MODERATES ON PARADE.

The Senate moderates have come together -- in the pages of the Washington Post, natch -- to reassure the world of their support of President Obama's agenda. Sens. Evan Bayh, Tom Carper, and Blanche Lincoln are only forming a new moderate caucus in the Senate because:

1) The Republican leadership isn't doing a good job and they feel they can whip GOP votes. (Seriously, that's what they say.)

2) They have no idea what they're talking about. I've lamented in the past the fact that these senators rarely deign to explain why the make the choices they do, leading people to infer that it has more to do with their campaign contributions than their principles. Read this paragraph and you'll understand their whole gambit:

As moderate leaders, it is not our intent to water down the president's agenda. We intend to strengthen and sustain it. Moderation is not a mathematical process of finding the center for its own sake. Practical solutions are practical because they offer our best chance to make a difference in people's lives today without forcing our children to pick up the tab tomorrow.

This is truly beautiful nonsense. Being practical is good because ... being practical is good. Let me offer a few other riffs on this passage:

  • "Communist solutions are communist because they offer our best chance to make a difference..."
  • "Republican solutions are Republican because they offer our best chance to make a difference..."
  • "Fascist solutions are are Fascist because they offer our best chance to make a difference ..."

You get the idea.

3) They worry that the president's agenda is going to alienate moderates and cost him his his political support, just as it did Bill Clinton in 1993. Except, you know, that Obama won a lot more votes than Clinton -- moderate votes! -- and that he continues to have the approval of moderates, all while saying the same things. Meanwhile, Bayh has the political experience of winning statewide elections in Indiana -- Obama won Indiana -- and losing national presidential campaigns -- didn't Obama win one of those, too? Bayh continues to misunderstand the current political dynamic, or he's stuck in the past.

It's a good sign, at least, that Bayh et. al. have faced enough political pressure that they felt it necessary to come forward and reiterate their support for the president. To be sure, the work they've done in the Senate to persuade moderate Republicans to back the president's agenda has been important and necessary, even as their cheerful willingness to say nonsensical things and take stands against their constituents' interests has been a drag. But if there's a middle ground between helping build consensus for important legislation and completely ignoring consequences of the policies they support, these moderates can find it. After all, tea-weakening incrementalism is tea-weakening incrementalism because it offers our best chance to make a difference in people's lives today without forcing our children to pick up the tab tomorrow. Right?

--Tim Fernholz

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