Advertisement

Opinion

Opinion

November election may widen America’s political divide

October 14, 2010

Advertisement

— Dipping back into conversation in the capital on a brief break from the campaign trail, I heard members of Congress, lobbyists and political operatives stewing about one topic above all others: What happens if this election blows up the center of American politics?

On both sides, they seem to accept the inevitability of significant Democratic losses, although one former party chairman, enjoying a holiday on the Nile, told me by phone that he thinks the Democrats might still retain their majority in the House and Senate.

But he was no less worried about the prospects for President Obama’s government than any of the others I interviewed. The common fear is that the swing to the right that everyone expects on Nov. 2 will include such wild gyrations and produce such untried novices that the partisan warfare of the past two years will seem mild by comparison.

Bill Galston, the Brookings Institution’s resident political philosopher, was the first of the day to point out that, statistically speaking, the center had already disappeared. He was referring to the congressional voting studies, which I have previously cited, showing that, apparently for the first time, there is no overlap between the most liberal Republican in the House and the most conservative Democrat when it comes to roll-call votes.

Historically, there have always been a few Republicans who voted often with the Democrats and a few more Democrats who lined up regularly with the Republicans. But now the ideological lines are more sharply drawn and the distance between the parties is greater.

What I found here on my return from a reporting trip to the Midwest was a widespread expectation that the gulf will be expanded by the election results. Obviously, we don’t know who will emerge as winners. But there has been so much focus on some of the Republican primaries, where solid conservatives have been upset by men and women even further to the right, that the stereotype of a Party of Sarah Palins is understandable.

The notion may be misguided. Surely some of the challengers whose credentials look most questionable will be stopped short of victory. And others whose opening comments seemed inflammatory may be doused with practicality along the way.

Nonetheless, what has dawned on official Washington is that one of our great political parties — Republican — has undergone much more than the normal between-elections transition. And the other — Democrat — is having a helluva struggle adjusting to the change.

The Democrats oscillate between depicting their Republican opponents as know-nothing radicals, with barely a fragmentary libertarian view of government, or as pawns of a sophisticated Wall Street financial combine. They are happiest when the opponent permits them to dress him in Nazi garb.

The Republican leaders have to take the question of who these people are much more seriously, because these freshmen will soon be sitting in and calling signals for their caucuses. The fact that so many of them are being financed in their races by new non-party, interest-group political operations makes the options for wild political swings even greater.

I don’t foresee a challenge to Mitch McConnell or John Boehner for the GOP leadership in the Senate or House when the new classes gather in Washington. But I see a clear test ahead for those leaders.

This is not ultimately a radical nation, and those Republicans who are in love with radical notions of remaking the society to fit their own philosophy will have to be brought back in touch with reality.

When a party fails to do that, it can find the seeds of its own destruction in the victory banquet. Republicans, and the country, deserve better.

— David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. davidbroder@washpost.com

Comments

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

More sour grapes from Broder, who hates the thought of no longer hobnobbing with RINOS and shudders at the prospect of people who are capable, intelligent, successful Americans running Congress instead of slick career politicians in both parties who could never have made it outside the world of politics.

JustNoticed 4 years, 2 months ago

capable, intelligent, successful Americans slick career politicians That's a false dichotomy, old one.

grammaddy 4 years, 2 months ago

Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

Grammaddy, I very much agree. However, no matter how the election turns out it seems quite clear that a significant number of incumbents in both parties will be looking for new jobs in January (in the case of the Republicans, a number of them already are), which was my point.

beatrice 4 years, 2 months ago

"They are happiest when the opponent permits them to dress him in Nazi garb."

Okay, that was funny. Politics brings out some strange individuals.

Orwell 4 years, 2 months ago

Typical rationalization. When your wingnut darling displays her utter incompetence, blame "bias." It's the ultimate fallback excuse, good in any situation.

Orwell 4 years, 2 months ago

Really? You're going with the Pee-wee Herman Comeback? "I know you are, but what am I?" How feeble.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

I would suggest that "wait and see" is probably the most sensible approach to any election.

somedude20 4 years, 2 months ago

You only like her because she is a younger version of Palin. Do not vote with your little head! O'Donnell may no longer be a witch but you still seem to be a fool.

