With such an interesting debate the other day on politics, I decided to break my own rules and dip my toe into the political discussion. Normally I would just reply via comments, but I have a lot to say on the subject and it won’t fit in the word limit. This article is meant for Democrats and undecideds, so if you’re solidly Republican or uninterested in American politics, you should skip this one. This about what the Democrats should do for their own party.
I grew up in a heavily Republican household. My family, especially my grandfather, loved Reagan and Giuliani (the 20th century version), and I followed along with them. It made sense to me at the time, as I remembered the 70s as blackouts and crime and graffiti and the old 42nd street. In NYC, the 80s and 90s were improvements over what I remembered from my youth.
I don’t want to go too deep into my conversion to the Democratic party. I just want to establish that I was a Republican for a good portion of my life, and I remember first hand what being a Republican in the 70s, 80s, and 90s was like. That said, today’s Republican party resembles nothing of the party I grew up with. I could find a host of policy stances that many in the party follow that would have been career killers in the 80s and 90s. The GOP has gone far right on a number of issues. Guns. War. Immigration. Abortion. Healthcare. Racism. To name a few.
I’m not going to go into each of these or bother to support these positions. Again this article is intended for Democrats and Centrists, so if you believe in a D’Souzan history of the world, this isn’t meant for you.
Which brings me to point #1: by chasing the Center the Democrats are just pulling themselves more to the Right. Put it this way: what’s the centrist position between “every citizen should be allowed all types of guns” and “guns should be treated like cars with licenses, registration, criminal checks, and limitations?” What’s the centrist position between “Mexicans are sending rapists and murderers” and “citizenship for Dreamers?” What’s the centrist position between “LGBT people shouldn’t be allowed to marry, join the military, adopt children, have wedding cakes, etc.” and “LGBT people should be treated like other people?”
It’s difficult to find a center when the GOP stands on the far right. Just look at abortion. The GOP has done everything they can to make abortion as difficult as possible. Seven states have just one abortion clinic, due to laws that require a bunch of difficult hurdles for abortions to occur. Eighteen states have laws that require counseling prior to the abortion. Twenty-seven states require a waiting period, often where the woman will receive counseling. Three states want to ban abortion after only eight weeks. Where is the middle ground here?
For the Democrats, trying to find a middle ground means abandoning their core principles.
The reason you can’t find a middle ideology is that (point #2) the GOP stances are just based on cementing voter blocks, not any tangible ideology. One of the reasons I left the party is the hypocrisy in their views. Take the above example of abortion. If conservatives really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, they’d be in favor of sex ed in schools, more access to birth control, affordable daycare, etc. Yet they actually are opposed to these kinds of changes, despite the evidence that they would decrease the abortion rate. Why? Because their goal with abortion laws isn’t meant to reduce abortions per se, it’s to fire up their base to vote for them.
You can make a similar argument with the debt. Historically Republicans have given lip service to and fought for a lower debt. Yet it seems that the GOP has done the former. I’m sure you’ve seen one of those graphs/charts/memes that show how the deficit is reduced by Democratic presidents and increased by Republican presidents. The debt/deficit only seems to matter when Democrats are in control, and they want to pass laws.
Yet when the GOP gains control of the executive, no such consideration is taken. Remember Dick Cheney said “Deficits don’t matter?” Notice how tax cuts by Trump/GOP have raised the deficit, with nary a peep. Did you see when Rand Paul didn’t want to give 9/11 responders money because of the debt? How do you make sense of the fact that the Republicans only seem to care about debt depending on who is spending the money? Simple. The GOP doesn’t actually care about the debt, they just use it as a political tool when it benefits them, and ignore it when it doesn’t.
You can find this kind of hypocritical thinking on a number of issues of the GOP platform. Republicans claim to care about voter fraud, and then they create laws and circumstances to suppress the votes of minorities and the youth. They want the freedom of religious expression when it comes to school prayer (as long as the prayer is Christian), but not when that Mosque is too close to the World Trade Center. Proper email protocol only applies to Hillary Clinton, not Ivanka and Jared.
How does the GOP get away with such contradictory positions? Conservative news, which is a dominant force in modern day politics and now ubiquitous to the masses. Once upon a time there was just Rush Limbaugh on your am radio and Fox News on cable. Now far right pundits are visible on a number of cable channels (OANN, Blaze, etc.), forced on local news stations via Sinclair, and available on various web sites, etc. Conservative news will reinforce the above paradoxes, providing cover for politicians. Considering Trumps’ obsession with Fox News and his relationship with Hannity, it’s uncertain whether the tail is wagging the dog these days.
