Thursday, February 03, 2005

Moderation: in Ideology, no Vice; in Politics, no Virtue
The emerging truth about Bush's drive to radically alter Social Security is that he's going to need Democrats to do it. This is true in an instrumental sense because you need 60 Senate votes to break filibusters, and true in a political sense because the Republicans, at least those in the Upper House, aren't brave or foolhardy enough to pass something that major along party lines. Check out Sen. Grassley's comment in today's NY Times analysis that when it comes to the Senate, "nothing gets done that's not bipartisan."

So the focus turns to a half-dozen or so Democratic Senators--"blue" officials in "red" states--who are likely to get squeezed on this issue. You know who I mean: Nelson of Nebraska, Nelson of Florida, Landrieu and Lincoln, Baucus, and Joe Lieberman (who couldn't credibly be threatened with political blowback, but is always willing to lick the Republican hand that hits him). Josh Marshall has kept track of these people and their passages into and/or out of the "Fainthearted Faction."

But there's little to no point anymore in any Democrat seeking accommodation with this administration, much less the Republican jihadists in Congress. The reason why has to do with the distinction between moderate philosophy and moderate poitical practice.

Ideologically, I'm a moderate and proudly so. I believe in regulated capitalism and a moderately activist government committed to equality of opportunity, but not outcome. I'm pro gay marriage and pro-choice, but I share some of the disgust on the right with mass pop culture (as the next entry will describe). My value system probably isn't all that different from the "bo-bo" people David Brooks talks about; half-bourgeois, half-Bohemian.

Politically, at this point, I'm close to 100 percent anti-compromise as far as the national Republican Party goes. (Thankfully, some appreciation for "the reality-based community" remains among the Republicans of New York City and State.) That's just because we're dealing with fanatics, ideological madmen. Rove, DeLay, Cheney and Norquist aren't interested in utilitarian public policy; they're interested in one-party rule and creating a permanent economic overclass. And they're driving the train. Why compromise with that?

Not to mention--and this is the relevant point for the Democratic Senators now coming under pressure--there's no political payoff for compromising. Bush and his cronies would always rather have a 100 percent compliant Republican than a possibly or occasionally compliant Democrat. Just look at the Dem congressmen from Texas who were knocked off last November. Or Max Cleland. Or Tom Daschle, for that matter.

I think Democrats like Harry Reid are finally starting to tumble to the fact that the rules of the game have changed. We didn't ask for this war--and it is a war--but the choice between meekly accepting radical right wing dominance and fighting back isn't a very hard choice to make.

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