Rex Russell 4 years, 2 months ago

Wow Tom. Speaking of foaming at the mouth.....

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"November election may widen America’s political divide"

One can only hope. Lately I have felt a string need to get as far away as possible from the respected members of the opposing party.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

And you think that's a good thing for the country as a whole?

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Luckily, here in Kansas, aggie, the respected members of the other party are so few and far between that they're no more than a minor annoyance. (Like mosquitoes, an apt analogy on several levels.) One of the reasons I'm here in the first place, to be far away from anywhere that Democrats have any real power.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

You would describe yourself as non-partisan on what basis, then?

Fangorn 4 years, 2 months ago

"This is not ultimately a radical nation, and those Republicans who are in love with radical notions of remaking the society to fit their own philosophy will have to be brought back in touch with reality.

When a party fails to do that, it can find the seeds of its own destruction in the victory banquet. "

Is it even possible that Mr. Broder is that dense? Which party has been in power the last four years with "radical notions of remaking the society to fit their own philosophy"? I assert that the coming election is the "be[ing] brought back to reality" that the Democrats so desperately need, and that it was the fawning, messianic overtones of the media's coverage of Barry's inaugeration (coronation?) that were the real harbingers of his downfall.

itwasthedukes 4 years, 2 months ago

Make no mistake the right is simply trying to pull things back to the center and sometimes you have to start with a stronger position to get to the middle. In the past the right has started in a compromised position which inherently moves things slowly left.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Liberals see the situation as exactly the reverse.

That they are trying to pull things back to the center, and they are the ones who have started in a compromised position, etc.

I wonder who's right about it, honestly.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm glad they see it that way. Funny how it's always the other guy who won't compromise.

cayenne1992 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure either party is trying to pull politics toward the center, at least I wouldn't give one party more credit over the other in doing so. I think the result of both parties pulling in opposite directions results with politics being close to center, with slight bias toward the controlling party.

Perhaps you mean the center has shifted toward the left (from what you view as the center), and you'd like to pull it back toward the right.

In any case, both parties are pulling harder than ever, which is why there's a large divide.

Stating that "the right is simply trying to pull things back to the center" could also apply to the left. Because I'd be willing to bet, you view the location of the center much differently than someone on the left.

camper 4 years, 2 months ago

"Funny how it's the other guy who won't compromise". I believe the democrats have compromized too much. Because of this we got a watered down health care reform that might prove to be far too complex to do much good, and make our health care coverage even more confusing. We also got a watered down stimulus. Other countries in Eurpoe and Asia are recovering from the Recession much quicker because they went full throttle. It might have been better to have little or no stimulus if we were not commited to it.

And as I recall, the Democrats did compromise under Bush. Especially when it came to use of force in Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to national security. There were a few voices who opposed like Phil Donahue, Gary Hart, and Barbara Reed, but they were shouted down. Donahue was even cancelled by the "liberal biased" MSNBC for warning against the invasion of Iraq.

Of course a lot of us were duped, back in the early 2000's, but it is a disgrace to go back and watch some news clips of these news commentators. If they were so wrong back then, why should we believe them now. Especially on economic matters.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"I believe the democrats have compromized too much."

How many Democrats voted against the health "reform" bill you referred to, even among those who publicly stated objections?

"And as I recall, the Democrats did compromise under Bush."

Like on S-CHIP, for instance, when Bush offered an increase (not a huge one, to be sure, but he offered something), and Pelosi said she was going to keep sending the same bill back over and over until he signed it. Yep, now that's compromise, alright.

camper 4 years, 2 months ago

How many Democrats voted against the health "reform" bill you referred to, even among those who publicly stated objections?

A quick google check say's 34 democrats voted nay. And then you led me to another point. Remember the "Blue Dog Democrats"? They are a more bi-partisan wing of the Democratic party who say they support fiscal conservatisim.

