Friday, November 9, 2007
For A Real Centrist Party
A friend sent me an e-mail touting Obama-Webb as a winning 2008 ticket. I joked back that it would be the first majority-Republican Democratic ticket in history. (One's bi-partisan, the other's straight out GOP, which makes for 75%.)
All joking aside, in the same way that Reagan Democrats changed the political landscape of the 80's, it seems clear that Iraq War Republicans are going to have a lasting impact on the political territory staked out by the Democratic Party for the next few elections to come. Specifically, I think they'll facilitate the re-branding of the Democratic Party as a centrist party that actually straddles the center, not just in practice but in name as well. The GOP field is so far out on the lunatic fringe that I'm sure there's a lot of room for sane Republicans who'd like to come in from out of the cold.
Six years spent here in France has made it clear that not even a shadow of the left exists in mainstream American politics. So it makes no sense for the Democrats to suffer a stigma that's out of date. I'm not familiar enough with the polling, but I imagine some sort of strategic alliance with moderate Republicans would create a pretty solid majority.
That would mean completing the transformation begun by Clinton, bringing the Democrats full circle, back to the party of Truman and Kennedy. Guys like Wesley Clark and Jim Webb strike me as Democrats in that mold already. And others would probably be willing to make the jump if room was made for them.
Intuitively it feels like it's time for that sort of shift. Many of the battles that cleaved American politics across the center have already been decided on the merits, even if there's still a lot of work to be done on the ground. (I'm thinking of civil rights and women's equality for the left, fiscal responsibility and national security for the right.) And the ones that haven't should probably be re-imagined in more contemporary terms.
I guess in many ways, this resembles Obama's bi-partisanship. And I wouldn't be surprised if Obama does pick a Republican as his running mate should he win the nomination, whether it be Webb, Wes Clark (unlikely given the Hillary connection) or Chuck Hagel. I just wish the guy would be more assertive and actually claim the space on the other side of the center for the Democrats, instead of talking about holding hands with Republicans and playing nice.