Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Lefties Are Going to Have to Make Room for the Centrists

Bull Moose’s triumphalism over the Lieberman win is well worth the read. I’m with the Moose. It does my heart good to see the leftwing blogosphere embarrassed by Ned Lamont’s loss. All they succeeded in doing was making their hated foe Joe Lieberman more independent and potentially more powerful. Now that the Senate looks to be so closely divided, Lieberman will often cast decisive votes.

Good work leftwing. Well done. Nothing demonstrates political wisdom and sanity quite like focusing a great deal of your effort and money on taking down a member of your own party.

But, as annoying as was the Ned Lamont campaign, it probably helped the Democrats. The leftwing was so engaged in that race that they didn’t have the manpower or resources to go out and screw up the chances of other Democrats. Lamont was the pretty shiny object that distracted the lefties just enough to allow the more mature members of the Democratic party to stage an historic victory.

Am I too harsh? Too cruel to the Daily Kos’ of America? Maybe. But I won’t be letting up. The Republicans lost not just because of Iraq or a few scandals but because they abandoned much of the center. They thought they could win by just appealing to a narrow base. They were wrong and I don’t want the Democrats to make the same mistake.

The leftwing deserves a voice in the coalition. They just shouldn’t command total control. Those of us in the middle would be wise to make sure Democrats are hearing our voices too. After all, it was independents, not the liberal base, who swung this election for the Democrats.

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Blogger les said...

Ya know, whole you seem to have fun with it, I don't get your "bash the netroots" tune, esp. Kos. On Lieberman, people can disagree--my fear is he effectively gives the R's a 50-50 vote, Cheney deciding, on some issues that matter at least to me. We'll see. Nonetheless, in that race Kos supported a Democrat. As they did across the board; and they supported Dems in districts that were ignored or given up on by the Dem "establishment", who wound up winning. They supported all the Dem candidates--moderate, progressive, conservative. They prefer progressive--is that unacceptable now? They support strengthening Dem local parties across the country; ask us in KS how that's workin' out. I get the sense sometimes that the only acceptable position to Bull Moose is wherever Lieberman stands, and any one to the left is a raving lunatic. I'm not sure that's a recipe for victory, and it's sure no more inclusive than the Republicans.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


Well I'm actually not a major Lieberman fan. I respect the man, but he's not really my type and I've never gotten why other centrists think he's something special. I guess he's just really irked me over the years with his finger-wagging at rap music and video games and other non-issues.

Anyway, I made sure to include that I think the liberals/progressives (neither label is acurate in any historical sense) deserve a place and should have a voice in the coalition. I just disagree on them on a lot of issues and so do a lot of others in the middle (the kinds of swing voters Dems won with and will need to keep winning). The netroots may have helped elect some moderates this year, but they also tried to kill off centrists like Lieberman and Henry Cuellar. That makes me very suspicious about where they want to take the Democratic party and who they want to bring along for the ride. They don't seem very accomodating or repsectful--so I want to make sure more centrist Dems don't get run over in the same way centrist Republicans got run over by the rightwing.

2:50 PM  
Blogger les said...

I also think we need to keep centrists--not that I think Lieberman is one--but my point is that the "netroots," or Kos anyway, worked across the board for Dems, including Ford--no one's idea of progressive--and the Western cohort, who seem more of a blend of ideas. If they want to recruit or encourage more progressive (use whatever word you want; the whole scale is so out of whack it's hard to find words) candidates, but still support the D's who are running at the end, well, isn't that politics? I'm frankly more comfortable with them and Dean on my side, than with Lieberman and his sense of entitlement or Bull Moose and his disdain for anyone not in his perceived center. Now, if they turn into the Kansas Republicans and purge anyone not pure enough, different story; but the Dems have never managed party coherency, thank god.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


You know what. A clean slate may be needed. The Dems don't want to make the same mistakes as the Republicans did by giving too much control to one segment of their coalition. Us centrist Dems (well, I'm an Independent, but I sided with the Dems this election) should not give the left a chance to prove they're not as out-of-touch as we tend to think they are. And the left should show some more tolerance towards Dems who don't tow the party line. The left thought Lieberman was bad. Wait until they get a load of Webb.