You only bolster my point, that is, the Democrats are trying to compromise....far too much in my opinion.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Sorry, my bad, I should have specified the Senate - where it mattered.

We all know that a certain number of Democrats in the House - where they could spare the votes - were given permission to vote the way their constituents actually wanted them to so they could keep their jobs.

Or doesn't it strike you as just the slightest bit odd that a good number of Democrats in the House voted no, but for some reason none of the Senators had a problem with it?

camper 4 years, 2 months ago

Tom, I disagree with you and Nota too. But politics aside, you guys are good. Who knows, I could be wrong much more than I think. I am proven way wrong from some of my viewpoints in the early 2000's.

It's all good. Politics and religion not so good sometimes.

The weather is great today though. That can't be argued!

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Perfect weekend coming up for the Maple Leaf Festival!

camper 4 years, 2 months ago

Public option.

I can now see you cringe most likely.

I just think it would have been far less complex. Private insurance is kept intact. If you are not on employer provided insurance, you can join a "public" pool with a large number of people wherby you can buy insurance.

camper 4 years, 2 months ago

It would have increased the aggregate pool of those paying into the system (private + publicly insured).

As it stands, the burden of health care is being shifted to employers and employees via higher premiums and deductibles. A public pool would have lessened this pressure.

If would have meant that you could buy health insurance closer to the cost of a car loan opposed to a mortgage.....which it is now becoming.

scott3460 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, beyond the fact that I have no option and must buy my employer's choice of health insurance, then, yes, it is just the same.

camper 4 years, 2 months ago

"People who can't afford it are still going to be subsidized by people who can, either way"

Not necessarily Liberty. Right now Medicare and Medicaid is picking up much of the tab for the uninsured (just like hospitals are spreading overhead costs to those who have insurance and can pay their bills). If there was a public option, more uninsured people would actually be able to afford insurance and therfore contribute to the pool. Yes, total medical costs are the same, and yes they are spread around, but the idea is that they are spread around to others who are not currently contributing.

camper 4 years, 2 months ago

This is more fair for everyone. A public option would have made it possible for many people to afford insurance and this would have put downward pressure on insurance costs for those who currently are covered.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"If would have meant that you could buy health insurance closer to the cost of a car loan opposed to a mortgage.....which it is now becoming."

As Liberty said, the costs haven't lessened. We can't afford to pay out a couple of trillion dollars per year in health care costs. Period. It doesn't matter if it's out-of-pocket, in taxes, or through insurance premiums, we simply can't afford it.

It's not how we pay for it - it costs too much. And the "reform" package did nothing - absolutely nothing - to address that.

scott3460 4 years, 2 months ago

If you are correct, nota, and the Democrats have failed to delivery reform of runaway healthcare inflation and the republicans refuse to do so, what are middle class Americans to do?

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Maybe if every American, middle class, poor, wealthy, everyone, did their part to control health care costs, it wouldn't matter how we paid for it.

statesman 4 years, 2 months ago

As far as I'm concerned, Kansans, being the faithful Republicans they are, are getting exactly what they deserve -- good 'ol boys hellbent on destroying the environment, the middle class, and equal rights. Turning this state and country into a Christian theocracy. And people wonder why I have developed an intense hatred of this country's government.

George Lippencott 4 years, 2 months ago

Well it seems to me that the Dems are doing a good job of destroying the middle and advancing the very rich who contribute to them as much as they do to the Repubs. In fact it seems to be another choiceless election (other than to stop the Dems from going further)

Fangorn 4 years, 2 months ago

I have to say I am amused anytime I see anyone quake with fear about the coming theocracy in America. If that were a real concern, we certainly wouldn't see bumper stickers of "Darwin Loves You" or "Jesus Loves You, Everyone Else Thinks You're an A-hole" or even the Darwin-fish emblems, mocking a very ancient Christian symbol. If the concern was anything more than bad acting, no one would display these because they would fear for their vehicles' safety or even their own personal safety. So go ahead, weep and wail about the impending theocracy. We already know it's not real emotion, but we do enjoy the show.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.