles. Once we replaced a few thousand burned out processors, we might have a truly effective lawmaking system. And by effective I mean effective at governing, not effective at enriching and empowering the politically well connected.

  13. “like a Bill Cosby dinner companion etherized upon a table”

    OK, this is not the McLean Stevenson reference I was looking for.

  14. conviviality, the building of congressional coalitions and the steady passage of new legislation are the supreme measures of improvement

    Aren’t they?

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