The only way this is going to work is if all people allied with the Democrats can be civil towards the parties with whom they disagree. That doesn't mean differences shouldn't be voiced, that means neither group should demonize the other in a quest for dominance over the party.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

oops, I said "should not" when I meant "should." We should give the left a chance ... that's what I meant.

12:04 PM  
Blogger les said...

I think you're on it; and I think (hope?) that it's at least possible, maybe likely. Dems have never been monolithic, and seldom able to look coherent; a bag o' cats, if they can make enough alliances (including with repubs, hopefully) to get some basic stuff done, is a lot better to me than the lockstep ideologues we've had in charge lately. You're especially right re demonizing--if the Dems do nothing else, they will make progress just by arguing with each other without crying "doom to America" at every disagreement. I really think to run the gov, and represent the people, you have to have a broad range--the citizenry surely does. If Ned Lamont is the radical left, our spectrum is way to narrow already.

3:48 PM  
Blogger les said...

Alan, I'm probably pushin' it, but you're an interesting...correspondent(?), and I am curious about your thoughts. While I wouldn't say I totally agree, here's an alternative to BullMoose that I think has some validity:

What of Lieberman? The Wittmanites, predictably, are trying to spin Lieberman's victory as a sign that the mainstream prevailed over the extremes. But this isn't what happened at all. A key reason Lieberman won was because he successfully confused the electorate about his actual foreign positions, which are well to the right of majority opinion, while successfully mischaracterizing Lamont's as extreme, when it fact Lamont's were the ones genuinely in tune with those of the majority. And even if Lieberman did win in the end, let's remember that Lieberman predicted a Lamont primary win would mean doom for the Dems. Exactly the opposite happened -- it galvanized Dem candidates across the country and inspired the GOP to tie itself even more tightly to its "stay the course versus cut and run" strategy.


That's by way of your statement, above, re liberals and definitions. My political birth was in the late 60's, and I struggle to see someone like Lamont or Pelosi as much of any kind of extreme, much less the scary radicals that many--including you if I read right--seem to regard them as. DKos, the reviled, backed a range of candidates; if there's a unifying thread, it seems like it's "don't try to out-corporate the Repubs, that's a mug's game, go grass roots and craft policies for individuals," not some kind of wild communalism or whatever it is that frightens the right and, apparently, the center. Lamont's a millionaire businessman, Pelosi the wife of one, from regions that are economic successes; radical? How? Pelosi's initial proposals seem middle of the road, and reflect both concerns and actions that are winning in red and blue states. Why are they so scary?

4:54 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Les, I appreciate the conversation. Most people who disagree with me just call me an idiot and pretend I have no valid points. You are actually interested in my thoughts and that's such a good thing (and rare thing these days).

So, here we go: I don't think DKos or Pelosi or any of those types are radicals. Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky and that crowd are radical -- but the lefty Dems are just lefty Dems.

And, really, the problem isn't domestic policy preferences. There's nothing radical about wanting higher taxes on the rich -- or even advocating a national health system. In fact, other than on some trade and taxation issues, I generally prefer Democratic domestic policy.

The problem is social policy and foreign policy. Now, I'm a liberl on social matters (I'm for gay marriage and such) so lefty Dems don't scare me. But they do scare more socially conservative types becaue they feel threatened. But a lot of the lefty Dems don't take those feelings seriously. They mock the social conservatives and look down on them. And they try to force change through the courts while ignoring the need to engage their fellow man and respect his/her opinions. True, it's hard to respect the opinions of a biggot, but most of these people are not biggoted in the traditional sense. They might not agree with the lefty Dems but they don't deserve to be demonized for it (and, no, the lefty Dems don't deserve to be demonized by the social conservatives either ... but you know what they say about two wrongs).

