Monday, March 30, 2009

Lonely At The Center

Jonathan Chait argues that moderate Democrats' special interest entanglements and the dysfunction of Congress, especially the Senate, may doom President Obama's legislative agenda, as with President Carter and Clinton. He wishes congressional Democrats would line up in lock step behind Obama as Republicans did behind George W. Bush, because, after all,
Obama's budget...represents a once-in-a-generation chance for the Democratic Party to reshape the priorities of the federal government--to reduce America's unsustainable carbon emissions and reform its bloated, cruel health care system. Democrats have utterly failed to rise to the occasion.
When conservatives say that moderate Republicans have failed to rise to the occasion, it's because they're ideologically squishy, afraid to take a stand, or too eager to be liked by the media or Washington's elites. Chait's centrist Democrats are just greedy doofuses who lack his vision.

Too bad moderates never had a William F. Buckley, Jr. to give some substantive weight to their movement, not that pragmatism ever was or probably ever will be a movement. By and large the success of moderate Presidents is in the narratives of their eras -- Eisenhower from 1953-61, Nixon from 1969-1973 (before Watergate, obviously), Clinton from 1995-2001 (after his own "once-in-a-generation" chance to wonkify health care failed). I think Obama may be angling for something similar.

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