The Hard Truth

E.J. Dionne, whose columns I look forward to every week, has a new op-ed in today's Washington Post. As strong liberals, he has a message and a warning that we all need to hear:

President Bush's six-year effort to create an enduring Republican majority based on a right-leaning coalition is on the verge of collapse. The way he tried to create it could have the unintended consequence of opening the way for an alternative majority.

This incipient Democratic alliance, while tilting slightly leftward, would plant its foundations firmly in the middle of the road, because its success depends on overwhelming support from moderate voters. That's why a Democratic victory in November -- defined as taking one or both houses of Congress -- would have effects far beyond a single election year.


The strategy pursued by Bush and Karl Rove has frightened most of the political center into the arms of Democrats. Bush and Rove sought victory by building large turnouts among conservatives and cajoling just enough moderates the Republicans' way. But this approach created what may prove to be a fatal political disconnect: Adventurous policies designed to create enthusiasm on the right turned off a large number of less ideological voters.
As much as we hate to admit it, the majority of America resides somewhere between slightly left and slightly right on the political spectrum. When we have our majority (if we have our majority) we must be careful to bring moderates into our coalition. It might make progress slower but the current Conservative melt-down has taught us that governing with only the fringes may work for a while, but in the end you will alienate too large a portion of the electorate. 'Exciting the base' doesn't work forever.

I'm not suggesting that we abandon our ideals or water down our goals. We must remember to bring the middle with us, not ignore them as we govern. This is not a question of our policy or our ideology, it's a question of our attitude. The Republican Party's attitude towards moderates in the Bush Era was contempt. They drove them out of their party, demanded lock step agreement with the administration and punished dissent. If we treat moderates in the same way, we will find ourselves in the exact same position that the Republicans are now.

Well, we probably wouldn't start any unnecessary wars, so we'll call it a very similar position...

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