But it's not social views that upset the Centrists. It's foreign policy. A lot of us in the middle get the sense that the lefty Dems do not take the terrorist threat seriously. That they think it's more-or-less a trick pulled by Bush in order to take our rights away and cement his power. Bush's opportunism aside, there really is a very real threat and it's not enough to just say we need more security at home. We have to find ways to engage our enemies, to forcibly confront them. I'm not saying Iraq was the right path (I don't think it was) but we can't pretend that if we just act nicer the terrorists will leave us alone. Appeasement is just not a longterm solution. Nor can we pretend, as some left Dems do, that murderous terrorists and thugs are "freedom fighters" or that their actions are justified by their greivences against us.

So, when we hear people like Michael Moore say there is no terrorist threat (too lazy to find the link but I can get it if you're not familiar with the quote), we worry. And when commentors on DKos make statements about not being sad that American contractors were brutally slain, we worry. We worry that the lefty Dems just don't get it. That in their raging anger at Bush they've neglected to notice or chosen to ignore the real barbarians at the gates.

Most centrists aren't asking the lefty Dems to become neocons or anything. We just want more clear acknowledgement that while Bush is not a good president, he and America are not the core problem. We want acknowledgment that, yes, the terrorist threat is very real and, yes, we have to find ways to get to them before they get to us. We want to see that the lefty Dems believe in the same reality that we do.

Anyway, that's the conflict. Maybe the lefty Dems are too often linked to the true radicals who really do blame America -- but, if that's the case, the lefty Dems need to do more to repudiate those to their left. Because, honestly, it's sometimes hard to tell the two apart and I sometimes think there is a very real collusion of convenience between the groups. A brotherhood of Bush-bashing, if you will.

As for Lieberman, he won because despite what the lefty dems think, he's not all that conservative. No man with a 100% NARAL approval is all that far away from being a true Democrat. He got 1/3 of his votes from Repubs. 1/3 from Independents and 1/3 from Democrats. He represents a fairly middle-of-the-road group. Lamont, fairly or unfairly, appeared to only represent the angry left -- not those who are concerned about Iraq, mind you, but those who are seething mad about it. That's a smaller group of people. I don't think anyone was deceived by Lieberman (the people of Connecticut know him well). I think he just flat-out appealed to more voters.

5:41 PM  
Blogger les said...

I think you're fairly right about Lieberman's positions; my main beef (and I'm not there, so who cares) is an impression that he too often stood up for bad policies and Bush positions on a "bipartisan" claim that comes across to me as more like "Liebermanism." I just don't think he's a stellar example of centrist, but more to the point I think characterizing Lamont as a fringe loony is...odd, at best (not that I'm saying you did, but it's out there.) I also think you're right about some anger--I don't know about Lamont, but I'm flat out furious. I believe that Bush has made a mockery of process, fairness, the Constitution for no greater good than party power and greed. I think--and I don't think this is very fringey, any more--that Iraq is not only not the war on terror, but that it has measurably worsened our position v. terrorists, both in aiding terrorist politics and recruiting, and diverting vast resources from the real fight. I don't hear any mainstream Dems--by which I include any national elected Dem, any candidate for a national office, DKos--calling for getting out of Afghanistan, or letting Al Qaeda roam free, or "coddling" terrorists (unless that means observing the laws that bind this nation). I want my country back--the moral leader, the consensus builder, the practicer and promoter of human rights and my constitutional rights--and I'm damned pissed about it. I think, broadly, you and I agree more than not--although, while I certainly don't think America is the core problem, I do think that Bush and his policies are pretty damn near the core. We may disagree more on tactics--I absolutely think that the last way to fight the war on terror (a horrible meme--it's not a war in any traditional sense, any more than the war on drugs, and framing it that way f's up the discussion from the get go) is with 100K+ armies in the field. It's a fight of intelligence, coalition building, police work. We do have to worry more about ports and infrastructure--we can't build a fence big enough to keep every threat out. Understanding why a whacko wants to blow us up is important--it doesn't justify their actions, and I don't know any Dem with any significant audience that thinks it does, but it helps us figure out who they are, how to stop them, how to cut them off before they get there. Of course it's not America's sole fault; but to think that our actions in the world doesn't have a role in the reality on the ground is equally wrong, and it doesn't hurt to look at what we might change--other than allowing an imperial presidency and giving up our individual rights--to help fix things. For every blame America Firster--and I don't deny they are out there--there's an Ann Coulter advocating killing every Muslim who won't convert to christianity, or Malkin arguing for internment, or Limbaugh ... or take your pick--and frankly, those folks seem to have bigger platforms and more acceptance than the crazies on the left.

