In today’s primaries, the Democratic Party must begin to decide if it wants to be ruled by grown-ups or by self-absorbed Lefties so out-of-touch with mainstream America that you wonder if they ever talk to someone standing next to them at the check-out counter or the gas station. A blistering, front page Politico.com article announces "Left to Obama: We’re Not Happy!" I hope the President issues a reply: "Obama to Left: You’re Ridiculous!"
Many people placed many hopes on candidate Obama during the 2008 election. Moderate centrists saw him as the champion of a new style of post-partisan politics and Obama fed that narrative. It has not come to pass although I think the historical verdict is out on whether the lack of bipartisanship in Washington the past year has more to do with Obama or with the GOP members of Congress. The Left saw Obama as a true-believing champion, as opposed to the more established and moderate Clintons, and rallied to his flag, although that caricatures of the Clintons as only power-hungry and of Obama as ideologically pure were both untrue. Now, alas, it is Obama who must pay the price of that unfairness which propelled him to the nomination.
Today, in Arkansas, two capable Democrats are battling for the nomination to run for the Senate. The incumbent, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, is a true moderate, but she waffled on health care and opposed making it easier for unions to organize through a card check system. This earned her the enmity of the Left, who found Lt. Gov. Bill Halter to challenge her for the Democratic nomination. Now, health care reform has been a singular objective of the Democratic Party for so long, that any waffling may be grounds for dismissal. And, card check would help workers register their true opinions without fear of intimidation by their employers, which intimidation still frustrates the desires of hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide who want nothing more that to achieve what the Church teaches is their right to organize. Still, I hesitate to throw Sen. Lincoln overboard, in part because she is the kind of moderate Democrat who can win in Arkansas, in part because she has served here state’s interests and met the needs of her constituents admirably, and in part because the anti-incumbent fever is a shallow and often misplaced anger.
Most of all I worry that a Washington that has no room for Sen. Lincoln will also be a Washington that has no room for Sen. Olympia Snowe. I worry that the partisan divides, enforced on the Left by MoveOn.org and on the Right by the Tea Party, will become so entrenched that compromise will become not only a dirty word, which it is already to the enforcers of partisan orthodoxy, but a thing that is extinct, the political equivalent of a dinosaur. A politics with no room for compromise is a politics that can achieve nothing, which may suit the conservative agenda but it should repel liberals. It is ironic, and in some sense a measure of the poor quality of education in civics we give our children, that the MoveOn.org crowd is unaware of the way paralysis tilts against them.
So, as much as I find Halter an appealing candidate, and think he is likely to win tonight, I am pulling for Sen. Lincoln. Washington needs centrists from both parties to put the breaks on partisanship now and then. Besides, as Mayor Ed Koch used to say, "If you agree with me eighty percent of the time, vote for me. If you agree with me one hundred percent of the time, go see your shrink."