What does this mean for non-conservatives? Point #3: Conservative news will always bash the Democrats, no matter what they do. I’m sure you have seen one of those videos showing Fox News deriding Democrats and then later praising Republicans for the exact same action. People clamoring for a middle-of-the-road candidate thinks that a centrist will do things that appeal to both parties. They dream of a day they can have a Thanksgiving day dinner where they can agree with their uncle/aunt/grandparents on politics and it’ll be a wonderful day.
But guess what conservative news will say of the actions of a centrist president with a (D) after their name? You don’t have to guess, just look at what they did during Obama’s presidency when he took positions in the center. Did they care when Obama got tough on immigration, deporting over a million illegal immigrants? Did they give him credit for boosting money to border protection? Did they say something good about him when he lowered the deficit? Or lowered unemployment? Or saved the auto-industry?
The GOP has long used a boogeyman approach to politics. It was Willie Horton. Then it was Al Qaeda. Now it’s Mexicans, and Homosexuals, and Atheists, and the Press and … Somewhere in-between Liberals were added. Liberals, and by extension Democrats, are the enemy. And such an enemy in that everything Liberals believe in is wrong. This ties in with point #2, because the GOP ideology is pretty much librul-tears, which is why some of their stances are in direct contradiction with each other. They don’t need to be consistent with their own reasoning, because the true purpose is to vilify the other party.
As long as the conservative media has a stronghold in this country, it’s best stick to football during Thanksgiving (don’t talk about taking a knee tho!)
I don’t think that moving towards the center is a good political strategy in general. Why? Point #4: moving to the edge of the party has worked well for the GOP, why would the Dems ignore it? No one is telling the Republican party they need to be more centrist. That their ideas on climate change, guns, abortion, etc. are far out of whack with the rest of the world. Their party lost big in 2018, and actually lost the popular vote in the last 3 presidential elections. Yet Fox News isn’t interviewing minority women in big cities on what the GOP needs to do to get their vote. (I’m staring at you New York Times and CNN.)
It’s cute that the never-Trumpers want to recreate the Democratic party in their own image. Sorry Joe Scarborough, James Comey, Bill Kristol, Chris Wallace, et. al., you’re going to have to sit this one out. After years of pulling the Republican party to the right, they want to leave it and pull the Democratic party there too? And let me remind them, if they were fine going along with the GOP until 2016, then they got what they’ve asked for. Trump isn’t the cause of the problem, he’s the result of years of choices by the Republican party. Trump is where the party was headed, eventually.
Of the two parties, one has moved far from the center. But no one asks Republicans if their party needs to appeal to the middle.
Finally, and this doesn’t get covered enough, but point #5: The Democrats actually have popular ideas. Even from the very beginning, when stripped of the label of “Obamacare” people approved of it’s ideals. Now it’s straight up popular. Most Americans, including NRA owners, want common-sense solutions to our gun problem. Most Americans also approve of a $15 minimum wage, taxing the rich more, spending on infrastructure, expanding healthcare, citizenship for DACA recipients, etc. The reason Dems don’t do well in elections is because they don’t get these points across as well as the Republican party.
In the last Democratic debates, the candidates spent 30-60 minutes discussing the finer points of Healthcare. They are expected to discuss their plans in minutiae, and account for every single possibility that could arise. “Sure it’ll give affordable healthcare to everyone, reduce rates across the board, promote preventative care, be cheaper overall than what people are currently paying, and stop the domino effect of bankruptcy due to healthcare bills. But what about that one Union guy in Michigan with a good plan already? Won’t he be slightly inconvenienced?”
The GOP line on healthcare? We’ll repeal Obamacare & replace it with something better and cheaper. What is this mysterious plan? No one knows. The Republicans didn’t introduce a plan when they held the Executive, the House, and the Senate. No one has come close with a plan or even a framework that fits the GOP’s rhetoric. It’s been 10 years, and the GOP doesn’t get raked over the coals on it.
That double standard is a failure of messaging by the Democrats. They shouldn’t be scared of their positions, especially when they are popular! Maybe they should take a page from the Republican playbook and say that single payer healthcare “will pay for itself”, taxing the rich will cause a “trickle-down effect” on the economy, and “Mexico will pay” for the increase in minimum wage!
All-in-all I don’t see centrism working for the Democrats. Partially because I don’t believe a central position actually exists, partially because I don’t believe moving to the center accomplishes anything other than allowing the Republicans to move the goal-posts and get everything they want, and partially because they should excite their own base. Hillary lost the last national election by a hair, and having a less beleaguered candidate should alone be the difference. In 2018, the Democrats electrified their left flank and had a huge victory, with many liberal candidates doing exceptionally well. Polling and recent elections show the Democrats doing very well, so tracking back to the middle doesn’t seem to be a good idea.
Things may look bleak for the Democrats, but they don’t need to abandon the direction they’re heading in. It’s not like they’re the New York Giants. ;-)