Ah--better head home, or I'll be in hot water. Thanks for the discussion, and I'll be back.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I hope you do come back. Very few people of your political persuasion on the blogs seem to have your temperment. Usually they just call me names and accuse me of having pieces of my anatomy inserted into parts of Bush (or sometimes Cheney). That, of course, just pisses me off and makes me shy even further away from the left.

Anyway, it is very much the blame-America-first crowd that upsets me and so many others. And I think a lot of us see that crowd as being awfully cozy with certain segments of the lefty Dems. Certainly you don't hear too many Dems condemning Michael Moore for his more outrageous statements. Of course, few Republicans seem to condemn Ann Coulter either -- but again we get to the whole two wrongs thing (see why I'm not a member of either party at this moment?).

Also, it's the conspiracy theories that upset me. Like when the Brits foiled the plot to blow up planes, there was a post on Daily Kos about how the event was probably orchestrated to take attention away from Lamont's win over Lieberman. And all the "they stole the election" rhetoric in 2004, which is based on very little emperical evidence. I just have trouble trusting a group that sees the world in such ways.

But it's obviously only one part of the lefty Dems who do act and speak in such ways. They just drown out the rest in the same way the doomsday Christian Conservatives drown out so many good and honest social conservatives. But I guess since I've never been on the right, I don't expect as much. I was a liberal for many years, so it bothers me more when "my side" acts crazy.

As for Iraq, that was a bad idea and it was poorly executed. It has undoubtedly made the world less safe--although that is a matter of degrees as the world was hardly "safe" with Saddam in power. In foreign policy, sometimes it's a choice between two bad options. I think overthrowing Saddam was going to have to happen someday, I just think we did it at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

I also don't think we gain much by withdrawing. I'm all for a brand new plan, I just think, if we leave, the chaos in Iraq will not stay in Iraq. It might not have been a central front in the War on Terror when we went in, but it sure as heck is now. I know a lot of people say the international community can intervene, but forgive me if I'm dubious about the helpfulness of an internaional community that has let Darfur go on for years now. It's pretty much us or no one in Iraq. And while the pressence of our troops does inspire some of the violence, a lot of it would continue even if there were no Americans there. There's a good chance that at least part of Iraq would be controlled by jihadists where they could launch attacks against us or our allies. And then what?

We have to stay. Not a great choice but it gives us the best chance for a possitive, or even nuetral, outcome.

I don't know how this war on terror should be fought. Obviously through intelligence work and police actions and the like--but there seems like there should be something more. I don't want to just put up an umbrella when what we need to do is stop the rain. Democratizing Iraq was an atempt to stop the rain. Unfortunately, it was a poorly conceived plan. But it at least acknowledged that something more comprehensive needed to be tried. Radical Islam is not just a minor threat that will go away over time. It's too viral, too powerful. We have to confront it with something stronger than what the Dems have proposed and yet something a lot smarter than what the Repubs have tried.

For the record, I'm against warantless wiretapping. I mean, I'm all for the tapping, I just want the warrent. I think it's troublesome not to have lines. Thought I'd put that out there so you get a sense that I'm not advocating the Republican methods.

I suppose I should have some sort of solution. But I don't I guess that's what I expect from my leaders. One group understands the problem but over reaches on the solutions. The other group doesn't seem to understand the problem.

Anyway, I hope that gives you some more insight into how I see things.

9:44 PM  
Blogger les said...

Damn; I managed to lose a long, more or less coherent response this morning. I don't know if I can redo, but I'll try again later.

9:53 AM  

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