Monday, October 30, 2006

Dems Run Right, But Will They Govern Left?

Big government has been the mantra of the Democratic Party for several generations,
but the current election cycle is finding a lot of centrist-conservatives amongthe Democrat List of candidates. [h/t: WSJ] James Taranto cites the link in noting that the nutroots have not pulled the Dems leftward, but had a polarizing effect of moving many to the center:
It has been less than three months since Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senate primary. The New York Times editorial page hailed an "uprising" by "irate moderates," which, translated into normal political nomenclature, means a victory for the crazy left. It seemed that the Democratic Party was moving left just at a time when the party's fortunes were about to take a turn for the better.

We'll know in eight days whether the party's fortunes have improved, but already there is reason to question whether the move to the left is as pronounced as we thought on Aug. 8. Not only does Lieberman, now an independent, seem a shoo-in against Lamont, but the Times (the news side, that is, not the crazy editorial page) reports that "in their push to win back control of the House, Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party":

One such candidate, Heath Shuler, was courted by Republicans to run for office in 2001. Mr. Shuler, 34, is a retired National Football League quarterback who is running in the 11th Congressional District in North Carolina. He is an evangelical Christian and holds fast to many conservative social views, like opposition to abortion rights. . . .

While Democratic leaders have gone to great lengths to promote the views of these candidates, some, like Mr. Shuler, have views on issues like gun control and abortion that are far out of step with the prevailing views of the Democrats who control the party. On some issues, they may even be expected to side with Republicans and the Bush White House.

Democratic officials said they did not set out with the intention of finding moderates to run. Instead, as they searched for candidates with the greatest possibility of winning against Republicans, they said, they wound up with a number who reflected more moderate views.

This would pose an interesting difficulty for a Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which Dick Armey, an erstwhile GOP majority leader, sums up in a Washington Post op-ed:

In essence, Pelosi will be forced to choose between a vocal base--expecting immediate satisfaction on issues such as withdrawing from Iraq, legalizing same-sex marriage and the impeachment of President Bush--or policies that are tolerable to a majority of Americans. That's quite a dilemma: appeasing a base that has been hungry for political revenge since 2000 and 2004, or alienating moderate and swing voters.

Pelosi has stated that House committee chairmen will be chosen by seniority. This could backfire on the Democrats, because members from the most consistently partisan districts are usually the ones who stick around the longest. Chairmen have the power of the subpoena; Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the would-be judiciary chairman, has already drafted articles of impeachment for Bush, while others are calling for investigations on the war in Iraq and the federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina. A revenge-hungry Democratic majority, substituting political grudge matches for serious policy, will not remain a majority for long.

Perhaps Pelosi has the skills to negotiate this; as the Los Angeles Times notes, she does manage to get re-elected in San Francisco, a district much too liberal even for her:

Even as Republicans across the country vilify Pelosi as the face of the lunatic left, here she faces the enmity of the fire-breathing liberals she supposedly represents. Only in San Francisco would Pelosi be picketed as a right-wing warmonger, as she was at a January town hall meeting overrun by protesters who jeered her refusal to cut off funds for U.S. troops in Iraq.

But it's hard to see how to keep together a slender majority that would include both Heath Shuler and John Conyers. They have no policy agenda like the Contract With America, and while Democrats are united now in their opposition to President Bush, he won't be much of a factor two years hence when the Democrats will have to defend their putative majority. Even if the Democrats win next week, they will face some enormous challenges.

If the Dems unseat the relatively-sane Steny Hoyer and put Murtha in as Dem Whip, then the Repubs can rest assured that they will make a comeback in '08.

No comments :